Debuting Food Tech Studio —Bites!: Scrum Ventures’ Latest Studio Program Looks to Build a Sustainable Food Future
By: Michael Proman, Managing Director, Scrum Ventures
Every year, like countless Americans, I’m both amazed and nauseous when I celebrate the Fourth of July by watching Joey Chestnut devour more processed meat in ten minutes than most people consume on an annual basis during Nathan’s infamous hot dog eating contest. While competitive eating may be seen as entertainment to some (as well as a new “sport” to bet on), it exposes some harsh realities about the addiction we have on a flawed food and meat industry — the likes of which is threatening our environment at a level and pace not seen before. In fact, a report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization revealed the dark truth behind these beloved sausages and the meat industry as a whole and found that meat production is the biggest threat to our world’s climate, forests, and wildlife, followed by the hazards caused by planes and cars.
The herds of cows you see grazing fields at farms across the country produce a staggering 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. On top of this, these animals use 30 percent of the earth’s entire land surface, which has become a major driver of deforestation. Yet despite these shocking revelations, the food and meat industry continues to reach new levels of growth, with the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook predicting commercial beef production will reach 27.5 billion pounds by the end of 2020.
Meat production is one of the most detrimental causes to our planet, but unfortunately, this isn’t a new concept. While alternative protein or other plant-based meats are more effective in creating a sustainable food supply, up until now it has been slow to gain traction and appeal to the masses. This is because a planet-conscious food diet has never been able to taste as good as the traditional meats found at local supermarkets, restaurants or drive-in fast-food chains consumers have come to love — and rely on — so much.
However, advanced technology can now drastically improve the taste and texture of plant-based meats, making these alternative foods a lot more desirable. Along with this technological innovation, recent events have also highlighted an urgency to rethink and reshape the future of food for the betterment of our planet. Whether it was one of the infamous legislative goals included in the Green New Deal aimed at eliminating gas emissions from flatulent cattle or COVID-19 threatening the food security and nutrition of millions of people around the world, global citizens are making historic dietary shifts that will dramatically alter the way in which future generations eat.
In fact, according to Ernst and Young, the spending trends of consumers show that they are now ready and willing to pay for food tech innovations that can meet their increasing needs of convenience, health and low environmental impact. This presents a huge opportunity for food visionaries and investors at the forefront of innovation to capitalize on these new consumer preferences and market demands.
Today, it is more necessary than ever to leverage technology that can build more sustainable and resilient food systems. With this in mind, it’s time to capitalize on this momentum in bringing much-needed change to the food sector, and because of that, we have launched Food Tech Studio — Bites!, a global community of top-tier, stage-agnostic startups aimed at bringing advanced technological innovations to the food space.
Food Tech Studio —Bites! will facilitate lasting relationships between a range of global food entrepreneurs, iconic Japanese corporations, and industry thought-leaders seeking to rebuild a resilient food future. By identifying and supporting new technologies, the program will make progress in advancing the sector forward and reversing the damage done by an industry known for its mass-production, eco-challenged mindset. Food technology startups will have access to revenue-generating opportunities and decision-makers across the public and private sectors, including policy experts and members of academia. It will also lean into the investment community and curate 1:1 conversations with a network of leading venture sources that are disrupting the status quo.
Food Tech Studio — — Bites! may be a virtual program, but it places a particular emphasis on Japan and some of the country’s most prominent, renowned and industry-forward food corporations. Key partners include companies such as Nissin, the inventor of the world’s first instant noodles, Nichirei, Japan’s largest chilled and frozen food distribution company, and Itoen, the country’s most prestigious tea company and a leader in non-sugar beverages, among other many other industry trailblazers.
Alongside these stakeholders, the program seeks to work with both early-stage startups and more mature companies that are not only eager to amplify and expand into emerging markets, but are also determined to solve the most critical challenges plaguing our food supply chain today. Disruptive technologies of interest span across next gen foods, food science, data-driven food services, agtech, CPG/consumer services, food processing, food security and sustainability, as well as additional categories.
Similar to SPORTS TECH TOKYO and SmartCityX, the program is structured to redefine the traditional accelerator model, as we believe that revenue-generation and network expansion are the best way to accelerate startup growth. By remaining laser focused on the bigger picture and the longer-term, this unique model is designed to fully support early-stage companies at all stages and throughout the entire startup journey.
While bringing long-term change to the food sector may be years away, venture capital investment in alternative meat startups for 2020 has already jumped about 116% compared to last year’s total — showcasing a substantial investor appetite for this emerging space. Though it may take some time until we see alternative meats truly take off, we are beginning to scratch the surface of how technology can empower farmers and food corporations around the world to produce more equitable, sustainable and climate-resilient foods.
As we continue trekking towards this future, I don’t expect Nathan’s to change the way we celebrate our nation’s birthday, but I do envision a world where The Impossible Burger comes in a Happy Meal, and where new digital innovations play a key role in making measurable progress against eliminating world hunger and waste, reducing our carbon footprint, and restoring our planet.
Startup founders that share this vision and could benefit from access to our strong network and expertise in the food space can apply to Food Tech Studio — Bites! here: https://www.foodtech.studio/