Food+Ag Tech News: Sept 18 - Sept 24
A Weekly Press Review About FoodTech
The “vegan mafia” nickname is an informal nod to the so-called “PayPal mafia” — a group of powerful Silicon Valley investors and founders such as Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, and Reid Hoffman, who worked at the payments start-up in the 1990s.
The best-known start-ups in the space include Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, which make plant-based meat-like and cheese-like products; and Pembient, which bioengineers wildlife products in a lab, like rhino horn and elephant ivory.
Deliveroo, a London-based food-delivery company, was in talks to receive a sizable investment from SoftBank’s nearly $100 billion Vision Fund in recent months, until the Japanese technology conglomerate abruptly halted negotiations, according to people familiar with the talks, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.
SoftBank and other investors are attempting to finalize a deal with Uber.
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BLOOMBERG) — Olam International opened US$150 million (S$202.6 million) animal-feed mills and poultry farms in Nigeria to boost its agribusiness venture in Africa’s biggest food market by population.
The investment includes bird- and fish-feed mills with the capacity for 360,000 metric tons each, located in the northern Kaduna and western Kwara states, and a hatchery to produce 1.6 million day-old chicks weekly, the global food trader said in a statement handed to reporters on Tuesday (Sept 19) in Kaduna.
Feeds produced are estimated to support the production of 8 billion eggs and 100-million kilograms of poultry a year, Olam said.
In the last decade, the food and beverage industry has shifted tremendously. Where big brands were once successful, many are now losing market share. Mass market advertisements on TV, in magazines and through coupons used to attract shoppers. But now, many consumers could miss those messages because they are not tuning into those conventional channels as much. Not long ago, an innovative or different product could easily retain its popularity because nothing copied it. Now, grocer’s private labels and new competitors are quickly replicating successful products and developing other variations to bring to the market, making the market more of a battlefield.
Startups are pioneering new flavors, product types, and distribution methods that have potential to transform the food industry.
Big food companies have faced a variety of challenges over the past year, as smaller companies have gained market share, activist shareholders have asserted themselves, and new direct-to-consumer distribution models — including Amazon’s new private-label food and beverage brands — have moved onto the scene.
Germany replaced the UK as the global number two in superfood launches, with the latter’s percentage dropping from 9% in the year up to June 2016 to 7% in the following 12 months. Meanwhile Australia ranked third in the world in the year up to June 2016, with 7% of superfood launches, but has fallen to sixth place globally, with 5% of global superfood launches coming from the country in the year to June 2017.
Inside a balmy greenhouse in central Illinois, a boisterous but focused pair of researchers are seeding experimental plants. The scientists moisten the soil and pack it into pots, then carefully tip tiny dark-brown tobacco seeds out of glass vials. In the months that follow, the researchers will move the plants outside into a field and watch whether they grow bigger or faster than usual — a crucial step toward feeding the world of 2050.
AgriFood Tech startups, innovating from farm-to-fork, raised $4.4 billion in H1–2017, a 6% year-over-year increase. Mirroring the global VC markets, a few ‘mega deals’ drove the funding increase, as well as some maturation in the sector. But the number of deals declined 27% to 369 during the same period.
The list is compiled from Crunchbase using our proprietary query system developed by a team of MBAs who hope to get academic grants to further fund their research, which they’ll eventually use to spin off their own startup to make millions of dollars. In the meantime, here’s the rest of the 14 most well-funded AgTech startups. By the way, we purposefully left off AgTech e-commerce startups, which represent some of the biggest dollars, because how much tech do you really need to order isht like bananas online? We also tried to restrict our list to those startups dedicated solely to agriculture, so we skipped including cool companies like Ginkgo Bioworks as well.
These companies see blockchains as an opportunity to revamp their data management processes across a complex network that includes farmers, brokers, distributors, processors, retailers, regulators, and consumers.
One potential benefit: investigations into food-borne illnesses to take weeks (see this summer’s fatal Salmonella outbreak linked to papayas), but a blockchain-based system has the ability to reduce that time to seconds.
Bonus — Food+Tech Connect
Every week we track the business, tech and investment trends in CPG, retail, restaurants, agriculture, cooking and health, so you don’t have to.