Why I’m Investing in Foodtech

Erik Byrenius
Jun 9, 2020 · 3 min read

“A chef, because I like big bellies,” I replied, proudly patting my stomach, when my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was four years old. “Or an ant hunter. I’m going to shoot them one by one.” I hated fire ants at the time, constantly attacking my poor naked feet.

I have since learned that the size of your stomach isn’t a good predictor of your future profession, and that killing ants with a rifle isn’t a proper occupation. However, apparently an early interest in hunting, insects and cooking may indicate a future fascination with foodtech.

Ever since I exited my online food delivery startup almost a decade ago I’ve been searching for my next thing. In the meantime I started investing in startups. This was a good way to learn about new industries and business models. Perhaps too good — I enjoyed it so much that six years later I was still searching.

Then something happened that changed everything. I had my first kid. Suddenly it was undeniable that everything I do has an impact on the future world of my daughter’s generation. I should spend my time and money in a way maximizing my positive impact on the world, both for you and me but even more for our grandchildren.

Humans (and other animals) on earth are facing difficult times. Climate change is threatening us with natural disasters, sea level rise, droughts, floods, wildfires, desertification and eventually malnutrition, local economic collapse and mass migrations. Biodiversity is rapidly declining, posing major threats to crucial ecosystems. Pandemics (often caused by the way we treat animals) lead to deaths, suffering and economic recession.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

To ensure that no one goes to bed hungry in 2050, we need to increase food production by 50%. From this perspective, cutting down vivid rainforests to make space for cattle ranches, and growing livestock feed, might seem to make sense. But while there are two billion more mouths to feed in 30 years, the EAT-Lancet report shows that net GHG emissions from the food industry need to decrease by 40–65% in the same timeframe. This challenge — producing 1.5x as much food with ~0.5x of the GHG emissions (a 3x global food productivity increase!) — is urgent and important to address.

According to Project Drawdown, two of the three most impactful solutions to stop global warming at 1.5°C are food related: plant-rich diets and reducing food waste. Incidentally, this is also good for human health, biodiversity, animal welfare and the economy.

At the same time, we are in a perfect storm. Purpose is a top career priority for Millennials’. More people are becoming aware of the food industry’s contribution to climate change. Research repeatedly demonstrates our healths’ dependence on what we eat. Entrepreneurship is gaining traction as an alternative to corporate life. Investments in foodtech startups is rapidly growing.

This is why I’ve decided to spend my time going forward on high-impact foodtech startups, all the way from agriculture to consumer awareness and food waste. My co-founder Anna Ottosson and I will, through our company Trellis Road, focus on the European foodtech ecosystem by raising awareness, attracting talent, helping startups and investing in startups. As a first step, we’re investing our own money (€25k-100k tickets) in seed rounds (no pun intended). Please feel free to point anyone in the space in our direction and sign up to our monthly newsletter.

I may not be a chef, have a particularly big belly or even own an ant rifle. But I know for sure, that if more people start working on fixing the broken food industry, we have a great chance to leave a better world behind to my daughter and future generations.

Trellis Road