Ifac Food Business Specialist, Lorcan Bannon, travelled to London to attend the 2nd annual FoodBytes! Foodtech and Agtech showcase. Here’s what he thought.
FoodBytes! by Rabobank is an innovative pitch competition and networking opportunity for aspiring food and agriculture start-ups, corporates and investors, to come together and see how they can shape a better future for our industries. The latest instalment of the FoodBytes! series took place in London on November 7th.
Investors, innovators and industry leaders gathered to hear 15 of the sector’s emerging business disruptors share their latest ideas. In a relaxed format, attendees had the opportunity to meet and connect with founders before they pitched to the wider audience. In the end, from 150+ applications, 15 finalists, three winners were selected:
Judges Choice: Zero Waste Biotech (a company which. is converting food waste into clean renewable energy in just 24 hours)
Highly Commended: Lleaf (see below)
People’s Choice: Redefine Meat (see below)
5 Key Takeaways
1) A missed opportunity
This is a global competition; finalists represented countries from Australia to the USA, from Israel to the UK. However, there was no finalist from the Republic of Ireland. As a sector, we need to get better at promoting ourselves as a global leader of Foodtech and Agtech. While FoodBytes! is only one example, it is important that Irish Foodtech and Agtech companies have the opportunity and ambition to compete on a global stage. By not having any on this platform, it feels like a missed opportunity for our sector.
2) Doing more with less
A number of the finalists are focused on macro trends like sustainability, but some were also more focused on ways to optimise what we currently have. Two start-ups Lleaf, a company harnessing the power of sunlight with their greenhouse film technology to increase yield and Computomics, a company from Germany that is helping plant breeders to accelerate the speed of breeding through machine learning, both highlighted this trend.
3) 3D Printing and it’s ongoing potential
It feels like 3D printing has been around for a relatively long time without ever quite making the commercial breakthrough in food production. Two companies that are trying to drive this change are Nourished, a company which claims to be the world’s first truly personalised nutrition supplement. The other, Redefine Meat, is a company that claims to offer a superior digital meat production technology that delivers products that are indistinguishable from high-quality animal meat. While the technology certainly caught the attention of the audience it remains to be seen whether they will be able to deliver on their claims. It’s hard to beat real meat!
4) Branding & challenger brands
Speaking of branding and despite the continuing importance of private labels (ifac Food and Agribusiness 2019 report), several finalists focused heavily on branding as a key differentiator in their FCMG products. Finalists like Plant Pops, a food company creating award-winning snacks that are good for you and good for the environment or Seaweed & Co., a sustainably sourced seaweed company building a brand under the Dr Seaweed umbrella, are good example of companies that are looking to compete with some of the bigger players through innovative branding and marketing campaigns.
5) Think & Be Disruptive
While it feels like innovation is omnipresent in parts of the food and agriculture industry, many parts still remain largely unchanged. Stix Fresh is a company that is developing innovative technologies that will significantly reduce food waste, are looking at existing ways of doing things and are actively turning them upside.
With the right teams, funding and execution strategies some of these businesses have the potential to become serious global game-changers in our industry.