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15 next generation agri-food startups set to pitch at FoodBytes! Chicago

July 31, 2019

Functional foods, alternative proteins, digital and bio-farmtech all feature in the list of next-generation agri-food startups set to pitch at the inaugural FoodBytes! Chicago in September.

FoodBytes! by Rabobank is a pitch competition and mentoring platform for agri-food startups that’s now taken place across five countries. Each time, an expert panel selects 15 next-generation agri-food startups from a long list of applicants to pitch with the chance to land potential investments as well as in-kind benefits such as mentoring and access to Rabobank’s global network.

Applicants for FoodBytes! Chicago came from 18 countries although unsurprisingly there was strength in the number of applicants from the Midwest (30%). 

In the Sustainable Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) category, a particular strength in Chicago, the majority of applicants claim to have a functional benefit to their products. This is unsurprising considering the functional food market is projected to reach over $440 billion by 2022, according to Statista, and that consumers are waking up to the potential for food to have a significant impact on their health over other things like medical check-ups and exercise.

The five next-generation agri-food startups in the CPG category set to present in the Windy City on September 19 are:

·       Yolele Foods, Inc. (Brooklyn, N.Y.) – Producer of uniquely delicious and healthful regenerative ingredients that generate income for subsistence farmers in Africa.

·       Start Right Foods (Ballwin, Mo.) – Producer of on-the-go breakfasts offer delicious and nutritional, powerhouse meals that are quick and easy to prepare, such as Belgian Waffles & Waffle Sliders.

·       TeaSquares (Chicago) – Producer of delicious, superfood snacks are developed with nutritionists to help overcome the valleys of fatigue and provide immediate, sustained energy.

·  Tia Lupita® Foods (Tiburon, Calif.) – This Mexican-inspired food company uses simple, healthy and better-for-you ingredients without sacrificing taste for products like hot sauces, cactus chips and tortillas.

·       Shameless Pets (Chicago) – Producer of nutritional, upcycled treats that reduce the environmental impact of pet food production.

In the Food Tech category, food waste and packaging startups continued to pick up pace, with the number of applications from this segment tripling over the last three years. Healthy ingredients were also notable areas of application. Alternative proteins also featured, a trend that’s unlikely to go away any time soon in the wake of the blockbuster IPO by plant-based meat company Beyond Meat earlier this year. But forgoing meat altogether is not the angle one presenting startup is taking as some conversations have shifted around the viability of completely replacing meat.

The five next-generation agri-food startups in the Food Tech category set to present are:

·       The Better Meat Co. (Sacramento, Calif.) – Producer of plant-based protein formulas for major meat users so they can add more nutrition to their ground meat products to enhance taste and sustainability.

·       Evigence Sensors (Nesher, Israel) – Developer of Visual Freshness Sensors that help reduce food waste and enhance food safety and quality worldwide.

·       Higher Steaks (London) – Producer of pork cell-based meat using cellular technology to address some of the most pressing global issues, while also creating cost-effective, scalable manufacture solutions for more complex meat products. 

·       Journey Foods, Inc. (Chicago) – Provider of an AI-powered software platform that supports smarter data services and product management for the $3 trillion packaged foods market.

·       Spira, Inc. (Los Angeles) – Creator of functional ingredients from spirulina microalgae as a replacement for petroleum and animal compounds found in the foods we eat, working with sustainable farmers worldwide to also help developing communities and heal the planet.

For many of the same reasons that alternative meats are a booming trend, you’d be hard-pressed to find an agtech startup not focused on increasing the sustainability of agriculture. According to FoodBytes!, 25% of applicants are specifically focused on sustainable agriculture and 20% are trying to revolutionize supply chains. Over the history of FoodBytes!, 50% of the competition’s agtech applicants are working on precision agriculture solutions, helping farmers optimize their resources and reduce input costs. But animal agriculture won’t be going anywhere for a long time, startups are still seeing the opportunity to innovate for the industry with the top agtech category in the sector for Chicago in animal health and biotech solutions moving towards automated preventative care for livestock. One startup in the list of five agtech startups is a marketplace, another area where applications have increased, according to the FoodBytes! Team; ag marketplaces now represent 30% of agtech applications.

The five next-generation agri-food startups in the Agtech category presenting are:

·       Agremo (Belgrade, Serbia) – Provider of a cloud-based and AI-powered, innovative and intuitive agriculture sensing and imagery analysis software platform for growers, agronomists, and drone professionals with a mission to help agricultural professionals achieve higher and more sustainable outputs.

·       Capro-X, Inc. (Ithaca, N.Y.) – Developer of a sustainable biotechnology, founded with the goal of increasing the sustainability of the dairy industry. Using the WheyAway system, Capro-X focuses on turning the problematic acid whey byproduct from Greek yogurt into chemicals that are direct alternatives to chemicals sourced from unsustainable palm oil.

·       Cytophage Technologies, Inc. (Winnipeg, Manitoba) – Developer of synthetic bacteriophage products to prevent and treat bacterial infections in livestock as a new tool to meet new regulatory requirements while cutting down on the need for daily antibiotics that can lead to antimicrobial resistance in humans.

·       LocalCoho (Auburn, N.Y.) – Producer of sustainable, traceable and fresh, Coho salmon through land-based Recirculating Aquaculture (RAS). LocalCoho uses MxCell® RAS technology to create one of the most energy-efficient close-contained designs in the world.

·       SeedLinked (Viroqua, Wisc.) – Provider of a web platform that uses crowd-sourced data and advanced analytics to enable plant breeders, seed sellers, farmers and gardeners to choose, acquire, breed and sell place-adapted, specialty seeds, and to bring transparency, innovation and efficiency to the seed system.

The judging panel, which includes executives from leading global food and agricultural companies, will select the top pitch companies for the CPG Award and the Food and AgTech Award. The People’s Choice Award will be voted on by the audience of investors, startups, industry leaders and media on Thursday, September 19.

Winners will receive the opportunity to pitch and network with hundreds of C-level executives at Rabobank’s Annual Food & Agriculture Summit in New York City in December 2019. They will also receive valuable business consultation services, including legal consultation, go-to-market advice and recruiting assistance from some of the FoodBytes! sponsors. To attend FoodBytes! Chicago, click here.

*This post was sponsored by FoodBytes! by Rabobank, an AgFunder Network Partner. Find out more here.*

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