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Precision Grain Elevator Tech, Beer-Focused Food Waste Reduction, and an Innovative Beverage Startup Claim Top Prizes at FoodBytes! SF

March 29, 2019

Bushel, Shaka Tea, and Toast Ale won awards at yesterday’s FoodBytes! pitch competition in San Francisco for their sustainable products and technologies that increase agricultural efficiency, feature Hawaiian antioxidant beverages, and fight food waste.

The three winners beat out 12 other agrifood tech startups that also pitched their solutions to feed the world in a more sustainable way at the event.

FoodBytes! SF 2019 marked the 15th edition of Rabobank’s global pitch competition. FoodBytes! alumni have raised $500 million in funding since the platform launched in San Francisco in 2015, including $150 million in 2018 alone. All participating FoodBytes! startups receive a mentorship immersion, direct feedback on products and technologies, networking opportunities with investors and corporate leaders, access to a community of 265+ FoodBytes! alumni, and ongoing support from Rabobank.


This year, FoodBytes! made some changes to the awards, awarding startups in three categories: food and agriculture technology, sustainable consumer packaged goods (CPG) and People’s Choice (voted by the audience). Winners receive business consultation services, mentorship experiences, access to Rabobank research reports, as well as the opportunity to pitch and network with C-level food and agriculture executives at Rabobank’s Annual Food & Agriculture Summit in December 2019.

Here are the lucky 2019 FoodBytes! San Francisco winners from yesterday’s event:

Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) Award: Shaka Tea (Hilo, Hawaii)

Shaka Tea earned top honors in the CPG category for creating what it describes as the first-ever line of Hawaiian-grown herbal teas brewed with māmaki, an antioxidant only found and grown in the Hawaiian Islands. FoodBytes! SF judges not only recognized Shaka’s unique concept and strong sales traction, but also its support for local regenerative agriculture and economic development.

“Shaka Tea is expanding rapidly this year, so this incredible recognition from FoodBytes! couldn’t have come at a more opportune time,” said Shaka Tea Co-Founder and President Bella Hughes. “Working out of Hilo, Hawaii, it’s not every day that I get to meet with top leaders in food and beverage for perspective on how to scale my business. Receiving such generous mentorship and winning the CPG Award is a boon to us as we launch in 3,000 new doors this year.”

Food and Agriculture Technology Award: Bushel (Fargo, N.D.)

Bushel won the Technology award for its innovative software platform and app that allows grain elevators and cooperatives to connect digitally with their growers and deliver near real-time information that informs better business decisions.

“FoodBytes! is a rare opportunity for entrepreneurs to enhance their exposure and network,” said Bushel Co-Founder and CEO Jake Joraanstad. “The quality of the connections we made far exceeded our expectations. We met a new customer on day one of FoodBytes! and can already see the direct impact this experience will have on our business as we continue to expand in the US and introduce our technology internationally.”

People’s Choice Award: Toast Ale (New York, N.Y.) 

Toast Ale won the People’s Choice Award, based on votes from the audience and Facebook Live viewers. Toast Ale’s innovative approach to fighting food waste – brewing craft beer from unsold bread from local bakeries – captured the audience’s attention. In addition to saving one slice of bread that would have been wasted in each beer, Toast Ale donates its profits to charities reducing food waste.

“We’re incredibly humbled and grateful to be selected for the FoodBytes! People’s Choice Award,” said Rob Wilson, chief toaster, Toast Ale. “Our aim is to brew as much beer from surplus bread as possible in our effort to combat food waste, so this validation of our mission and product is huge for us. Beyond the honors, we’re also excited to be part of the FoodBytes! alumni network and stay connected with other entrepreneurs who inspire us to think bigger.”

“The food and ag startups at FoodBytes! SF demonstrated enormous potential to address major challenges in our food system and meet consumer demand for products that provide both health and environmental benefits,” said Arif Fazal, FoodBytes! SF judge and founder, managing director of Blueberry Ventures. “FoodBytes! is an incredible resource not only for startups, but for industry leaders and investors like myself who want to preview what’s possible for innovation in food and agriculture.”

Top trends on display at FoodBytes! SF included:

Alternative protein:

  • Bond Pets (Nederland, Colo.)  – demonstrated the potential for its ‘clean meat’ dog and cat foods sourced from real animal protein, without the animal.
  • Hargol FoodTech (Misgav, Israel) – showcased the technology behind the world’s first, large-scale commercial grasshopper farm.

Waste reduction:

  • Toast Ale (New York, N.Y.)  – showcased its craft beer brewed from unsold bread to fight food waste.
  • PLANETARIANS (San Mateo, Calif.) – presented its technology to upcycle byproducts and solid food waste into high-protein, high-fiber ingredients.
  • Corumat (Pomona, Calif.) – demonstrated the potential for its compostable, plant-based packaging produced at 30 percent lower cost than traditional technologies.

Plant-based and natural foods:

  • GEM (Los Angeles, Calif.) – showcased the first FDA-regulated real food multi-vitamin for women made from 13 algae and plant-based ingredients.
  • Shaka Tea (Hilo, Hawaii) – presented the first line of Hawaiian-grown, no-sugar-added, herbal iced teas brewed with māmaki.
  • The Worthy Company (Chicago, Ill.)  – showcased the Worthy Blendie Bowl, a plant-based superfood snack made with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and chia.
  • Taali (Wilmington, Del.) – presented its snacks made from popped water lily seeds and non-GMO, whole and natural ingredients. 

Precision agriculture:

  • Osmo Systems (Oakland, Calif.) – demonstrated its aquaculture water quality sensor that allows shrimp and fish farmers to continuously monitor their ponds online.
  • Bushel (Fargo, N.D.) – presented the grain industry’s first software platform and app that allows grain elevators and cooperatives to digitally connect with their growers.
  • CropIn Technology Solutions (Bengaluru, India) – showcased its SaaS solutions for agribusinesses globally to adopt a digital strategy and decision-making tools.

Food safety:

  • SnapDNA (Mountain View, Calif.)  – showcased the potential for its food safety pathogen test for E. coli, salmonella and listeria with results in just over an hour.

Ingredient tech:

  • Zymtronix (Ithaca, N.Y.) – presented the possibilities for its enzyme technology to enable cost-effective and sustainable ways of manufacturing the ingredients of tomorrow.

Dairy cow microbiome support:

  • Healthy Cow (Toronto, Canada) – demonstrated the potential for its first product, ProPreg, a bovine intravaginal probiotic that supports a healthy vaginal microbiome in dairy cows.

FoodBytes! SF is supported by presenting sponsor ADM, a world-leading nutrition company with the widest range of specialty ingredients, blends, systems, and experience that supports food and beverage companies looking to get to market quickly with products consumers love. Additional support comes from official sponsors Printpack, Polsinelli, and foodspace+co; as well as supporting sponsors Agropur, Compass Group, Creative Alignments, The Interwine Group and Boulder Food Group.


Up Next: FoodBytes! Chicago, September 19. Keep up with FoodBytes! by joining the newsletter and following on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, or via #foodbytes.



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