FoodBytes! by Rabobank has unveiled the 45 companies selected to participate in its Pitch 2021, an annual multi-week food and agriculture innovation program that drives collaboration between startups, corporate leaders and investors to develop solutions to food system challenges. Since originally launching in 2015, FoodBytes! Pitch has become the go-to experience for startups looking to validate and grow their businesses, generate global industry exposure, and access invaluable mentorship, as well as corporate and investor connections.
This year's FoodBytes! Pitch cohort features 45 startups pioneering breakthrough agri technologies and consumer products, featuring 15 companies in each of three sectors: agtech, food tech and consumer packaged goods (CPG). The selected companies were chosen from 370 applications from across the globe, based on their solutions in key areas that were identified as member innovation priorities, including sustainable supply chains, improved resource management and the next frontier of nutrition. All selected startups will participate in a week of in-depth mentoring and coaching and a final 15 startups will be chosen to present in the live-streamed public pitch competition, on Nov. 10, where three will be named winners in their respective sectors.
"The purpose of FoodBytes! is to help facilitate progress in the food and agriculture industries to feed the world's growing population while navigating the challenges imposed by climate change and the global pandemic," said Anne Greven, Head of F&A Innovation, Rabobank. "That's why, this year, we've focused on areas that are critical to future-proofing our members' businesses, and deepened our rigorous process for vetting and selecting entrepreneurs who participate in the FoodBytes! program—those with validated business models, a track record of commercial viability, collaborative mindsets and a robust and diverse team to drive meaningful change."
As FoodBytes! continues its brand mission to showcase a diverse range of voices and perspectives across the industry, over 50% of this year's participating startups are women and/or BIPOC-led or -founded. The selected 45 hail from across the globe, based in 15 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, France, India, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The selected FoodBytes! Pitch innovators, by sector, are:
Within upstream food production, one of the most prevalent challenges is labor shortage, especially during a time with limited worker mobility. Successful companies will be able to innovate with robotic automation and improved resource efficiency in order to reduce reliance on unpredictable labor availability. Additionally, farmers are finding an increased pressure from consumers to change the way food is grown from reducing pesticide use to utilizing resources more efficiently. The following companies are addressing these challenges:
- Supply Chain Optimization: AgriDigital and AgUnity.
- Agbiotech, Biopesticides & Livestock Management: SyocinBiotech, Nanomik Technologies, SwineTech, BioLevel, Vytelle and 3Bar Biologics Inc..
- Regenerative Agriculture & Precision Agriculture: Lucent BioSciences, ThinkBio and GreeneyeTechnology.
- Novel Farming: Aqua Development and IGS Ltd.
- Robotics & Automation: QualySense AG.
- Packaging Innovations: SBM-Transpirational.
For those in the middle of the food chain, common concerns of a complex supply chain are risks of food spoilage, loss and contamination. While at the same time, changing consumer demand calls for new ways of developing ingredients that offer more benefits with minimal processing. By investing in technologies that shorten and localize the food supply chain, as well as introduce functional packaging, companies can reduce the risks of food loss and become more cost-efficient. Leaning on fast-acting startups to gain a better understanding of changing consumer preferences and demographics is also paramount to meeting at the intersection of food and medicine. The following companies are addressing these challenges:
- Food Safety & Traceability: Marble Technologies, Agnext Technologies, Galley Solutions, Inc., ProfilePrint and Xnext.
- Alternative Protein Technology: Done Properly, California Cultured and Biftek INC.
- Nutrition Technology: Biolumen, The Live Green Co and Paragon Pure.
- Packaging Innovations: Cruz Foam, SoFresh, Inc., Papkot and Kiinns.
Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)
The way people eat has changed rapidly over the last two years. As consumers stayed at home, they looked for new formats that simplified home cooking, from specialty meal kits to shelf stable foods. Faced with a global pandemic, consumers also looked to food to boost their general health and immunity through functional, plant-based ingredients. Concurrently, the grocery shortages experienced during the pandemic exposed supply chain issues that prompted consumers to shop locally. The following companies are addressing these behavioral trends and challenges:
- Alternative Dairy & Protein: Fable Food, Down to Cook, Hooray Foods, Plantcraft, Nubocha, Upright and Ulu Hye.
- Farm to Consumer: Your Food Collective and AYO Foods.
- Functional & Upcycled Ingredients: Ginjan Bros, PrickleeCactus Water and Seconds.
- Advanced Nutrition & Technology: Ārepa and Lil Mixins.
- Packaging Innovations: Great Wrap.
In addition to the selected startups for 2021, Rabobank welcomes this year's FoodBytes! Corporate members, a mix of influential global food and agriculture companies, investors and service providers, including returning partners Albaugh, BFG Partners, Continental Grain Company, DLL Group, Germin8 Ventures, Holland & Hart, Morrison & Foerster, PepsiCo, Propeller Industries, Rabobank Food and Agri Innovation Fund and Tate & Lyle, while newcomers AgroSuper, Aqua Capital, Bolthouse Farms, Cavallo Ventures, ECOM, Endurance Investments, Fugini, GAM, General Mills, GrainCorp, Grupo Bimbo, Grupo Nutec, Herbalife Nutrition, Hormel Foods, Imperfect Foods, InvestEco, iSelect Fund Management, JBT, Lamb Weston, Louis Dreyfus Company, Marfrig/National Beef, R.D. Offutt Company, S2G Ventures, Schreiber Foods, Seventure Partners, Step Two Advisors and Supply Change Capital have joined for the first time.
Corporate members play a pivotal role in the platform—assisting with scouting criteria, scoring applicants, providing mentorship and fostering connections. With continued interest from participants to implement real-world solutions within their respective industries to drive change, FoodBytes! has seen a 120% increase in corporate membership since 2020. Additionally, since 2017, participating corporate members have gone on to directly invest nearly $216 million in the program's alumni.
"Being a part of the FoodBytes! experience has become invaluable to my team," said Bryan Kreske, General Manager, Cultivated Foods Incubator at Hormel Foods. "It allows us to have instant access to emerging trends and innovative thinking."
As the pandemic continues, interest in investing in innovative solutions and groundbreaking products has not waned. For FoodBytes! alumni, specifically, 2021 has been a hallmark year to date—startups within the network have raised over $500 million in the first six months of the year, already outpacing dollars raised for the entirety of the year prior.
"Participating in FoodBytes! has been one of the most helpful experiences on my entrepreneurial journey," said Bella Hughes, co-founder and president, Shaka Tea, FoodBytes! Pitch 2019 CPG Winner. "The experience not only gave us great exposure, but connected us to many resources and other key players within the startup community."
Source: FoodBytes! by Rabobank