The FoodTech 500: The ‘world’s first’ definitive list of AgriFoodTech talent unveiled

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image source: Forward Fooding
Image source: Forward Fooding

Related tags: Foodtech, Agtech

The 500 most ‘inspirational’ entrepreneurs in the AgriFoodTech sector using tech to transform the future of food have been published by Forward Fooding.

Inspired by the Fortune 500, Forward Fooding has created the FoodTech 500.

Described as the ‘world’s first’ definitive list of “global entrepreneurial talent at the intersection between food, technology and sustainability”​, the lineup was produced from more than 1,200 applications from 54 countries.

Of the top ranking 500 companies, 78.2% are less than five years old, and 56.1% are at pre-seed or seed-stage funding. Yet despite their early stage, Forward Fooding noted that close to 75% are revenue-generating.

“The companies that have made the FoodTech 500 are all entrepreneurial success stories in their own right, which is why we are so proud to bring them to your attention,” ​said Forward Fooding CEO Alessio D’Antino.

Creating the FoodTech 500

Forward Fooding is a collaborative platform that aims to link start-ups with established industry players from the food and beverage industry.

In summer of 2019, Forward Fooding launched the FoodTech Data Navigator​ – a global agri-food tech platform designed to help businesses keep up with trends innovations, and funding movements from start-ups, accelerators and investors.

It is this platform that calculated each applicant’s business size score and digital footprint score. A sustainability score was derived from environmental data collected from the finalists.

To be considered for the FoodTech 500 shortlist, businesses had to have been formed less than 15 years ago, and be aligned with Forward Fooding’s definition of AgriFoodTech.

Forward Fooding defines AgriFoodTech as the emergent sector exploring how technology can be leveraged to improve efficiency and sustainability in designing, producing, choosing, delivering and enjoying food.

To determine the applicants’ sustainability scores, Forward Fooding looked at a range of factors, including whether: the company’s manufacturing process had a low carbon footprint; its product has third party sustainable certification; employs a dedicated sustainability team, and its revenue and funding is significant enough to have a ‘real impact’ on its current ecosystem.

Forward Fooding also analysed the company’s dedication to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The FoodTech 500: Top 10

Company

Description

Sustainable Development Goal Focus

Overall Score /300

AeroFarms

AeroFarms is a developer of aeroponic systems to grow leafy greens at high-yield densities in urban vertical farms.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

292

TIPA

TIPA makes biodegradable food packaging solutions.

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

258

Bowery Farming

Bowery Farming creates indoor farms with the 'ideal conditions' for growing produce.

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

257

Agrivi

Agrivi is knowledge-based cloud farm management software that helps fruit, vegetable and grain producers to improve their productivity and profitability.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

245

Jimini's

Jimini’s creates products made 100% European insects for an aperitif, cooking or hiking. 

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

244

Notpla

Notpla is a sustainable seaweed packaging company. They pioneer the use of seaweed to develop solutions to single-use plastics.

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

244

Agrilution

Agrilution is an innovative smart home and vertical farming technology startup based in Munich, Germany.

SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing

244

Growing Underground

Growing Underground grow fresh micro greens and salad leaves 33 metres below the busy streets of Clapham, London.

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

242

Pico Brew

Pico Brow enables consumers to brew their own beer at home. 

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

242

Naïo Technologies

Naïo Technologies develops, builds and markets intelligent, autonomous systems dedicated to agricultural applications.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

239

The complete list reveals a number of trends in the AgriFoodTech sector, from insect snacks to vertical farming and sustainable packaging solutions.

Vertical farming

The top position in the FoodTech 500 was claimed by US vertical farming operation AeroFarms.

vertical farming Andrew Linscott
Vertical farming is tipped to play an increasingly important role in global agriculture ©GettyImages/Andrew Linscott

Vertical farming is tipped to play an increasingly important role in global agriculture, as we turn to technology to feed the 9.8 billion people expected to be on the planet by 2050.

The company builds, owns, and operates indoor vertical farms – vertically-stacked, fully controlled environments used to produce food – which it says sets a ‘new standard’ for protected agriculture from seed to package.

“AeroFarms is fundamentally both an agriculture and technology company,” ​noted founders David Rosenberg, Marc Oshima, and Ed Hardwood in an interview with Forward Fooding.

“We are not just a farm – we are a group of full-stack, world-class agriculture experts changing the way plants are understood and food is grown, with technology at the core.

“Our horticulture intersects with engineering, food safety, data science, and nutrition, giving us the unique capability to understand plant biology in a new way that has never been understood.”

The business is using machine learning and IoT integration to ‘bring agriculture into the future’. “From last year to this year, we have grown over 500 million plants alone and over 800 different varieties, celebrating a rich biodiversity. More importantly, we are able to harvest not just the plants, but also the insights to ensure high quality through-put all year round.”

Other vertical farming players to rank in the top 10 include Germany-based Agrilution, developed the fully automated vertical farming system ‘Plantcube’, London-based vertical farming business Growing Underground.

Packaging solutions

Compostable-packaging-start-up-tackles-the-flexible-plastic-problem_wrbm_large
Waitrose & Partners’ Duchy Organic bananas use TIPA Corp’s fully compostable packaging ©Waitrose & Partners

Plastic pollution and single-use plastics are devastating the environment. Yet TIPA Corp, which ranked in second place, recognises it also has a use in the food industry: plastic protects food and extends shelf life.

To reduce the amount of single-use plastic used in the food industry, the Israeli agri-food start-up developed bio-based packaging it claims has the same functional properties as conventional flexible plastic yet is fully compostable.

TIPA has since inked deals with companies including UK supermarket retailer Waitrose & Partners​ and Irish vegan brand The Happy Pear.

Founders Daphna Nissenbaum and Tal Neuman told Forward Fooding that consumers are voting with their choices against unsustainable brands. “The role of technology is crucial in leading advanced creative solutions to the growing need for an environmentally and healthy food industry.”

Ranking sixth on the FoodTech 500 is sustainable seaweed packaging company Notpla – a start-up perhaps best known for their Ooho capsules. The edible beverage capsules, produced in collaboration with Lucozade Ribena Suntory, are made entirely from seaweed extract and were trialled at last year’s London marathon.

The company said its goal as the outset was to “find a way to replace plastic packaging with a material that is abundant in nature”.

Insects

Humans have been consuming insects for centuries. Yet in recent years, as businesses look to alternative protein sources produced using less

crickets insects MichalLudwiczak
Businesses are looking to alternative protein sources, such as insects ©GettyImages/MichalLudwiczak

water, land, and feed than livestock farming, a number of insect companies have started trading in Europe.  

French insect brand Jimini’s​, for example, took out fifth place in the FoodTech 500. The start-up breeds its insects in ‘specialised’ European modern farms and transforms them into ‘delicious products’. “As this is a brand new ingredient, we implement techniques and innovative production methods,” ​noted co-founders Clément Scellier and Bastien Rabastiens.

“The new possibilities tech offers represent an opportunity we have to embrace. Whether it’s new ingredients, new techniques, [or] new ways of consuming.”

Crické is another insect brand to feature in the top 500. Ranked in 49th​ place, the company uses cricket powder in their ‘cricket crackers’ snacks. Eat Grub​, which sells products including edible crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms, and buffalo worms, came in 68th​ position.

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