From vertical farming to cellular agriculture, the food tech scene is exploding.
Evidence of this can be found in the US, for example, where consumers are drinking Perfect Day’s precision fermentation-derived dairy at Starbucks. Over in Singapore, diners are eating cell cultured chicken in a restaurant.
Signs of growth are also evident in funding interest, as an increasing number of investors look to take a piece of the food tech pie.
It is estimated close to 100 investors are currently active in the food tech arena, with some signing multiple tickets per year. Bright Idea Ventures, for example, made close to 50 investments in 2021 – making it one of only a small handful to make an excess of 20 investments during that period.
If this is the state of play now, what will it look like in the future? We asked food tech accelerators and incubators for their take on upcoming innovation: what do they expect, or want to see, in 10 years’ time?
‘We’ll see technologies that haven’t been invented yet’
Recently, we asked ProVeg Incubator in Germany, The Kitchen FoodTech Hub in Israel, and Eatable Adventures (co-founder of Mylkcubator with dairy major Pascual’s innovation arm) in Spain, what trends they’re observing in food tech right now.
For the most part, the accelerator/incubator cohort observed similar trends. Biotech was a big one, as was fermentation – both traditional and next-gen – to produce B2B ingredients for the industry. Think cell-cultured fat, precision fermentation-derived dairy and mycelium-based meat alternatives.
When asked what food tech innovation Eatable Adventures expects to see coming through Mylkcubator in the future, Itzia Ortega, Senior VP of Global Operations, suggested it may well be something completely novel.
“As technology develops at the speed of light, predictions about the future are extremely uncertain. But facing such a challenging future brings nothing but a promising scenario for all food entrepreneurs,” Ortega told FoodNavigator.
Eatable Adventures’ portfolio is made up of 11 food tech start-ups, including MOA Foodtech, which is transforming food waste by-products, via fermentation, into sustainable protein; alt meat and fish start-up Cocuus; and mycelium-based alt protein maker Innomy Labs.
“At Eatable Adventures we have already identified 11 technologies impacting the food industry and we are very positive that in the next decade we will be seeing a plethora of others more impacting in specific spaces within the food value chain.”
Ortega continued: “Technologies that haven’t been invented yet could potentially become the next big thing for the agrifood industry.”
‘A clear road to commercialisation’
Global alt protein-focused ProVeg Incubator has seen numerous cohorts pass through its accelerator. These start-ups largely focus on innovative ingredients and finished products, leveraging everything from faba protein and algae to precision fermentation-dairy and mycoprotein.
Currently, stringent regulation in Europe and elsewhere is making it challenging for these start-ups to commercialise novel products. In the future, however, ProVeg Incubator’s Senior Marketing & Communications Manager, Louise Cullen, expects this to change.
“Firstly, we anticipate an increased number of cultured meat and seafood start-ups, with solid IP and product strategies, taking part in our programme – backed by regulatory approval and a clear road to commercialisation.”
ProVeg Incubator also anticipates it will be working with more ingredient companies with platforms that provide ‘lean and scalable’ solutions to the alternative protein industry, and start-ups with plant-based product solutions that combine innovative, local ingredients, a ‘clean label’ approach, and smart tech, we were told.
Finally, the accelerator expects to see a range of hybrid products coming to the fore from start-ups using combinations of cell-based and plant-based ingredients, as well as those that are developing combinations of technologies to make the ‘most of’ fermentation and cultivations processes.
What ProVeg Incubator said it can be sure of, is that ten years from now, it will be working with an ‘exciting, enviable mix’ of alt protein companies that are making the most of emerging ingredients and technologies to develop unique products that benefit human and planetary health.
‘Exit, and come back for more’
For The Kitchen FoodTech Hub in Israel, which was established by food giant the Strauss Group in collaboration with the Israeli Government, upcoming innovation is of course important.
But when FoodNavigator asked The Kitchen’s CEO Jonathan Berger what he would like to see in the incubator in 10 years’ time, he focused on the people.
“We would love to see start-ups that are led by second timer, third timer entrepreneurs,” he explained.
“This is crucial. In other verticals, we see entrepreneurs exiting the first start-up and creating another one and another one and this is definitely noticed in the quality of the start-up and in the way they build the company.”
The food tech space has seen several exits of late. In the cell cultured meat space alone, recent M&A includes BSF Enterprise PLC’s acquisition of 3D Bio-Tissues, Meat-Tech 3D’s buy out of cultured fat producer Peace of Meat, and JBS’s takeover of Spanish cultivated meat start-up BioTech Foods.
The Kitchen hopes that food tech – which is still regarded a ‘relatively new thing’ compared to other verticals – will be a ‘desired space’ with enough entrepreneurs and ‘numerous’ exits.
“We hope to see those entrepreneurs come back and start the second venture and the third venture in the food tech area.”