This foodtech startup is changing the way protein is produced on their mission to fix the food system

 

As World Agri-Tech Innovation South America Summit marketing partners we had the pleasure of interviewing one of the speakers; Matias Muchnick CEO & Founder of Notco, one of the most disruptive foodtech startups that is currently changing the way protein is produced.

Matias described NotCo as a foodtech company that combines science, technology and the unexplored plant kingdom to recreate products that taste, smell, and look  just like real animal products. “With this combination of machine learning technologies and breakthrough science we could crack one of the most challenging enigmas of humanity: creating amazingly tasty food that can also be good for our bodies, the environment, the animals and that would help us distribute nutrition using exponentially less resources than what we have today.”

 

 

COVID HAS BROUGHT IMPORTANT CHALLENGES

Matías told us that the current pandemic has brought some important challenges, both in the company’s environment and in it’s internal functioning. But he added that as a disruptive young company he feels it is their duty to reinvent their business structure in order to overcome these challenges. As well as to adapt and integrate all the opportunities that come with it. “Today we are facing different incentives, signs, stimuli; and we are learning to incorporate them.”

One important factor he pointed out was that he believes people’s values are changing, and one relevant aspect of this change is the considerable increase in food awareness. 

“The contact we have with food today is completely different, we are reinventing ourselves in every way and it will never be the same as before.”

There’s no doubt that new trends are arising, especially concerning animal-based food; people are seeking increased transparency, sustainability and better nutrition, etc. And this is something they are trying to tackle with the help of AI.

 

 

DELIVERING A MORE SUSTAINABLE FOOD INDUSTRY

Matías confirmed that the plant-based trend is growing and this has helped Notco focus its resources to further its expansion and development.

He explained that part of this growing trend has revealed an important change in the startups behavior, which is to transform many of their activities into more digitalized actions. It has shown them the importance of partnering with companies that share the same direction, “to deliver what people need and ask for today; a complete, affordable and more sustainable food industry.”

 

 

 

WORKING WITH STARTUPS AS A SOLUTION

Matías believes that startups like Notco are bringing disruptive solutions with the application of technology:

“I think we’ve made it clear that a startup today can turn what we thought impossible only a few years ago into a fact.  We’re developing a technology and science that will allow the species to live on (human and non-human).

In their case, the combination of machine learning technologies and breakthrough science could crack one of the most challenging enigmas we now face: creating great tasting food that is also good for our bodies, the environment and the animals as well as help us distribute nutrition using less resources. In fact, they have already overcome one of the biggest challenges: “to be able to imitate the food we really love, but instead of coming from inefficient and environmentally aggressive sources based on animal farming, obtaining it from plants.”

 

 

COLLABORATION AS A KEY FOR GROWTH

He told us about the brands relationship with corporations as he believes collaboration to be important in building special relationships:

“If we want to continue conquering the world with mouth wateringly delicious food, we need to collaborate, we need to change the industry from the inside.”

Their first big partner was Papa John’s and last year they started working on a partnership for the launch of their new Vegan Royale pizza. Then came Burger King’s alliance for their Rebel Burger. He added that it’s important to work with companies that are also willing to take these big steps together, to accomplish the most important turnover of our feeding system that the planet so desperately needs.

 

AGRI-FOOD SECTOR BEGGING FOR CHANGE

Matías believes that “it is no surprise that the food system has become the major environmental ill known to humankind..all starts and ends with raising and breeding livestock for meat.”

The industrial production of animals is the single most aggressive form of creating nutrition for a growing population. If we could go back and ask science what is the best and most efficient way to feed the 7 billion people that inhabit our planet, the answer certainly wouldn’t be animals. 

He explained that the biggest theory Notco is trying to prove is:  “could we make our milk, cheese, eggs and meat just from plants and take the animal out of the equation? Cut down the middle man?”  the founder certainly believes this would mean a healthier and more sustainable food system, but the challenge remains the taste… and now we’ve proven that it is possible in over 4 countries, next? The world.

 

 

Partners at World Agri-Tech South Summit America

 

 

As World Agri-Tech South America partners, we had the pleasure of interviewing Innovation representatives from Raízen and Adama, two companies that are currently disrupting the agri-food system and developing solutions by partnering with startups across the Agritech space.

Raízen is an energy company that operates in all stages of the process, from the cultivation of cane, production of sugar, ethanol and bioenergy, to the commercialization, logistics and distribution of goods. They invest in solutions based on only the best innovation and sustainability practices, acting as a reference in the production of renewable energy.

Adama is a company dedicated to the production of agrochemicals, but they also offer AgTech and crop protection solutions in their services portfolio. They work with a purpose: to listen, learn and deliver integrated solutions for farmers to increase their productivity with sustainability.

We had the opportunity to talk to Jose Massad, Director of Information Technology at Raízen, and Roberson Marczak, Innovation Manager at ADAMA Latam

 

 

Covid-19 induced challenges 

Jose explained that the main challenge that people have felt during this time has been the unexpected changes thrown at them by the crisis. There was no time to prepare for the challenges ahead and Raizen, for example, quickly established actions to directly combat covid induced impacts, through partners and full team collaboration. From a technology perspective, it was a major challenge when the whole team had to self-isolate and work from home.

Roberson told us that him and his team also had to adapt to the new reality of teleworking and social distancing. He also raised an interesting question: How can we keep in touch with our customers, when we are faced with social restrictions?  In fact, ADAMA digital services have proved to be very resourceful tools for farmers during this time, in order to maintain communication with their technical consultants and sales reps, despite contact and visit restrictions within farms. For Roberson, digitalisation of this kind is here to stay, as farmers adapt increasingly more with ease to these technologies

 

Transforming the agrifood market with technology

Jose said that in Raizen, they currently have an ongoing digital agriculture transformation that includes the use of disruptive technology such as on-board computers, precision agriculture, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), drones for application of inputs, artificial intelligence for prediction and optimization of production, among others. 

In ADAMA? Roberson explained that AgTech services are part of ADAMA´s core business and portfolio strategy. For him; “The integration between farming and digital technologies is the key to taking agriculture to a new level of productivity”. The adoption of AgTech tools will have a similar effect on traditional farms, like the effect of digital technologies on entertainment, banking and travel, for example. It offers many benefits, including:

  • Supporting agronomic decisions with quantifiable data.
  • Reduction of operating costs and uncertainty while increasing peace of mind for farmers.
  • Minimizing potential negative environmental impact and agronomic risks.
  • Increase efficiency of products, by applying it the right spraying.

 

 

Working with startups to accelerate the agriculture industry

Jose asserted that innovation is one of Raizens main foundations and in 2017 they launched Pulse, one of the biggest hubs in Brazil that promotes open innovation, and which has helped to generate a strong agribusiness ecosystem across the country.
“Initiatives like Pulse will be increasingly used as key partners in solutions for the agricultural sector.”
The hub currently collaborates with more than 28 startups, and over 50 projects have already been tried and tested, 6 of which have signed a contract to be incorporated in Raizens technological environment and to start working as solution providers.

For Roberson, “startups are a powerful way to speed things up for AgTech”. The key is to select startups that are working on farmers pain points and that always put them first through their technologies. To work with startups is to inject agility into your company, but beware, a lot of the time they also require extra direction in terms of solutions development. Such a large company like ADAMA can act as this guide during the development process to increase their chances of success.
ADAMA boasts several partnerships with startups in Brazil, but mainly in Israel; their country of origin. After working with various startups, they have learnt that the most important factor is trying not to change the way a startup works. “We let the startups come up with the idea and we refine together the agronomic and financial aspects.”

 

 

Changes in the agriculture sector

For Jose, the increased use of technologies is generating major changes in the sector, with an impact on the entire production process. It’s these kinds of synergies that allow a once traditional sector  to optimize processes and contribute directly to the discovery of new solutions.

For Roberson, there is something missing in the agriculture space, and that’s the ability to move to the next technological level and experience a new revolution; data integration. “The challenge is how to bring data from rural areas to communication networks, to be processed and transformed into useful information”, allowing farmers to make future decisions and not only passively contemplate what has already happened in their farms that can no longer be modified.

Do not miss the chance to listen to them at World Agri-Tech South America July 29th and 30th!!

 

 

Last Thursday, July 2nd we added another edition to our series of international webinars as we delved into the power of agtech investment to building a more resilient food system amid the covid crisis. In our latest offering Investing in Agri-Food Tech: Building Resilient Food Systems we were joined by some of the agtech industry´s biggest experts including Anne Greven, Global Head of F&A Startup Innovation at Rabobank, John Friedman, Director of AgFunder Asia & our very own José Luis Cabañero, CEO of Eatable Adventures, who offered their insights into the keys behind investing in agtech, the main drivers of change and which companies are currently leading this new agricultural revolution.

 

As the covid crisis affects every part of the food industry, investor and entrepreneur mindsets are changing and the pandemic has uncovered a fragile and overly traditional food supply chain that begs for change. Agtech offers new power and possibilities to leverage disruptive solutions. In 2019 startups raised approximately 20 billion worth of investment as they develop new solutions towards redesigning a more active supply system across the industry including in blockchain, automation and robotics.

 

Here are the key takeaways from the webinar in case you missed it:

 

What are the main drivers for agtech investment?

For John Friedman there has been a significant increase over the years, specifically compared to the year 2015 when agrifood made up only 5% of VC funding, which is miniscule if you consider the industry employs 40% of the world’s population. John stated that “we all rely on food and sustainability” and the lack of awareness and attention the sector has garnered is what motivated AgFunders founders to launch the initiative. He added that we are currently facing massive challenges as a food supply chain, including in population growth, climate change and changing consumption patterns.

This is something Eatable Adventures Jose Luis agrees on, adding that these factors were definitely the kickstarters to realising the need for quick actions towards producing a kinder way to make food for our planet. We´ve also seen a spike in agtech players enter the market. For example, when plant-based pioneers Beyond Meat announced they were going public people realised that agtech investment was accelerating and a space definitely worth investing in.

Another driver for investment has also been the outbreak of the covid crisis, as it uncovered a stressed-out supply chain begging for change. Anne Greven added that just now we are truly beginning to see more investors and entrepreneurs interested in the space, including governments and universities who are also recognising the need for change.

Singapore is a small country which relies on 90% of food imports to feed its population. With covid restricting everything from transportation to social distancing, importers were left with tonnes of food waste after supply and demand issues, which is another reason for creating a more nimble food system, and John Friedman believes agtech has the power to do so.

“Perhaps one of the silver linings from this experience is a sort of awaking around the fragilities of how we as a society live our lives and how we have taken so much for granted” – John Friedman.

 

How is agritech innovation adding value to the more traditional farming and agricultural practices?

 

“More and more is moving faster than we realise–more tech is being implemented” – Anne Greven.

The agtech space is definitely considered one of the more traditional spaces in the food industry. For Anne Greven one of the benefits of agritech innovation has been “creating greater efficiencies in the farms”. Technology offers more margins for farmers and those are the innovations poised to take off to help create a more sustainable food system.

It was agreed between our panelists that the main factor we are seeing, and that is securing the most support and funding, is low tech but high impact development and there are many corporations looking to help their farmers implement such technologies. John offered community farmer apps as a prime example, which help in a small way by
“putting the power back in the farmers hands..and cutting out the middleman”.

 

How do they compare in terms of profitability, complexity and availability of quality deal flow to other areas in foodtech?

“It’s a complex space that requires some solid engineering” – John Friedman.

The agrifood space is implementing increasingly more technology making a bigger market year on year. Jose Luis believes that even more doors of opportunity are being opened and that the “return is similar if not better, we think, than other areas”. He assures that the technology implemented doesn’t need to be that strong; “you can make big things with very simple solutions”.

In Rabobank the volume of applications are growing each year, and many agtech startups are able to secure financing when other spaces haven’t. In fact, this years 300 alumni alone bagged 120 million in funding. People are recognising this is a growing area worth investing in, and the greater implementation of tech, the greater return for the investor. John adds that although AgFunder has always been typically focused on the upstream, he has started to recognise the commercial opportunity of downstream areas like CPG, alternative proteins and foodtech over the past few years and admits the investment landscape has shifted across the food system.

 

What are the most relevant and promising areas worth investing in?

For Anne, one of the most exciting emerging areas is that of carbon trading soil; “the farming and agritech impact (to) reduce carbon emissions..there will be a lot of people looking to invest there”. But she adds that anything offering greater efficiency for the farmer as a general goal will be an area worthy of investment. Since margins are razor thin for farmers across the world, there is a huge need to manage this and give back dollars to the people actually producing our food.

Predictive analytics was also an area of interest, since despite being present in the industry for some years now, data sources are always getting bigger and with more predictive measures now available there are more efficient ways to help farmers than ever before. This goes for artificial intelligence, too. Jose Luis states he’s seen a few companies already giving back to farmers, even a solution as simple as through a phone app where they can download real time data on crop performance and weather patterns. The CEO of Eatable Adventures also believes that products offering higher nutritional values are one to watch.

“We also believe that this industrialization approach is going to be a great area getting production closer to consumers”.

 

 

 

 

Missed this webinar? Check out the video