Mylkcubator kicks off its first edition with four startups to shape the future of dairy

Mylkcubator

Mylkcubator, the first global incubator specialized in the advancement of innovation projects for the dairy sector, launches its first edition with four amazing startups selected from across the world. Thanks to this incubation program, launched by Pascual Innoventures in collaboration with Eatable Adventures, these promising startups are set to lay the foundations for a new path of development and innovation for the dairy industry and respond to the big challenges it faces.

Mylkcubator is not only the world’s first incubator specialized in the dairy sector, but also establishes itself as an international reference with its four chosen startups coming from different continents. These startups were carefully selected for their projects and technological developments to obtain the dairy products of the future. 

According to Sejal Ravji, director of Pascual Innoventures, “Mylkcubator launches its first edition with the aim of marking a dramatic before and after in food innovation. I think we are facing global challenges that can only be resolved thanks to bold bets like this; it’s a starting point for the development of the dairy products of the future.  It’s a very ambitious project at many levels, including technological, but we’re partnering with leading experts, companies, and investors from all over the world who share our vision to make it happen”.

Thus, Pascual, through Pascual Innoventures continues to promote innovation, anticipate trends and create a more sustainable food system future for all. The Mylkcubator program is another testament to their commitment to this end.

The selected startups:

  • Real Deal Milk (Spain) develops milk proteins through precision fermentation in order to make dairy products that are produced without animals but are nutritionally and gastronomically equivalent to traditional dairy products.
  • Zero Cow Factory (India) producing India’s first milk & dairy products (certainly a world’s first in A2 milk protein) using microbial bioengineering & precision fermentation. 
  • De Novo Dairy (South Africa) uses precision fermentation technology to produce animal-free dairy proteins that provide the same sensory experience and nutrition as their traditional dairy counterparts.
  • M2Factors (USA) 108Labs’ subsidiary M2Factors, Inc is accelerating the state of the art in cell-cultured dairy by crashing the cost of production.

The launch of Mylkcubator has attracted the attention of companies, technology centers and professional investors from all over the world.

Renowned research hubs have already expressed their willingness to collaborate with some of the selected startups in the development of their research. In fact, these partnerships will allow the teams to work in some of the most cutting-edge facilities of these research centers, ‘professionalizing’ and boosting the development process of the projects. 

In addition, leading funds investing in startups working on technologies for developing protein alternatives in the agri-food sector, such as Blue Horizon, Lever VC, Unovis or Ninepointfive, a venture capital fund specialised in leveraging corporate acceleration, will also monitor Mylkcubator’s technological developments to advise these startups and look for future collaboration opportunities to maximize the potential of their projects.

The incubation program will commence with the first sessions to determine the state of development of each project both at a business and technological level with guidance from Pascual Innoventures, Eatable Adventures and the investors and partners involved. In addition, the feasibility of the innovations and the possible development of pilot projects for future business opportunities in the dairy sector will be studied.

Mylkcubator website: mylkcubator.com

MOA foodtech, one of the Spain Foodtech finalists, raises 1.5 million in less than a year since its creation

MOA Foodtech has obtained 1.5 million euros as a seed round to scale its production of sustainable proteins for food and expand to the Asian and American markets. This investment round was led by two IBEX 35 companies, plus the leading food accelerator in Southern Europe, Eatable Adventures, and Big Idea Ventures, the New York-based alternative protein fund.

Moa is founded by Susana Sánchez (CSO), who holds a PhD in microbiology and was previously the director of innovation of a biopharmaceutical company; José María Elorza (CFO), coming from the banking / M&A sector; and Bosco Emparanza (CEO), biochemist at the University of Navarra with an MBA in biotechnology companies. 

”Our current way of producing food is unsustainable. It causes 24% of greenhouse gases and 80% of deforestation, where 77% of the surface is used for animal feed. For this same reason, industry and society need sustainable and global solutions,” says Bosco Emparanza. ‘’Our mission is to produce sustainable and nutritious food. Right now we are working on developing foods using our ingredients in the dairy, meat and snack sector, among others.’’ 

Moa is committed to R&D and so far this year it has obtained nearly 400,000 euros in grants for the development of new technologies and applications.

Moa foodtech, together with Cocuus, Proppos, H2hydroponics and Innomy are the finalists of the first edition of Spain Food Tech, the Eatable Adventures’ acceleration program supported by the National Center for Food Technology and Safety (CNTA) and ICEX Spain Export and Investment.

Moa has been awarded: Orizont award for the most innovative company, finalists in Leyton CES Challenge Las Vegas, winner of the Spanish stop of the `On The Road! Culinary Action´ of the Basque Culinary Centre.

Madrid Food Innovation Hub Inauguration

The business incubator Madrid Food Innovation Hub was born with the mission of promoting disruptive food technologies and revolutionizing the global food industry in order to become a European reference center. This is the grand introduction of the new innovation and entrepreneur center developed by the Madrid City Council and located in the district of Villaverde. As the mayor, Jose Luis Martínez-Almeida, and the deputy mayor, Begoña Villacís, explained during the inauguration, the center is becoming one of the largest ecosystems of innovation and entrepreneurship in technology for the agri-food chain in Europe.

Madrid Food Innovation Hub is a pioneering experience in the world, whose objective is to revolutionize the global food industry. The center will develop several incubation and acceleration programs throughout the year, using different approaches and a deep training program for entrepreneurs in any area of the agri-food chain.

The innovation hub has a coworking space and a kitchen-laboratory of more than 300 m2, which is equipped with everything necessary to make concept tests, evaluation of prototypes and everything needed to develop projects. Madrid Food Innovation Hub activities, which include incubation programs, trainings and workshops with the district, will be completely free of charge for participants.

Almeida stressed that this new center is a clear example of how Madrid is capable of “reinventing itself”, since “here we were able to improvise the place from which thousands of meals for vulnerable people were provided” and, after just a few months, this has become “the place where we can reflect the will of the city of Madrid to win the future from innovation, talent and entrepreneurship”. In this sense, he stressed the need to support innovation by the administrations, assuring “that all those who want to start a professional and personal adventure in Madrid have in this City Council a faithful ally.”

Madrid Food Innovation Hub

As for Villacís, “we have the challenge of seeing how we are going to feed future generations” and for this “it is especially important that the Madrid City Council has thought about the need to create a council that is 100% focused on innovation”, something that, in her opinion, is beginning to be noticed “with projects like this, thinking, helping, creating, promoting and incubating companies that are going to dedicate themselves to thinking about how we are going to feed ourselves in the future.” According to the deputy mayor, the fact that Madrid is the second city in the world to assume this responsibility, behind Tel Aviv, “places us at the same level as the great European capitals and to be at the forefront of innovation.”

Promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the agri-food chain

With the collaboration of Eatable Adventures, one of the three largest foodtech accelerators in the world, Madrid Food Innovation Hub will work to promote entrepreneurship, supporting the ecosystem of Madrid startups in coordination with the strategy developed by the Delegated Area of ​​Innovation and Entrepreneurship that has led the capital to lead the ranking as the best Spanish city for entrepreneurship and as the sixth in Europe, according to the Financial Times.

After the inauguration of the space, Almeida y Villacís, together with the delegate of Economy, Innovation and Employment, Miguel Ángel Redondo; the delegate councilor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Ángel Niño and the councilor of Villaverde, Concha Chapa, have seen the work developed by the startups participating in the first incubation program of the hub and have tasted a menu designed by chef Íñigo Pérez ‘Urrechu’ and the Zalacaín R&D team that was made with raw materials from the foodtech startups: alternative proteins and vegetables grown in laboratories.

Baking the Future kicks off with three revolutionary projects that will change the world of baking

Cereal, Europastry’s new bread and pastry R&D center, hosted the presentation of the startups that will be part of Baking the Future, the first acceleration program in the bakery sector.

After receiving over 100 candidacies with innovative solutions from startups all over the world, three were chosen: Done Properly (Chile), Agrain (Denmark) and Bread Free (Spain).

 

From left to right: Javier Olave (Done Properly), Aviaja Riemann (Agrain), Daniel Gomez-Bravo and Miguel Cervera (Bread Free), Ana Thielen and Jordi Caballero (Cereal)

INNOVATION IN HEALTH AND SUSTAINABLE BAKING

Health and sustainability in food products are the drivers of the solutions presented by the three selected startups.

Thus, Chile’s Done Properly has successfully developed a cutting-edge technology that, through a fermentation bioprocess, reduces the amount of salt in products by boosting the natural flavors of foods.

Denmark’s Agrain, for its part, proposes a new method of food production involving the recycling of grain used in the brewing industry to transform it into flour. This grain has been partially used, as the beer brewing process uses just the sugars and starches. With the flour made by Agrain, it is possible to produce bread products that are more sustainable and have a higher nutritional value.

Lastly, Navarre’s Bread Free is the first company in the world capable of creating gluten-free wheat flour for making bread, pasta and other bakery products. This technology, pioneering in the world, is being developed in collaboration with the CNTA (Centro Nacional de Tecnología y Seguridad Alimentaria).

 

SIX MONTHS TO REVOLUTIONIZE BREAD BAKING

The goal of the Baking the Future program is to construct an open innovation model for Europastry. In the first six months, the entrepreneurs from Done Properly, Agrain and Bread Free will benefit from all the company’s resources, including mentoring sessions, a workspace and access to Cereal’s cutting-edge laboratories, and designs of business plans, among other forms of assistance, to develop their products and test their market viability. 

These months of preparation will be followed by Demo Day, the moment when the startups will present their projects to a network of private investors and highly qualified experts.

 

Interview with Loan Bensadon from Baïa Food

Baïa Food Co. is a Spanish startup that wants to improve the quality of life of people in our society. They mainly research on exotic fruits as a source of bioactive ingredients and develop functional food products with high added value. Among the startup’s key activities is the development of an ethical and sustainable value chain of a New Food from which a unique ingredient is extracted in nature with nutraceutical, food and cosmetic applications. The company currently markets a line of organic superfoods that come from small local crops where the different botanical species are endemic with the aim of positioning their brand “baïa” by opening different marketing channels.

 

Guillermo Milans del Bosch (left) and Loan Bensadon (second from right), co-founders of Baïa Food, during a trip to Ghana, where they grow the Synsepalum dulcificum berry.

In our conversation, Loan talked about the main difficulties they encountered while developing their business, especially as young entrepreneurs, and explained how they managed to overcome them. He also spoke about the evolution of the Spanish entrepreneurial ecosystem from when they started about 8 years ago until now and the support they had from the Israeli ecosystem that was already more mature. Regarding areas that can be improved, Loan believes that private investment and venture capital still have a long way to go in Spain.

In addition, since we have seen a great advance in AgriFoodTech in the last few years, we asked the co-founder about what that term means to him and how he would define it. According to him, “AgriFoodTech is a modern invention to bring together in a single term the entire food value chain (specifically plant-based) and the technology that is integrated into it to improve aspects of it. Agrifood covers from farm to table, in the traditional model of food production. The tech dimension refers to innovation in the chain, using and developing new technological tools that optimize chain management, improve productivity or the end consumer’s experience, create new and unlikely products, etc.”

You can find the full interview in Spanish here.

Eatable Adventures launches €50M fund for investing in early-stage food and agriculture tech startups

Eatable Adventures has just announced the launch of its first €50 million fund: EATABLE EVOLUTION FUND I FCR. The vehicle will make early and growth-stage investments targeting the most disruptive startups in food and agriculture tech across Europe and Latin America. This will be the biggest fund of its kind in Spain and one of the top 3 in Europe.

This milestone marks a new stage of growth for the company, that has already launched more than 10 accelerator and incubation programs, while collaborating as the go-to advisor on open innovation for the leading global food corporations. 

The fund’s launch arrives as the global foodtech scene demonstrates an impressive growth. According to Agfunder, in the first half of 2021, startups have globally raised $24 billion, getting very close to the total for all of 2020.

Eatable Adventures’ latest accelerator program, Spain Foodtech, included a diverse portfolio of startups ranging from upstream technologies like the hyper realistic 3D printed plant based steak of Cocuus, to the protein creation through fermentation of MOA foodtech, the mycelium based burgers of Innomy, H2hydroponics vertical farming and indoor farming facilities in the most extreme climates and downstream solutions like Proppos’ artificial intelligence and computer vision for unattended Point of Sale in foodservice. The results of this cohort have demonstrated almost a double digit growth in value in only six months.

The upcoming startups participating in the next call for projects will have access to the Eatable Adventures’ hands-on methodology, with a dedicated team focused on their business model, route to market strategy, industrial scaling, and showcasing their products and solutions to large industrial partners. 

From left to right: José de Isasa, Mila Valcárcel, José Luis Cabañero, Gonzalo Ramírez Martiarena

Eatable Adventures’ founders, José Luis Cabañero, Mila Valcárcel, José de Isasa, will be joined by new partner Gonzalo Ramírez Martiarena, Founder and CEO of Swiss Pampa and former Global CEO of Louis Dreyfus Company, one of the world’s leading companies in the industrialization and marketing of agricultural products, who is also a leading investor in foodtech startups, with investments in 18 projects with global reach.

“Through a variety of initiatives Eatable Adventures has positioned itself as one of the 3 most active foodtech accelerators worldwide, given our mission of building tomorrow’s food companies. Thanks to Eatable Evolution Fund we will have an even more impactful contribution to the future of the food industry.” states José Luis Cabañero, CEO of Eatable Adventures

The fund is currently pending approval by the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (Spanish Securities Market Commission). The management company will be Abante Asesores Gestión SGIIC, S.A., a financial institution with extensive experience in the management and administration of private equity vehicles with more than 1,200 million euros under management in these vehicles.

Madrid Food Innovation Hub launches the first incubation program for HORECA

The first Incubation Program for Innovation in HORECA Projects developed by the Madrid City Council and managed by Eatable Adventures just launched. Madrid Food Innovation Hub is a business incubator aimed at promoting entrepreneurship, innovation and technology in the agri-food value chain. This is a pioneering experience in the world that will revolutionize the global industry from the city of Madrid. 

Madrid Food Innovation Hub will develop during the year several incubation and acceleration programs, with different approaches; and a deep training program for entrepreneurs in any area of the agri-food chain. The center will work to promote entrepreneurship in Foodtech, supporting the Madrid startup ecosystem, in coordination with the strategy developed from Madrid Emprende, which has led the capital to lead the ranking as the best Spanish city for entrepreneurship and the sixth at European level, according to the Financial Times.

All these efforts will be developed from the facilities in the Villaverde district of Madrid Food Innovation Hub, a center that has a coworking space for entrepreneurs and a kitchen-laboratory of more than 300 m2, equipped with everything necessary for them to make concept tests, evaluation of prototypes and everything needed to develop their projects. This business incubator will be managed by the company Eatable Adventures with José de Isasa in charge of the project.

 

Madrid Food Innovation Hub terrace

Incubation Program for Innovation in HORECA Projects

Madrid Food Innovation Hub starts its activities with its first Incubation program, focused on innovation for HORECA projects, aimed at finding new gastronomic concepts, new business models or tools/projects that add to the current Horeca sector. The selected projects will have the ambition to revolutionize the sector, with a clear focus on the commercial viability of the projects and their contribution to the industry.

The program, which is completely free of charge for participants, will last 12 weeks, during which those selected will receive theoretical and practical sessions, tutorials with experts, will be able to make use of the center’s facilities (both the coworking space and the kitchen laboratory), and will end the program with presentations of their projects to potential consumers and investors.

Among the possible areas in which the projects could be framed, tools for the digitalization of restaurant management will be assessed, from purchasing, management, operation, scandals, marketing, to payments; new distribution channels, such as Delivery, Grab & go, dark kitchens, automated services, corners in establishments…; new gastronomic models and restaurant concepts, both in the dining room and in the kitchen or innovative technological tools applied to the channel such as business intelligence, machine learning, application of artificial intelligence, automation, robotics…

It is aimed at projects with less than 12 months of life, that have not received previous investment, that address the HORECA sector with an innovative perspective, that have an ambitious team and are based in the Community of Madrid. Special value will be given to projects promoted by unemployed or economically vulnerable people.

 

“The Madrid Hospitality Industry has suffered significant damage in the last 18 months due to the impact of COVID-19 and the Madrid City Council has developed a multitude of policies aimed at supporting it and mitigating its effects. With Madrid Food Innovation Hub we are going even further, looking for the future solutions that will help the HORECA sector to evolve and continue to be the global reference it is today” comments Ángel Niño, Delegate Councilor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship of the Madrid City Council.

 

“Madrid is today a global reference in entrepreneurship, with one of the most solid ecosystems of startups and with Madrid Food Innovation Hub we will deepen in one of the sectors with more potential, foodtech. The capital has the potential to lead the search for solutions to changes in consumer habits and the development of new technologies, driving business development in this area,” said José de Isasa, Director of Madrid Food Innovation Hub and founding partner of Eatable Adventures.

 

The deadline for applications is Sunday, September 19. The complete rules are available at www.madridfoodinnovationhub.com 

Open innovation in the agri-food sector

What is open innovation and why is it a good thing? 

The business world has seen unprecedented change that has been driven in large part by technology, changing demographics and the increasingly creative thinking of entrepreneurs and consumers themselves.  

Traditionally, corporations succeeded by creating a single product that became popular with the public and built more products around it. Research and development departments were exclusively focused on improving existing products, without ever looking outward.    

Today, however, there are more and more startups contributing with innovative ideas to the global marketplace, many of which have the potential to become major corporations that will change the world.  

It is easy to imagine how this inevitable reality can make traditional, established companies uncomfortable. However, instead of presenting a threat, startups can bring opportunity for all, thanks to the concept of open innovation, a term coined by Professor Henry Chesbrough, executive director of the Center for Open Innovation at the Haas School of Business at the University of California and co-founder of the Open Innovation Community. 

Open innovation is a way for companies to collaborate with startups, rather than compete with them. This includes incorporating new technologies and outside ideas that the startup can bring to the table, which has many benefits, as open innovation not only fosters creativity within corporations, but also serves to reduce internal investment in the R&D process. 

It is now a fact that when established corporations form alliances with startups, problems find solutions, a synergy that defines open innovation.

Internal innovation is the generation and implementation of positive and disruptive change at a specific time and environment. The difference from open innovation is that, during this process, the use of the company’s own resources is prioritized.

How does open innovation work? 

Open innovation can be defined as the process in which companies implement new opportunities to the existing business model. Currently, the most effective way to achieve this goal is through corporate alliances. 

There are multiple ways in which such alliances can achieve their goals, including through in-house research and development and through corporate accelerators. 

In a Plug and Play Tech Center study, 26 corporate alliances were analyzed, a majority of which have an innovation team of more than 20 people. Their main objective is to incorporate what is called proof of concept (POC). This is the process by which startups demonstrate to a corporation that their technology is economically viable. The startup must create a prototype to prove that its technology is capable of working on a large scale. 

If the startup demonstrates that it is viable through POC, proving that its product is safe, it can be integrated into the corporation’s business model. The innovation team is responsible for evaluating the startup during the testing phase to determine that it can move forward with the adoption of the new model. 

Open innovation in the agri-food sector

Innovation is always present in the agri-food value chain. We can find it in every of its phases, from agriculture to the restaurant’s service.

Open innovation is reshaping the agricultural outlook. Agriculture, more than any other industry, needs to update itself in the technological field. Advances in high-tech systems using drones, sensors, and data analytics have created a demand for expertise that isn’t often associated with [ag]. Consequently, most agricultural companies that still don’t take advantage of open innovation will do so by the end of this decade. The rest will not last much longer.

In respect of the food industry, studies have revealed that open innovation, collaborative networks and mergers and acquisitions can represent a viable perspective to increase competitiveness, customer satisfaction and sustainability.

An excellent example of open innovation in this sector is the case of Unilever, which invested 85 million euros in the creation of a new center called “Hive”. This center can be found in some of the most renowned academic research centers as well as emerging companies. Its location is Wageningen University. Unilever plans to make this the most important global food research center in the world.     

Technology also plays a central role with respect to cell cultured meats. According to Iñigo Charola, the CEO of Biotech Foods, a Spanish company working on the scale-up phase of cultured meat, “The food industry has always been very innovative, but I believe that, thanks to different technologies that are starting to be applied to the food sector, the future of this space will bring us a great variety of attractive, sustainable, healthy and safe products. I think this revolution is going to happen at an unprecedented level.”          

It is undeniable that there are more and more startups aspiring to supply the demand of the future, with more creative teams and innovative ideas that are revolutionizing the food industry globally. Traditional food corporations are taking notice of this big change, and they don’t intend to be left behind.    

What does Eatable Adventures have to say about open innovation? 

Open innovation is a formula that is gaining increasing traction as a model for adopting new talent, technology and disruptive business models. By embracing open innovation companies can literally transform their organizations, achieving goals that would otherwise be impossible without the use of these methodologies.

Eatable Adventures is one of the top three global food technology accelerators, with more than 20 open innovation programs launched, a deal flow of 1.400 foodtech startups analyzed each year and operations on three continents.

Eatable Adventures detects, promotes and invests in the most disruptive startups that promise a relevant impact on the agri-food value chain, through successful collaboration models with corporations in the food industry, generating innovation opportunities, in line with their strategic and business challenges.

Eatable Adventures has developed an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the food sector by a global community with more than 25.000 members and multiple events that bring together industry, investors, universities, governments and entrepreneurs of food innovation.

Reasons to collaborate with startups

The reasons why companies should collaborate with startups, i.e. embrace the concept of open innovation, are numerous.

  • Identify new business opportunities

Collaborating with startups can be the most effective way to identify new business opportunities. Startups usually have younger teams, with fresher ideas and different perspectives, a good area to find opportunities that many long-established companies didn’t think about.

  • Reduce generating innovation’s risk and cost

Partnering with a startup lowers the risk of innovation since startups, if they have enough experience in the market, can prove that their innovative products are something the public wants. It has also been shown that collaborations with startups decrease the cost of innovation generation.

  • Accelerate the innovation process and time to market

Startups also accelerate the innovation process, because they are usually composed of young, creative and ambitious teams that already have a clear vision for the future of their products and business model.

  • Improve internal creativity

Open innovation progresses internal creativity of established companies as they inspire and motivate teams with the flow of new ideas and perspectives. Positive changes and new goals are often a great motivator for established companies.

  • Improve competitive position

Open innovation boosts the competitive advantage of the companies. This is obvious when you know that open innovation consists of the implementation of new technologies acquired from a very broad group of creative and experienced innovators outside the company.

The State of European Food Tech 2021 – Five Seasons Ventures + Dealroom

Companies that have taken the leap to open innovation

There are countless success stories of companies and organizations that have taken the leap to  open innovation to grow their own business and change the global food industry. Here we will mention a few that have left behind the traditional and conformist way of innovating to embrace this multifaceted model of the future.

We think that sharing some cases of open innovation that we have developed together with our clients is the best way to show its disruptive potential in this world.

Pascual Innoventures

Mylkcubator

For several decades, the Pascual family of Spanish entrepreneurs were involved in the traditional dairy industry through their company Calidad Pascual S.A.U

However, with the overwhelming growth of plant-based foods and milks in recent years, and the number of startups taking advantage of this shift to supply the demand, the Pascuals created Pascual Innoventures, a company whose goal is to drive the foods of the future. Through Pascual Innoventures, the Pascuals launched Mylkubator, a global incubator specializing in the development of innovation projects for the dairy sector, in collaboration with Eatable Adventures. 

“The entrepreneurial and innovative spirit is in our genes, it comes from the values that my grandfather instilled in us to be nonconformist, dream big and dare to take risks, not only with our heads but also with our hearts. This is how Pascual Innoventures was born, with a long-term vision and the goal of giving our best for the future of food. We will work hand in hand with startups that allow us to move into the future,” says Gabriel Torres Pascual, one of the creators of Pascual Innoventures.

In 2020, Pascual Innoventures, in collaboration with Eatable Adventures, launched another call for projects, the Plant-based Dairy Challenge, to search for the best startups in the plant-based dairy ecosystem.

Europastry

Another example is the case of Europastry, an international supplier of bakery foods. The company has created Cereal, the new bakery and pastry R&D center, through which it launched the Baking the Future initiative with Eatable Adventures in 2019. The latter is an industry accelerator whose goal is to identify innovative solutions generated by startups from every corner of the world and build an open innovation model for the company. After this first experience of collaboration with startups, the company has decided to launch an accelerator program in 2021 with the aim of identifying innovative solutions generated by startups in every corner of the world and building an open innovation model at Cereal.

For a period of six months, the program will help entrepreneurs develop their products, measure their viability in the market and assist in the creation of new business models, helping startups advance their projects.

Sigma

The food company Sigma has also partnered with Eatable Adventures to seek out entrepreneurs and promote high-impact projects in the food sector worldwide. This year it presented the second edition of Tastech by Sigma, the startup acceleration program whose first edition registered 123 applications from 19 countries, of which seven developed a pilot program and four will formalize a long-term alliance with Sigma. 

In the words of Daniel Alanis, development director at Sigma, “We want Tastech by Sigma to become a benchmark in the sector and for more and more entrepreneurs to present and develop their ideas with us. We are convinced that innovation in the food sector is a collaborative task, and this program is our contribution to young talent revolutionizing what we eat and how we produce it.”

The future of open innovation

By analyzing current market trends, we can predict that open innovation will continue to be an increasingly important factor in the global marketplace. The pace of technological advances is getting faster and more unpredictable, and corporations that do not embrace change and innovation run the risk of stagnating or becoming irrelevant.      

It is already a fact that innovation is indispensable to the success of modern and future corporations and is necessary to compete with other corporations and capture the attention of consumers.              

By fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with startups and, hence, their innovation teams, corporations can go far beyond just staying relevant. They can achieve their goals and remain key players in the marketplace for many generations to come. 

The alternative protein “revolution”: emerging technologies, new sources and increasingly scalable developments

In collaboration with CNTA, we have put together a summary of the most relevant arguments made at the event Future Food Tech Alternative Proteins. Some of these are the potential of technologies such as precision fermentation or synthetic biology as ways to obtain protein alternatives, as well as predicting that this trend is likely to continue to grow.

CNTA, National Centre for Food Safety and Technology, is a private non-profit making association. Since 1981, the aim of this research centre has been to contribute towards improving the competitiveness and quality of the food sector. Its work is focused on the fields of food science and technology, biology, chemistry, agronomic engineering, food sciences and nutrition.

What is contributing to this acceleration in the so-called alternative protein revolution? Why, as experts and international foodtech leaders point out, are the “stars aligning”? Here we summarize some of the keys:

Technology boom helps: many breakthroughs in precision fermentation and synthetic biology

If there was one term redundantly mentioned at Future Food Tech Alternative Proteins it was “precision fermentation”. Undoubtedly, it is one of the trendy technologies to meet the challenge of the search for alternative proteins. During the event, it was predicted that its progressive implementation will make it possible to continue producing ingredients with technological and nutritional characteristics capable of matching and even surpassing animal sources.

It is also a sustainable and efficient technology, which are very valuable qualities considering that the food industry faces the challenge of mitigating its climate impact in the coming years. Thus, the progress that can be made in the application of precision fermentation will open up great opportunities in the food industry.

The food industry is also looking very closely at the potential offered by synthetic biology. Numerous startups are succeeding in creating very promising cell-based products. So far, cell-based alternatives are the ones that are best able to replicate whole cuts (steaks, chops, sashimi…), as they are able to offer the consumer organoleptic and nutritional qualities that practically match those of the “originals”. After all, as Michael Selden, CEO of Finless Foods, pointed out, “laboratory developments are managing to reproduce what really happens in nature”. Looking to the future, regulatory and price barriers remain to be overcome so that these products can have a real and extensive market penetration.

The strength of new sources: algae, fungi, SCP…

Little by little we will be seeing more products based on alternative proteins from a wide variety of sources. At Future Food Tech Alternative Proteins we were able to see examples of how, increasingly, sources are diversifying with interesting results and potential market implementation. From the commitment to algae varieties such as the red algae used by Triton Algae or the chorella used by Algenuity, to the commitment to mycelium by Meati Foods or the unicellular protein Euglena by Noblegen. These cases make it clear that there is life beyond plant-based sources.

future food tech alternative protein

Noblegen presenting its ‘Euglena’ SCP development at Future FoodTech Alternative Proteins.

Even so, work continues in the plant-based segment, where it is also possible to find sources other than the usual ones (chickpea, pea, soybean). To make this search more effective, the need for a better and more detailed knowledge of the nutritional properties of new plants or legumes was put on the table, applying technologies that make it possible to characterize the ingredients from a technological (texture, stability, etc.) and nutritional (amino acids, digestibility, etc.) point of view.

Greater knowledge will generate even more possibilities for diversification.

“There are startups that are scaling very fast”.

Sean O’Sulivan, of SOSV Imvestment, gave another of the keys that is contributing to the acceleration of developments and the expectation that new products can slowly make their way onto the agenda of more consumers. “There are startups today that are scaling very fast and that is a huge step towards success,” he said in the opening keynote at the congress. One of the reasons for that ability to scale is the fact that the most disruptive startups are counting on a solid technological base. This is also attracting the attention not only of investors but also of large companies in the sector. Looking to the future, everything suggests that this technological solvency will gradually increase and this will allow the innovation boom to be aligned with the investment boom, whose upward trend has been a constant in recent years.

The forecasts, therefore, continue to be very optimistic. With greater technological solvency, it will be possible to scale up and achieve products that can compete on price in the market, reaching a larger number of consumers. This is undoubtedly one of the keys to ensuring that the much-talked-about acceleration does not come to a screeching halt.

The food industry is facing a scenario in which it can connect with a consumer who is increasingly committed to sustainability and who sees alternative protein sources as a strategy in line with this commitment. If we add to this the fact that alternatives to animal protein are already an unavoidable part of the future agenda of institutions and administrations, the scenario is favorable for the “revolution” to consolidate its change of gear and reach cruising speed.

The original content was written by Mikel Arilla, CNTA’s Vanguard and Trends Technician, is available here.

What is FoodTech? Technologies for the food sector

The world is changing at a speed never before seen by mankind. The industrial revolution, which began at the end of the 18th century, was the initial trigger. However, the technological revolution, driven by the creation of the internet towards the end of the 20th century, was a major catalyst for the change we are currently experiencing.

The technologies we know are becoming more and more advanced. It seems that there is always a new virtual platform to revolutionize the way we communicate, a phenomenon that has grown stronger in the age of covid.

In parallel, the way we humans perceive food has begun to change in recent years, empowered by a greater awareness of the inefficiency of the traditional food system and its impact on the planet and animals. This change in perspective has naturally stimulated a shift in the global food supply.  This is where the crucial role of food technology, or foodtech, comes in.

 

What is foodtech?

Foodtech as a concept is nothing new. Our ancestors have been modifying food for thousands of years. Even the process of putting food in salt to preserve it can be considered a primitive manifestation of foodtech.

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However, foodtech as a term has had much greater relevance in modern times. It represents the sophisticated changes we are currently experiencing. Today’s foodtech is not a simple and concise term, but rather one that encompasses all those agents that apply technology to the agri-food value chain. From production to consumption of food, technology is bringing efficiency, safety, and a significant improvement in sustainability.

Foodtech nowadays goes far beyond the mere preservation and alteration of food. Indeed, it is a whole system that encompasses other technologies that converge to improve and streamline the food system of this century. Thus affecting innovation throughout the agri-food value chain.

 

FoodTech is the new internet

A few decades ago, the internet was the wave of opportunity to be seized. As of 2019, when Beyond Meat became the first foodtech IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, the plant-based food industry was cemented as the new wave of investment to take advantage of. That IPO was the most successful since Yahoo went public in 1996.

In 2019, investment in foodtech startups globally reached a value of $19.8 billion (AgFunder). Only in Europe, investment in startups in this sector grew 106% compared to the previous year. Being increasingly dominated by plant-based foods. 

In parallel, there is another sector within the foodtech sphere that is causing a stir worldwide, cultured meat. According to the global consulting firm McKinsey this industry will be worth approximately $25 billion by 2030. It will also be presenting opportunities within and outside the current food industry.

Although this area of foodtech is barely in its infancy, by 2020 cultured meat companies had already raised $366 million. Which is 6 times more than the previous year. As was the case with the internet a few decades ago, the foodtech sector is, and will increasingly continue to be, a major driver of the global economy.

 

Foodtech technologies

Today’s food technologies are numerous and will continue to evolve. The following are the ones with the greatest impact on foodtech:

Blockchain: Launched in 2011 to track bitcoin cryptocurrency transactions, blockchain is a system by which transactions can be made between people around the world without the need for intermediaries. 

Fermentation technologies: These are technologies for developing microbes to alter a certain substrate or produce specialized biomass. Humans have relied on fermentation processes for thousands of years to create and alter foods and beverages. 

Bioprinting: It consists of the application of microfabrication technologies to the production of textured foods with functional characteristics. It uses cells and biomaterials to create organ-like structures and allows the cells to multiply. This technology has very practical applications in foodtech, especially for creating meat-flavored plant-based or cultured cell-based foods.

Cell Cultured technology: Speaking of cultured cells, this technology is used for manipulation at the cellular level that allows the industrialization of cell lines. Cells are obtained through painless biopsy and are cultured to create a significant amount of meat. The process does not require slaughter or harm to any animals.

Internet of Things: This is the set of devices, communication networks, and central services that make it possible to obtain data and automate different systems. The wireless digitization of today’s food industry is key to system efficiency. Especially considering the need for instant communication from one system to another for food production. 

Robotics: Automates food creation and processing and can eliminate manual hazards on the production line. This technology increases the efficiency of food production in addition to improving quality.

Data Management: Information analysis and modeling systems using database technologies or artificial intelligence. For food production on a massive scale, the role of Data Management is key to maintain a reliable and updated record of each product that will enter the market.

Automated logistics: Used for autonomous driving, fleet logistics improvement, and last mile logistics. Overall, the warehouse automation industry is projected to reach a value of $27 billion by 2025 (LogisticsIQ latest market research study).

E-commerce: This technology consists of technological tools that enable the implementation of electronic intermediation systems, both between companies and individuals. It is estimated that e-commerce revenues for the food sector will exceed 25.7 billion dollars in the U.S. by 2025.

Novel Foods: New ingredients and forms of production for the creation of foods with a healthier and more sustainable profile. According to the European Commission, Novel Foods are those that were not consumed before May 15, 1997, when the first regulation for Novel Foods was implemented.

Packaging: The elements for the protection and preservation of food in a healthy state, eliminating petroleum products. Many corporations are focusing on the implementation of ecological and biodegradable packaging. In addition to the reduction of excessive materials to protect food in the market.

Foodtech in Spain

Food plays an integral role in Spanish culture. It is no wonder the country keeps producing more and more foodtech startups. The gastronomy sector represents up to 33% of Spain’s GDP, according to a report by the multinational consulting firm KPMG.  

In Spain, there are approximately 400 startups in the foodtech sector, according to the report “The state of foodtech in Spain 2020” by Eatable Adventures. These companies are very young, as more than 60% are less than three years old. Also, 13% were created in the last year, at the height of the pandemic. Moreover, the majority (35%) are direct-to-consumer models, whose growth has skyrocketed in the wake of the pandemic.

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“Foodtech in Spain: Fuelling a More Sustainable and Efficient Food System” by ICEX

“Technology has allowed us to develop 100% vegetable meat that reduces gas emissions by 99% compared to animal meat. This will allow us to create the food system that society needs,” said Marc Coloma in an interview with Eatable Adventures.

Coloma is the co-founder of Heura Foods, the Barcelona-based vegan meat company that last month raised €16 million in an investment round.  

However, entrepreneurship in this field has yet to reach the stature of other powerhouses, such as Germany, Israel, or the United States.

“I think [in Spain] there have been important steps and initiatives to support entrepreneurship that favor the enrichment and development of the entrepreneurial culture from educational environments, but there is always room for improvement,” said Iñigo Charola in an interview with Eatable Adventures.

Charola is the CEO of BioTech Foods, another alternative protein company founded in San Sebastian, Spain in 2017.

There is no doubt that things are changing in Spain, and the foodtech sector is playing an increasingly important role in the country. In January 2021, the Spanish government invested €250,000 in NovaMeat, a company that prints plant-based steaks. Plus, it awarded €5.2 million to the aforementioned BioTech Foods for the development of cell-grown meat.  

 

The role of Eatable Adventures in the foodtech sector

Eatable Adventures promotes the Spain FoodTech Startup Program, an acceleration program whose purpose is to support the development of projects in this field with a solid technological base.

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This program -supported by the National Center for Food Technology and Safety (CNTA) and ICEX Spain Export and Investment – already has its five finalist startups. These are Cocuus (large-scale bioprinting of plant-based product analogous to traditional animal protein products); Proppos  (AI and computer vision to offer an unattended payment solution in foodservice and supermarkets); Innomy (animal protein substitute products based on mushroom mycelium cultivation); H2 Hydroponics (designs, operates and delivers at full capacity hydroponic vertical and indoor farming facilities in countries with extreme climates); and MOA foodtech (biotechnology and AI used to convert waste and by-products from the agri-food industry into a next generation protein with high nutritional value and is 100% sustainable).