Singapore, Israel, and Madrid? FoodTech is gaining momentum in the city trying to become a global reference. Public administrations and private agents have aligned their interests to position the region in one of the sectors of the future. These intentions were evident during the first thematic session of the Innodays, a series of sectoral meetings to promote entrepreneurship in the field of innovation organized by the Madrid City Council, the Community of Madrid, and the Madrid Innovation Driven Ecosystem (MIDE).
Spain as a FoodTech Nation
Among all the guests at the first InnoDays, Eatable Adventures’ Managing Partner, Mila Valcárcel, brought up a relevant topic: the geopolitical changes (and the consequent scarcity of food or raw materials) that will act as accelerators of changes in the agri-food value chain with the incorporation of new technologies.
These changeovers are led by technologies such as robotics, fermentation, bioprinting, artificial intelligence, IoT, new ingredients, cellular technology, or innovations in packaging. “We like to talk about Spain as a FoodTech Nation, a country that is much more than gastronomy and a world power in the agri-food field,” Valcárcel detailed. In fact, 10% of the national GDP depends on these sectors.
Startups, the main drivers of the industry
More than 30,000 companies are engaged in agri-food in Spain. “The great challenge for the industry is digitization, technology must reach the whole system. We also need more innovative and sustainable value chains, as is the case in other sectors”. Despite everything, the Spanish FoodTech and AgroTech environments have gained dynamism at full speed, as evidenced by the 700 million in investment attracted by agri-food last year, almost triple compared to 2020.
In this ecosystem, startups are clearly in focus, they are companies that are developing and generating interesting movements at different levels. As for Madrid, there are 407 startups operating in the region, representing 25.29 % of the national total. “They are companies that touch the entire value chain, from production to logistics. Madrid can be the Silicon Valley of food, the key is to work together to achieve it,” assured Mila Valcárcel.
Madrid, the Silicon Valley of food
Madrid should have a global ambition regarding its positioning on the FoodTech board. “We should take advantage to change what doesn’t work. For example, technology transfer is fundamental but very complex in Spain. We must mix technology and science to generate ambitious startups capable of solving global challenges.”
At a time when supply chains are breaking down and food autarky is on the rise, Spain has scientific teams, first-rate facilities, and a testing ground, such as Madrid Food Innovation Hub, where everything can be tested. “Let’s develop technology, intellectual property, and a solid business model around food,” said Valcárcel.
Educating the consumer
Meanwhile, we need to educate consumers so that they are aware of and able to exploit the disruption. “For starters, FoodTech will allow us to make food accessible to everyone. This doesn’t mean we’re going to stop having traditional livestock or crops. It means there will be many other ways of doing things in the face of a world population that is growing and demanding functional foods, proteins…”
“It is important to work with the citizen on issues of perception and valuation. Countries like Singapore do a great job of dissemination. In this way, the consumer understands that there is nothing wrong with consuming laboratory meat or lettuce harvested in a vertical garden”.
During its first day, InnoDays aimed to highlight the needs of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and generate synergies between it. Watch the recorded session here.