It’s not even debatable; Agri-FoodTech is changing everything!
Despite the many advances throughout human history, agriculture and food production have remained essentially unchanged for the past 10,000 years. Sure, the steel plow replaced stone-age technology, petroleum-fueled tractors supplanted horse and oxen teams and chemical weed and pest control replaced hand labor.
But fundamentally, food production has remained relatively the same. We plant a seed and nurture the plant until harvest. We birth an animal, feed it and eventually slaughter it.
Twenty, even 10 years ago, would anybody believe we’d be growing meat in a petri dish? Weeding crops with driverless tractors? Or growing salad greens without soil? The ramifications of data and digitization, AI technology, biochemistry and biotechnology, plus a consumer who chooses food not as their next meal but as an ethical mandate, have inspired an evolutionary leap in our food and farming systems.
Here are 14 Agri-FoodTech companies with a vision and technology to fundamentally change our approach to agriculture.
Biologically-Based Solutions to Old Problems
There’s been lots of talk about the emerging “biologicals” market (projected to reach $18.5 billion market value by 2026) as the future answer to crop weeds, pests, disease and even pollination. Some of the most fascinating work has been in the insect world.
Apis Protect uses AI and IoT technologies to sense, gather and interpret data in beehives, giving beekeepers information crucial to combating the global decline of bee populations. Considering bees and other pollinators support 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, what Apis does isn’t just novel. It’s crucial to human survival!
On the opposite of the spectrum is Provivi, a company synthesizing natural pheromones to disrupt the mating cycles of insects, lowering the pressure of pests that can devastate crops.
Fermented Food Frenzy
Anyone who has ever sipped wine, dined on cheese or puckered their way through some deliciously sour sauerkraut has enjoyed the ancient process of producing food via fermentation. But hold on to your pickles; Agri-FoodTech discovered fermentation and has taken the ancient technique to yeasty new heights.
The Every Company (formerly Clara Foods) is the first company to bring a not animal-based protein to market. They use precision fermentation to create proteins (like eggs) out of a mix of sugar, yeast and the DNA sequence of chicken egg protein.
Calysta takes it one step further – they are fermenting gas (aka methane) into food. They use a gas fermentation technology platform to transform naturally-occurring bacteria into sustainable feed ingredients for fish, livestock and pets.
ManusBio uses fermentation to recreate plant processes in microorganisms and produce natural ingredients with applications as flavors, fragrances, food ingredients, cosmetics, vitamins, pharmaceuticals and even agricultural chemicals.
MycoTechnology harnesses the power of mushroom mycelium, which naturally pulls toxins out of the soil and gives nutrients back to plants through fermentation to eliminate problems with ingredients and deliver better nutrition to foods, beverages and supplements.
A New Approach to Ingredients
In the Agri-FoodTech world, ingredients aren’t superficial — they are whatever you can imagine them to be and can perform miracles (or just about)!
A healthy sugar? Why not! Bonumose is scaling a natural, good-for-you sugar replacement product using naturally-occurring enzymes to produce sugar from commodity plant-derived ingredients.
Pairwise has taken the gene-editing approach to new food product development. They start at the crop production level, turning off (and on) essential traits that allow fruits and vegetables to be more snackable, healthier and disease resistant.
Then there are those visionaries applying data to the problem, like Brightseed, an AI-driven data company that identifies hidden bioactive compounds in plants with the potential to impact human health.
When you realize we only have so much arable land — and what we have is rapidly diminishing thanks to climate change — figuring out how to grow food without it becomes a priority, one the Agri-FoodTech sector has been keen to address.
The inspiring news is that controlled environment agriculture is finding new ways to grow soil-less food in traditional ‘food deserts’ while dramatically reducing the amount of water, fertilizer, and chemical use.
Gotham Greens took old-school greenhouse technology, ramped it up with a hydroponic, soil-less growing system and started building food production facilities where no one thought to before — like on the top of urban warehouses or (appropriately) grocery stores.
Square Roots has taken a modular approach to indoor farming, creating easily deployable, small urban indoor farms out of upcycled shipping containers.
Cubic Farms has taken the CEA approach to grow food for our food. They’ve developed an indoor, vertical farm process for producing forage feed for livestock in a matter of days, reducing the need for land to grow feedstuffs for animal production.
Solving Our Climate Problem
Then there’s the 1000-pound elephant in the room – how to grow food without destroying the planet? A 2021 study found that food production makes up about one-third of our total annual global emissions, so finding ways to reverse that in the food-making process is critical.
Once again, Agri-FoodTech is rising to the challenge, with fascinating new ways to grow food while specifically addressing our climate issues.
Zeakal has developed a seed trait for photosynthesis, helping crops capture more carbon and sunlight, meaning they grow better, take up more carbon and produce more food on a smaller environmental footprint.
DSM produces a feed additive for cows (and other ruminants) that can reduce enteric methane emissions by up to 90%, reducing one of the most significant greenhouse gas sources of global warming.
What Agri-FoodTech Companies are You Excited About?
Through networking with founders, boards and ag and food tech professionals as the CEO of CS Partners and on the Leaders on a Mission podcast, I have learned one thing — for every mind-boggling Agri-FoodTech idea I have learned about; there are plenty more out there!
What Agri-FoodTech ideas and technologies have wowed you recently? Drop me a line at S.Leich@cs-partners.net. I’d love to hear all about it!