FoodTech Weekly #144 by Daniel S. Ruben
News on FoodTech, food, and society
FoodTech Weekly #144
I was in Milan this week doing food stuff. I practiced my Italian hand gestures and Italian emoji game 🤌 thoroughly before going, to avoid becoming a persona non grata. It's a bit fascinating how a country with such a rich and proud food culture has failed to bring about any FoodTech unicorn, and where investments in the space are still modest. I do see some encouraging signs of exciting initiatives, so the status quo will likely change.
Next week I'm going to another 5-letter city starting with M, namely Malmo, Sweden, for the FoodTech Forum on April 25. I'll join a FoodTech panel on stage with Erika Hombert (HackCapital), Eric-Alan Rapp (Gullspång Re:food), and Hampus Jakobsson (Pale Blue Dot), moderated by Analisa Winther (Future Food). Should be fun. Will be 100s of FoodTech innovation folks there networking, doing startup pitches, and providing food samples in the exhibition space. Sign up here.
One more thing: plant-based seafood company Hooked Foods (where I'm an advisor) which just raised a $0.9M round, has kicked off a crowdfunding round. Hooked is growing 3x per year, and is expanding to more European countries in the next 2 years.
This week's rundown:
Buzz of the week: Ÿnsect lands €160M to scale insect production; also lays off 20% of staff
U.K. government makes £12M investment into a Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub
Colorado farmers wins the right to repair their own tractors in landmark case
Well, let's just say this is me trying to catch up on my to-do-list this week.
French insect-farming company Ÿnsect has raised a €160M Series D round, while also announcing a 20% (or 70 people) cut in headcount, and the closing of its Netherlands facility. Ÿnsect also said they'd start focusing more on higher-margin products like insects for pet food and human food, and less on lower-margin products like insects-as-animal-feed.
eniferBio of Finland has banked €11M in fresh funding, in a round led by Aqua-Spark and joined by e.g. Valio and Nordic FoodTech VC (full disclosure, I'm an advisor to the latter). The biotech company produces a mycoprotein powder called Pekilo (originally developed by the Finnish forestry industry decades ago), which is high in protein but with a 50x lower carbon footprint than beef. It can be used as e.g. animal feed or pet food. eniferBIO will now seek EFSA approval for its powder, and scale production to 'thousands' of tons per year.
Indian cold chain company Celcius has closed a $12M Series A funding round led by IvyCap Ventures. The company connects shippers and transports through a 3,500 reefer truck network and 100+ cold storages. This helps cut down waste of products such as dairy, pharmaceuticals, fresh agricultural produce, and frozen products.
The U.K. government, through U.K. Research and Innovation, will fund a new £12M Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub (CARMA), led by the University of Bath. The hub will run for 7 years and is, according to GFI Europe, the largest single investment the U.K. government has ever made in sustainable proteins.
Salmon farming is the largest national source of income for Norway after fossil fuels, and now the government is planning a new 35% 'salmon tax'. The Norwegian seafood industry isn't thrilled.
Thomas Bjørkan, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
BX Technologies of London, UK has raised a £1.6M seed round, led by Counteract. The company enables farmers to get field-specific insights for reducing carbon emissions; this data is then shared with retailers, to help them build 'planet-positive' supply chains.
Vietnamese startup Tepbac has scooped up $2.25M in new funding from AgFunder, Aqua-Spark, and Son-Tech Investment. Tepbac, which focuses on the shrimp farming industry, e.g. sells a remote-controlled auto-feeder, a device that monitors water conditions, as well as an app that helps farmers to automate tasks (which saves on labor and energy costs). It also runs a knowledge platform that help farmers get industry news, seafood prices, and search a library of information.
Precision livestock startup Vytelle of Kansas has scored a $20M Series B round. The company (which raised its $13.2M Series A round in September 2021) helps livestock producers to identify cattle with superior genetics in terms of e.g. feed efficiency, fertility, and health -- so that single traits in a herd of animals can be accelerated from 10+ years to just a few years.
After a long battle, Colorado farmers have won the right to repair their own tractors. Modern tractors have so many electronic components that tractor manufacturers can lock farmers out of repairing their own equipment, giving these manufacturers a repair monopoly. Thanks to the The Consumer Right to Repair Agriculture Equipment Act, this has now changed.
UC Davis has released five new strawberry varieties that are resistant to the soilborne disease Fusarium wilt, have high yields, and improved fruit quality.
CRISPR could help protect ourselves against a wheat blast pandemic.
The 'soda tax' in the Netherlands will increase by 196% next year, and due to the nutritional composition of many plant-based milk products (e.g. oat, almond, and coconut milk), the tax will also apply to these items.
India-based fruit and veg exporter INI Farms, which works to digitize the food supply chain to reduce the amount of middlemen and food waste, has bagged $1.95M from impact investment fund manager Aavishkaar Capital.
German Agtech startup Hortiya is training an AI model that can understand how different inputs -- or climatic conditions -- affect the internal systems and growth of plants.
News from the FoodTech Weekly community
TrusTrace (Sweden) is looking for a Policy and Partnership Manager.
Leading sustainable aquaculture accelerator Hatch Blue is accepting applications until May 8 for its next cohort.
Want to share some FoodTech news/project with other FoodTech Weekly subscribers? Hit reply.
'The Worst Freelance Gig in History Was Being the Village Sin Eater' - fascinating story about the good old days.
Niko McCarthy of Codon has written a really wonderful piece on bananas; the death of Gros Michel, the threats to Cavendish, and how gene-editing will play a role in ensuring a future for the banana.
Adding just one gene from a naturally-resistant banana strain (middle) or from a nematode (right) renders the trees resistant to Fusarium fungi. J. et al. in Nature Communications (2017)
I love you.
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This issue was produced while listening to The One I Love by Ellen Krauss. Follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter. And here's the Appetizer which I co-host. Did your brilliant friend forward this to you? Subscribe here.