FoodTech Weekly #145 by Daniel S. Ruben

News on FoodTech, food, and society

FoodTech Weekly #145

Hi there,

I had fun in Copenhagen and Malmo this week for The FoodTech Forum, saying silly things on stage (like that I want to see 'AI for everything' in food and ag), meeting new and old FoodTech friends, and eating my way through the startup exhibition area, basically causing eutrophication to myself. Next up on my event agenda is HackSummit in Lausanne in May (80 of 800 tickets left -- use code THEFINAL80 for a 15% discount), and Sweden FoodTech Big Meet in Stockholm in June — hope to meet you there.

📸: Leo Groenewegen / Innovation Skåne

FoodHack wrote a nice article on what 30 FoodTech and ClimateTech investors (incl. yours truly) are excited about, as well as their top advice for founders.

DigitalFoodLab has launched its FoodTech Europe Top 50 for 2023, a combination of objective and subjective information to show the best FoodTech players in Europe. From the last top 50 list published by DigitalFoodLab in 2021, 16% of the startups have been acquired, one went public through an IPO (Oatly) and one shut down (Simple Feast).


This week's rundown:

  • German startup Nosh has fetched €3.2M in fresh funding to produce fungi biomass used as a meat replacement

  • A new $70M UC Davis / UC Berkeley project aims to cut cow methane emissions using CRISPR

  • Instacart teams up with U.S. universities to explore whether pre-loading online shopping carts with healthy foods lead to better consumer choices

Let's go!


  • Had a chance to chat with Brett Thompson of Mzansi Meat in Cape Town. Brett's professional interest has always centered around animal advocacy and on food alternatives to animal-sourced foods. He worked with organizations promoting a more plant-forward diet in different countries. This is where he started meeting people working on cultivated meat. When he came back to South Africa in 2019, he realized no-one on the entire continent was doing cultivated meat -- which also meant nothing was invested there. 'We started Mzansi as the first cultivated meat company in Africa. Noone here understood what we were talking about. But we are proud to be here. I just don't have a surfboard behind me to look cool; there's a lifestyle component to being based here', Brett says with a smile. Mzansi raised $600k pre-seed, including an angel investment from famous early-stage alt protein investor Ryan Bethencourt. 'Foreign investors don't really dare to invest here, so we have to be frugal, cost-conscious, and innovative, Brett explains. One example is their bioreactors; Mzansi has developed ones at 1/20th of the cost of the off-the-shelf bioreactors that the big cell-cultivated companies have built. Another example is how Mzansi has been able to 'combine efficient cell-lines really fast'. Brett also believes South Africa has a strong and unique advantage compared to other geographies for cultivated meat companies -- the regulatory landscape: 'We don't have to fight that battle. We're pretty confident we'll be able to sell within existing -- existing! -- regulations. We have KFC, McDonalds, we're Westernized -- there's so many ways we can showcase our meat through traditional; supply chains', Brett says. He thinks they'll soon be able to produce enough meat to sell at 1 restaurant (in limited quantities). Mzansi hopes to have a 3,500 liter bioreactor able to produce 400 kg of meat per month soon, and a 10,000 liter pilot production facility up and running within 18-24 months. 'In the start, we'll do a hybrid product, like all our industry peers -- maybe 50% cell-cultivated and 50% plant-based', Brett describes. Mzansi is working to close out a pre-seed extension round, after a recent cheque from ANZA Capital, so the company is open to speak to investors. Brett can be contacted via LinkedIn.

Brett Thompson / Mzansi Meat


  • Nosh of Berlin has closed a €3.2M Seed funding round, led by Earlybird VC and joined by Clear Current Capital, Grey Silo Ventures, and Good Seed Ventures. The company uses fermentation to produce fungi biomass, which can be used as an alternative to meat, and will use the new funding for R&D, mass production, and commercialization.

  • NovoNutrients of California has received $3M investment from Woodside Energy, one of the largest oil & gas companies in Australia. NovoNutrients has developed a technology that can convert industrial CO2 emissions into nutritious protein for animal feed (such as aquafeed), through single-cell bacteria.

  • Arado of Brazil has bagged a $12M Series A round, backed by Acre Venture Partners, Globo Ventures, SP Ventures, Syngenta, Valor Capital, and Maya Capital. The company provides a marketplace as well as logistics to connect smallholder farmers with urban restaurants and other buyers.

  • A new $70M project between UC Davis and UC Berkeley funded by TED's Audacious Project will use CRISPR tools to impact microbes in cow's guts, to block methane emissions at the source. U.S. startup Native Microbials recently scooped up $1.4M to do something similar.

  • Cultivated meat startup Aleph Farms of Israel has launched its first customer brand, Aleph Cuts, and its first product under that label -- a Petit Steak. The company is still working with regulatory agencies in various jurisdictions in preparation of a future market launch. (In somewhat related news, Sweden's first-ever cultivated meat company, Re:meat, just launched).

Image: Aleph Farms

  • U.K. vegan fried chicken brand VFC has scored a £6M funding round led by Veg Capital (bringing total funding north of £13M), to help expand its product range and international growth in the U.S., Europe and Australia.

  • Canadian startup Precision AI has developed a weed-spraying drone that can help reduce chemical use by up to 90% (by autonomously spotting, identifying, and killing weeds), saving farmers significant sums of money currently spent on herbicides, and reducing the environmental impact. The drone can carry 19 liters (5 U.S. gallons) of liquid per flight, and cover about 80 acres (32 hectares) an hour.

  • In somewhat related news, Harpe Bioherbicide of North Carolina closed a $10.5M funding round led by ADM and joined by e.g. iSelect Fund Management and Alexandria Investment Ventures. The company provides natural, sustainable herbicide solutions (with active ingredients from plant extracts).

  • New research published in the British Medical Journal now recommends a 6 teaspoon-limit to added sugar per day, and limiting sugar-sweetened beverages to one per week. Since the city of Oakland, California added a one-cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in mid-2017, sales of soda, fruit/sports drinks, and sweetened tea have declined by 27%.

  • Instacart has teamed up with different universities (e.g. Stanford, UCSF, UBuffalo, Univ of Kentucky and Mount Sinai Hospital) to determine whether online shoppers will eat healthier if their online shopping carts are pre-loaded with healthy foods. Researchers hypothesize, based on past research, that giving consumers 'optimal defaults' helps people make better choices.

Image: Instacart

  • French insect-as-feed producer Innovafeed has completed the expansion of its factory in the Somme region of France, which can now produce 100K tons of ingredients per year (e.g. aquaculture feed, pet feed, and organic fertilizer).

  • Netherlands-based grocery chain Albert Heijn has launched (article in Dutch) a 'True Price' experiment to show shoppers both the regular as well as the 'true' price of its coffees (which include the social and environmental costs -- such as CO2e emissions, water use, resource use, and working conditions). Albert Heijn wants to raise awareness about these costs, learn what consumers think, and help them make more sustainable choices.

News from the FoodTech Weekly community 

  • GFI Europe (remote) is looking for a Head of Operations... New School Foods (Canada) has an number of open roles, incl. for a Director of Engineering & Manufacturing, a Director of Strategic Finance, and a Senior Materials Food Scientist.

  • Better Bite Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on alt protein in Asia Pacific, announced 4 new investments: Allium Bio, Cultivaer (Singapore),  EatKinda (NZ), and KleverMeat (India). It has also reopened applications for First Bite until May 19, offering $50k to new founders in APAC (link to application form).

  • The Global Entrepreneurship Centre supports transformative companies focusing on sustainable technologies, and is now looking for solutions within material innovation in agriculture and food. Benefits include up to €200K in funding (as grants and convertible loan investment), help to sharpen your narrative, a supportive community of founders, innovators, partners, scientists, investors, and experts, and access to lab and co-working space. Apply by May 14.

  • The Connector, an innovation accelerator organised by Business Sweden, The Embassy of Sweden in Tel Aviv, and Vinnova, will take place Nov 13-14 in Tel Aviv, with field trips, B2B meetings, and pitching sessions to engage with the Israeli innovation system. Israeli and Swedish FoodTech startups welcome! For more info, email [email protected] or [email protected]

  • Proteinish is the brand for a Swedish innovation project with the goal of both developing new protein mixtures for textured plant protein raw materials to the food industry, and improving the bioavailability to match animal-based food. The company is now looking to engage with food companies wishing to find partners to develop their range of plant-based food. For more info, contact founder Peter Bolinder at [email protected].

Want to share some FoodTech news/project with other FoodTech Weekly subscribers? Hit reply.

Random Stuff

  • Belgian customs authorities seized, disposed, and recycled 2,352 cans of Miller High Life beers bound for Germany as they were branded 'The Champagne of Beers', which violated local regulations around trademarks and origin for the word 'Champagne'.

  • Finding the best croissant in Paris (video -- h/t: Arman A.)

  • The EU is fighting 'honey laundering' from China, in an effort to fight back against fake honey.

  • Magnolia trees are so old (they coexisted with dinosaurs!) that they predate bees, so they're pollinated by beetles. All you ever wanted to know about pollen.

  • Japan's crying baby sumo festival is back after a break during the pandemic; staff wears demon masks, and the first baby to cry is (depending on the competition rules) deemed either winner or loser.

Image: lensonjapan CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

  • The Belgian coastal town of De Panne has organized a seagull imitation (screeching!) championship, to help change the public perception of seagulls. 'There is no coast without seagulls', said Jay Seys, president of the jury. The embedded video is hilarious.

​I love you.


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This issue was produced while listening to Line of Fire by José González. 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.

Disclosures: I'm Head of Strategy and Special Projects at Stockeld Dreamery. I'm an operating advisor to VC/investment firms Nordic FoodTech VC, Trellis Road, and Blume Equity. I'm a mentor at accelerators Katapult Ocean, Big Idea Ventures, and Norrsken Impact Accelerator. I'm an advisor to BIOMILQ, FoodHack, Hooked, Ignitia, Improvin, IRRIOT, Juicy Marbles, Lupinta, NitroCapt, Oceanium, petgood, Rootically, Transship, VEAT, and Volta Greentech; in some of these startups, I have equity.
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