- FoodTech Weekly
- FoodTech Weekly #172 by Daniel S. Ruben
FoodTech Weekly #172 by Daniel S. Ruben
News on FoodTech, food, and society
FoodTech Weekly #172
Sifted reports that between 2017 and 2023 in the U.K., all-male owned VC funds raised about 10x more capital than all-female owned funds (and almost 5x more capital than mixed-gender owned funds).
This likely also explains why only 2-3% of funding goes to women-owned startups.
Also, if you’re planning a FoodTech event and have an all-male panel, please don’t bother asking me to join it. Here’s a list of 350+ women in AgriFood you can reach out to first.
This week's rundown:
Dreamfarm of Italy announces €5M round for plant-based cheese
The hidden food system costs amount to over $10 trillion, the FAO says
Nūmi of France nets €3M in funding for cell-cultured breast milk
Simon grew up on the Swedish west coast near the ocean. While working abroad in the aquaculture sector he noticed there were huge kelp and seaweed farms in Asia: ‘It’s a natural part of people’s diets in this part of the world. I felt there should be a need for this in Europe too — not least because it’s both nutritious and extremely climate-friendly.’
A bunch of marine biologists in Sweden began growing regenerative seaweed in 2016 to assess the environmental impact of large-scale seaweed farms. Premium restaurants wanted to buy the ingredients, so the project was turned into the startup Koster Alg. Simon joined forces with the biologists in 2020 as CEO and was part of rebranding the company into Nordic Seafarm.
‘Seaweed is a truly impactful ingredient which helps our oceans as it absorbs excess nutrients and promotes biodiversity’, Simon explains and continues: ‘Within food, our seaweed has a footprint of close to zero CO2e per kg of product. As reference, soybean is at 6 kgs CO2e per kg of product, and beef is around 20 kgs of CO2e footprint. It’s a huge difference.’
Simon describes that ‘we figured out how to grow high-value crops (species with up to 30% protein) in large areas in the oceans. There’s lots of IP in breeding and in the no-GMO strain selection of the best seaweed strings. In short, we grow spores into seaweed babies in our nursery. Then we put them into the ocean (sort of glueing the seaweed babies to ropes) and they become 2 meter long before they’re harvested.’
Nordic Seafarm currently grows 100+ tons of sugar kelp, sea lettuce, and dulse (also called ocean's bacon) per year as a B2B ingredient supplier for food production. Due to the absence of tasty and sustainable seaweed products in the western world, Nordic Seafarm recently joined forces with industry group Ocean Collective in a joint venture named Ocean Next. 'Our purpose with Ocean Next is to become a global frontrunner in plant-based blue food offerings and accelerate the adoption of seaweed in food', Simon notes.
In 2022, Nordic Seafarm sold its products to 50+ customers. The company's 14 employees are mixed between research, ocean cultivation and sales/marketing. Simon is optimistic about the future for his company: ‘Europe is seeing a 16.5% CAGR in this segment until 2030, and there’s a growing demand for low-carbon, sustainable food ingredients. We can provide this on a large scale at competitive prices.’
Nordic Seafarm is interested in engaging with companies developing the next generation food products and who want to explore novel ingredients. The company is also looking for mission-aligned investors, as Nordic Seafarm is currently raising a €4M round (where €1.5M is committed by existing investors). Simon can be reached via email and LinkedIn.
Images: Nordic Seafarm
French startup Nūmi (previously MUMilk), which cell-cultures breast milk, has closed a €3M ($3.2M) pre-seed round from investors such as Heartcore Capital, HCVC, Financière Saint-James, Kima Ventures, and Kost Capital.
Parma, Italy plant-based cheese startup Dreamfarm has announced it secured a €5M ($5.3M) investment in 2021 by e.g. Giampaolo Cagnin, and Francesco Mutti (owner/CEO of tinned tomatoes producer Mutti). The company launched its first two products in May; a plant-based cheese spread and vegan mozzarella.
In Ovo of the Netherlands has secured a €40M ($42M) loan from the European Investment Bank; the startup can extract tiny amounts of allantoic fluid from hatching eggs to determine the sex at an early stage, meaning the eggs can be discarded before a foetus develops. Currently, billions of day-old male chicks are culled annually (h/t: FoodHack).
Odense, Denmark-based startup Bioomix has drummed up €6.3M in fresh funding. The company produces all-natural microbial products for farmers, e.g. microorganisms that alter the food microbiome to reduce spoilage. The round was led by West Hill Capital and joined by e.g. PreSeed Ventures, HBL Invest, and Planetary Impact Ventures.
The major FAO report ‘The State of Food and Agriculture 2023’ was just launched. One major takeaway is that the hidden costs (environmental, social, and health) of the global food systems amount to at least $10 trillion dollars per year (fun trivia: Zimbabwe once had a 100 trillion dollar note in circulation). The biggest hidden food system cost, over 70% according to the FAO report, stems from unhealthy dietary patterns.
BiomEdit of Indiana, U.S. has been awarded a $4.5M grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop microbiome-based solutions that reduce cattle methane emissions and improve feed efficiency. The grant especially targets smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (h/t FoodHack). In somewhat related news, the U.K. government has expressed a firm commitment to incentivize the use of methane-suppressing feed products to cut cow methane emissions, starting in 2025. A recent DSM-Bovaer study showed that their additive can cut 30% of cow enteric methane emissions.
Caen, France startup Loop Dee, which develops rapid pathogen analysis tools for the food industry, has bagged €1.8M in new funding from e.g. Go Capital, Normandie Business Angels, and Crédit Agricole (h/t DigitalFoodLab).
After U.K. colleges started adding climate labels to menus, demand for low-carbon impact recipes increased by 37% (h/t Marie Dollé).
The New York City Council has passed a bill that mandates warnings on high-sugar items in restaurants. From 2025, it will require chain restaurants with 15 or more locations to add sugar icons and factual warning statements on e.g. pre-packaged items like snacks, menus, and near food items on display, when the items exceed a specified level of added sugars. In somewhat related news, financial analysts are trying to understand how popular weight-loss drugs like Ozempic will impact demand for unhealthy snacks and e.g. donuts.
How researchers at the University of Arkansas and Georgia Tech are developing robots that can pick blackberries.
Image: University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture
Cigarette-style climate-warnings on food could cut meat consumption, a Durham University study suggests.
Halving food waste could cut CO2 emissions by 8% in Europe, according to new research from Denmark and the U.S.
Sustainable packaging startup Fibmold of India has scored a $10M funding round from e.g. Omnivore and Accel. The company makes packaging items from natural fibers such as e.g. husk, bamboo, bagasse, and wheat straw.
The number of ocean-focused funds has quadrupled since 2018, and capital invested in the sector has more than quintupled, from $700M in 2021 to almost $4B in 2023, according to S2G Ventures.
News from the FoodTech Weekly community
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Where witches source their plants from.
“AI and robots will take all our good jobs!” Also robots:
A restaurant in Georgia, U.S., will fine parents $50 if their children are noisy and disturbing.
The main public library in Gothenburg, Sweden forgot to lock one of its doors for All Saints’ Day (when it was supposed to be closed). When staff returned — after being alerted that people were inside the library — they found that over 400 people had visited the library (inadvertently thinking it was open) and borrowed 245 books. The library’s head of operations, Anna Carin Elf, says: ‘Nothing was destroyed. It's amazing that Gothenburgers enter an empty library and treat it so lovingly.’
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