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I recently wrote about intense level of innovation we looked at food and ag. To try and stay on top of things, I’m going to run a quarterly roundup highlighting startups with the potential to move the needle on sustainability. I’m going to focus on early stage companies but will drop some of the bigger outfits. Here are my first quarter picks:
Keep it local
Singapore-based Sophie’s Bionutrients uses fermentation to power a circular economy process changing industrial food waste Starting from breweries, tofu factories and other facilities into protein flour that can be used as an ingredient in other food products.
The company attacked me for its technology linked to Singapore’s offer to meet 30 percent of the population’s nutritional needs will use local food by 2030 – a threefold increase from current local supply. Local food supplies are increasingly seen as adding to the resilience of food systems, and it will be very interesting to see what the rest of the world can learn from Singapore’s progress. Because the company is reusing what was previously seen as waste, Sophie’s is also a great example of technology that can help transition food systems from extractive to circular.
Learn more: The Platform to Accelerate the Circular Economy recently released a detail Action Agenda for Food.
“Fat is the secret ingredient that determines how meat looks, cooks and tastes,” says Max Jamilly, co-founder Hoxton Ranch, a startup that aims to grow animal fat in the lab.
Leading alt-protein offerings – burgers from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, for example – contain vegetable fats that don’t have the real meaty taste. Hoxton’s big idea was to grow animal fat from animal cells, which would avoid the need to raise and slaughter actual animals.
These are early days for the company, which last month raised a $ 2.7 million seed round. But this startup is emblematic of the increasing specialization of the alt-protein sector. Incumbents like Impossible are developing much or all of their technology, but a new generation of startups are focusing on specific solutions such as bioreactor technology, 3D printers and low-cost alternatives to serum used to grow animal cells.
Learn more: The Good Food Institute has a comprehensive database companies in this sector.
Sugar production drives a number of environmental problems, ranging from loss of biodiversity to water scarcity. That damage, along with the health effects of eating too much sugar, has sparked a rush to search for better alternatives for our bodies and our planet. One approach is to reduce the amount we eat by making conventional sugar taste sweeter. In ReplaceThe engineers had another goal: figuring out how to extract sugar from fibrous material that would otherwise be treated as waste. Company recently announced a $ 20 million round and said it would launch its first product in collaboration with a well-known chef – although not yet named.
Learn more: New Yorkers recently ran an exciting feature on “A race to redesign sugar. “
Stick to it to waste
There is an elusive balancing act at the heart of efforts to limit food waste. Consumers enjoy having plenty of food at home and in the store. The obvious solution is to over-order, but that’s one reason that the location accounts for half of all food waste in the United States.
There’s no compelling reason here, but extending the shelf life of fruit and vegetables can help. Apeel is a well-known market leader in this area: Its coating that extends freshness used on avocados at Kroger stores and other outlets. StixFresh is a new entrant with a competing solution: The sticker contains compounds that delay ripening of apples, pears, avocados, dragon fruit, kiwi, mango, oranges and other citrus fruits.
One interesting difference between StixFresh and other solutions is a sticker can be easily applied at home. The company is one of 17 named last month to the inaugural group Circulars Accelerator, a circular economy incubator run by Accenture in partnership with the World Economic Forum and others.
Learn more: ReFED Engine Insights contains a wealth of information on the causes and treatments for food waste.
Choose from the group
As costs fall, next-generation greenhouses and vertical farms may be able to expand beyond their existing niches, which are mostly in leafy greens. And because these operations are plugged into a power grid that’s constantly decarbonizing, they might be able to deliver it to full sustainability potential in the room ag.
To further lower costs, several startups are competing to replace human pickers with robots. One – AI roots – caught my attention because it was in a hire spree; the results, perhaps, of having closed the $ 7 million round last year.
It’s interesting to see how these technologies are changing the indoor ag economy and which cash crops are migrating to greenhouses and vertical farming as a result. We also need a better understanding of the impact of this progress on groups, especially immigrants, who rely on income from farm labor.
Learn more: The World Wildlife Fund is investigating how to build the indoor agricultural industry meet the needs of local communities and the environment.
That’s all for rounding up my Q1. If you work for or know of a startup to mention in Q2, send me an email at [email protected].
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