The Encounter Weekly: 14-20 August, 2021

Stay up to date with the most recent news, investments and partnerships regarding the agrifood tech industry and sustainability.


IPOs, M&As & Investments:


Sound Agriculture, a company advancing two novel technology platforms that leverage plant and soil biology to radically improve food production, announced that it has secured a $45 million investment led by Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of Bayer. Northpond Ventures, a science and technology-driven venture capital firm also participated in the round, along with existing investors Cavallo Ventures, Fall Line Capital, S2G Ventures, and Syngenta Group Ventures.


Dewey Scientific, the Pullman, Wash.-based agtech startup that is leveraging genomics, data science and more to improve the quality and genetic diversity of cannabis crops, has raised $3.2 million in new funding. The Series A cash announced on Monday comes from The Hawthorne Collective, a new cannabis industry investment arm of Scotts Miracle-Gro.

Apeel Sciences, a food system innovation company, is out to prevent food produced globally from ending up in the landfill, especially as pressures from the global pandemic affect the food supply chain. The company just added $250 million in Series E funding, giving it a valuation of $2 billion, to speed up the availability of its longer-lasting produce in the U.S. (where approximately 40% of food is wasted), the U.K. and Europe.

Lowercarbon Capital, the climate change-focused VC firm launched by early Twitter and Uber investor and Shark Tank star Chris Sacca, has raised $800 million in capital.

Saudi Arabia-based agritech startup Red Sea Farms has raised an additional $6 million, increasing its pre-Series A round to $16 million, led by Saudi, US and UAE investors, including the Aramco venture arm Wa’ed, the Saudi government-owned Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute, KAUST, Global Ventures, AppHarvest and Bonaventure.


AgNext, a provider of food quality assessment technologies, has raised $21 million in a Series A round led by Alpha Wave Incubation – a $300 million early-stage fund managed by New York-based Falcon Edge Capital and backed by DisruptAD, the VC arm of UAE sovereign fund ADQ.

Ag software startup Regrow has raised $17 million in Series A funding as it proceeds with the US rollout of its monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) tool for carbon sequestration and monetization.

SOLASTA Bio, a Glasgow University spin-out, has nabbed seed funding of around €1.5 million to support the development of its nature-inspired pesticides, which are some of the first of their kind.

Canadian aquaculture platform XpertSea initially launched in 2011, offering a data-collection device for fish farms before establishing a marketplace for trading produce. But seeing its users struggle with finance sent it swimming in a new direction. The Quebec City-based startup recently announced a $20 million Series B round led by QED Investors and Atlantico with Investissement Québec joining previous investors Obvious Ventures, Aqua-Spark, Future Shape, Real Ventures, and edō Capital to help it chart its new course.

Wednesday the St. Louis-based firm, Beta Hatch’s, announced $10 million in funding in a round led by Lewis & Clark AgriFood, with participation from Cavallo Ventures and Innova Memphis, which are both signed on as existing investors. The money comes as Beta Hatch is eyeing the expansion of its flagship farm in Cashmere, Washington.

Plant-based food-tech company Shandi closed its second seed round led by Singapore-headquartered Tolaram, one of Africa’s largest packaged food companies. Other investors in this round include Australia based food-tech accelerator SparkLabs Cultiv8, and former CEO-India for Louis Dreyfus and prominent angel investor Simmarpal Singh. The fresh funding that raised more than US$700,000 will be used to set up a manufacturing facility in Singapore to commercialise and scale Shandi’s proprietary plant-based chicken products, including expanding partnerships in the food sector.

​​Melt&Marble (formerly Biopetrolia), a company working on fermentation-based production of animal fats, has closed a seed round of €750K led by Nordic FoodTech VC. Other investors include Paulig’s venture arm PINC, Purple Orange Ventures, and Chalmers Ventures. The funding is a kick-start for the company’s new mission of providing delicious and sustainable fats for plant-based foods.

Indonesian instant delivery startup RaRa Delivery has announced that it has raised $3.25 million in funding led by Sequoia Capital India’s Surge and Indonesia’s East Ventures. Other participants included 500 Startups, Angel Central, GK Plug and Play, and angel investors Royston Tay and Yang Bin Kwok.


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British medical cannabis company Grow announced today that it has acquired a major medical cannabis production facility in Spain – a move which transforms Grow into an integrated cannabis production, R&D, and distribution company. This transaction will enable the firm to deliver further on its mission of providing the broadest portfolio of quality cannabis medicines to patients across the world at the most accessible prices.

Cox Enterprises has acquired indoor farming company BrightFarms, the two companies announced Tuesday via press release. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The companies noted that the acquisition will be key to helping Cox Enterprises build out a “multibillion cleantech business” by 2030.


GrubMarket continues to grow its nationwide food supply chain presence with the acquisition of New York wholesaler L&J Produce. L&J is a key sourcing channel for fruits and vegetables in the New York metro area, and has deep relationships with domestic farms in New England, Florida and California. The company works with many customers in New York, ranging from supermarkets to restaurants and e-grocers.


 

News & Trends:


A provider of solar and battery power systems is set to outfit refrigeration trucks with solar paneled roofs that would cut emissions while keeping cool 1,000 trailers full of food. Under the terms of a new agreement, XL Fleet will supply battery and power electronics systems for the first 1,000 units of eNow’s new electrified refrigerated trailer solutions. XL Fleet’s mission is to help corporations and their fleets lower operating costs while helping them achieve their green goals.


Rabobank’s carbon marketplace, Acorn, and Dutch-Brazilian startup reNature have generated their first round of carbon credits in partnership with a Brazilian farmer co-op Cooperative Agricola Mista de Tomé-Açu. The effort generated 242 carbon removal units (CRUs), which amounted to 25,000 reals ($4,647) in payments for CAMTA’s farmers, providing each producer with roughly 100 reals ($18.59).

Riding on the popularity of food deliveries that rose significantly during the Coronavirus pandemic when more people were socially distancing at home, popular fast-food chain Wendy‘s is now looking to open 700 new “ghost kitchens” to cater exclusively to delivery services.


Edible Planet's approach on how to fix our food system is to adopt a systemic approach that embraces the planet as a whole and develop a collaborative ecosystem for agrifoodtech that builds on horizontal connections between stakeholders and whose skill sets and expertise complement, rather than compete with, each other.


Disappearing habitats and use of pesticides are driving the loss of pollinator species around the world, posing a threat to "ecosystem services" that provide food and wellbeing to many millions—particularly in the Global South—as well as billions of dollars in crop productivity.


Cell-based meat company Upside Foods, previously known as Memphis Meats, has partnered with Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn, who will debut the company's cell-based chicken in her Atelier Crenn restaurant in San Francisco once the company receives regulatory approval.

The biotech startup Because, Animals is the first to focus on pet food, and hopes to launch its first products—including a “mouse cookie” snack for cats—by 2022. “The ultimate goal of most cultured meat companies is to create a product that will allow animals to be taken out of the food supply chain,” Shannon Falconer, CEO and cofounder of Because, Animals, said in an email.

A number of firms are attempting to reduce the environmental effects of ammonia production. In the latest development, Statkraft, Aker Clean Hydrogen and fertilizer specialist Yara have launched a company focused on the production of “green” ammonia.

Just 3 percent of consumers identify as vegan. Yet plant-based alternatives account for about 15% of milk sales worldwide. What’s pushing this growing market? Industry insiders say the main driver is flexitarians – people interested in reducing, not eliminating, consumption of animal products. They’re motivated by concerns for their health and for the suffering and environmental damage caused by animal farming.

The value of the global plant protein market, at $29.4 billion in 2020, could surpass $162 billion by 2030, which would make up 7.7% of the global protein market, according to a report released in August by Bloomberg Intelligence.

Revenues at Oatly Group grew 50% in the second quarter as consumer appetite for dairy alternatives continued to rise, particularly in restaurants and coffee shops. The company, which completed its initial public offering in May, now expects full-year revenues of more than $690 million, a 64% increase from the previous year.

Publix announced on Thursday it’s rolling out its first pea-based “chickenless” tenders to stores this week under its Greenwise brand. The rollout complements Publix's launch in April of Greenwise Meatless Burgers — a product that competes with high-profile selections like Beyond Burger — the grocer noted.

Vita Coco’s parent company All Market is expanding into a new segment of functional beverages with the soft online launch of protein-infused waters called Pwr Lift. The new product line, first reported by Bevnet, is currently available on Amazon.

Cargill has entered a multi-year research agreement with vertical farming pioneer AeroFarms to identify the optimal conditions for cocoa tree growth and, in turn, build a more resilient cocoa sector. The research collaboration brings together AeroFarms’ expertise in controlled environment agriculture, with Cargill’s extensive knowledge of cocoa agronomy and production practices.

BlueTree, an Israeli start-up that has developed a technology for reducing sugar in natural juices, has joined forces with international supplier of natural ingredients and compounds Prodalim. The two companies have signed an agreement for the future sales of 100 million liters of 100 percent natural squeezed orange juice with reduced sugar.

Kröner-Stärke, a manufacturer of clean label and organic ingredients, is launching a “state-of-the-art” bulk loading facility at its headquarters in Germany. The investment comes as a response to a burgeoning number of orders for functional flours and starches to address clean label and plant-based foods throughout Europe.

Bio food tech startup TurtleTree has entered a new strategic partnership with industrial biomanufacturing specialist Solar Biotech. The deal is an important step in TurtleTree’s scale-up process for the manufacture of its cell-based milk ingredients.

Olaf Koch, ex-chief executive of retail giant Metro, has set up his own fund for innovative food startups, named Zinitus, which is initially expected to raise around 150 million euros.

Danish biotech giant Novozymes has entered into a contract with an unnamed key player in the plant-based industry. As part of the contract, it will invest 2 billion Danish kroner into an alt-protein production line in Nebraska.

Food automation start-up, Picnic, has announced the launch of its first device, The Picnic Pizza System. The company is very excited to launch this new food robotics system. The new system is designed to be straightforward, easy to construct, and most importantly delicious. This new pizza robotics system will essentially construct an entire pizza robotically - from dough stretching to sauce and ingredients applying.

Beyond Meat has filed for a trademark on the name Beyond Milk, according to documents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The plant-based food company applied for the trademark on Aug. 12. The document filed with the U.S. government agency said the patent would cover "making milk shakes; coffee or tea beverages with milk or milk substitutes."

All too often, controlling pathogenic and spoilage microbes in a new or reformulated food product comes at the end of the development process. René Floris, NIZO Food Research Division Manager and member of the FoodNavigator expert advisory panel hears from Marjon Wells-Bennik, NIZO’s Principal Scientist Food Safety, to discuss how a more holistic approach from the start can solve potential problems as part of the product development itself.

Concerns over immune health and the pandemic has thrust the humble mushroom into the spotlight as experts hail the fungi’s ability to interact with gut microbes that influence healthy immune and inflammatory responses.

PepsiCo wants to become ‘net water positive’ by 2030, meaning the beverage giant will replenish more water than it uses to produce its food and beverage brands.

As we watch events unfold around the world, it’s impossible to deny that our global food system has been put under tremendous pressure. Extreme heat waves in North America, deadly monsoon seasons on the Indian subcontinent, and the continuing force of a worldwide Covid-19 pandemic are all directly attributable to, and have had profound consequences on, our food chain.

Fortune Growers, a leading broccoli producer in Mexico, and ec2ce, an agriculture technology company based in Spain, announced their collaboration to deploy advanced predictive analytics in the broccoli sector in Mexico to improve operations by maximizing high quality products for the export market.

Alternative meat food manufacturer Quorn is staking a claim on boosting the meat-free chicken category by opening a new culinary development center in Dallas, US. The center will test culinary equipment and coating on mycoprotein – the protein in all Quorn products – in real-time and real conditions, showcasing its efficiency and accessibility.

The restaurant industry has changed drastically over the last 18 months when it comes to tech. What was once a sector slow to change and reticent to embrace digital is now practically at bursting point in terms of the many technological solutions available to restaurants. The Spoon picked out 10 restaurant tech companies which stood out in no particular order: Too Good to Go, 86 repairs, Bite Ninja, ConverseNow, Crave Collective, Slice, Qu POS, Ordermark/NextBite, Manna, and Delivery Hero.

Typically when we write about food making robots, they fall into either one of two categories: Smaller countertop devices meant for the home, or larger, more industrial robots meant for restaurant kitchens. But a restaurant called Bots&Pots in Zagreb, Croatia, is combining those two ideas and using a number of GammaChef cooking robots to make meals for its customers.


In response to a new European Citizens’ Initiative calling for reverse vending machines in supermarket chains, EuroCommerce has raised concerns that deposit return schemes are ‘only one solution’, and ‘not a silver bullet in all circumstances’.