The Encounter Weekly: 21-27 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:


Funds


Agrifoodtech VC AgFunder has announced the final close of New Carnivore, its alternative protein fund, on $21 million. The fund was oversubscribed, surpassing its hard cap.

Conexus Venture Capital Inc. (CVC) announced August 23 a $45 million CAD first close of the newly launched Emmertech fund, which CVC maintains will cross $60 million CAD by the fund’s close at the end of 2021.

Startup Rounds

Apeel, a food system innovation company, has raised US$250 million in series E funding led by returning investor Temasek. The company’s total funding now exceeds US$635 million, with a valuation of over US$2 billion. This latest investment will be used in part to accelerate Apeel’s partnerships and plant-based products that aim to prevent food waste at every step of the fresh food supply chain, including for in-house consumption in the US where approximately 25 percent of produce purchased goes to waste.


US-based soil testing startup Biome Makers has raised $15 million in a Series B round led by Prosus Ventures – a VC affiliate of South African internet giant Naspers. Other investors joining the round included Spanish firms JME Ventures and Seaya Ventures, Netherlands-based Pymwymic, and US-based Viking Global Investors.


C3 (Creating Culinary Communities), a fast-growing global food tech platform founded by Sam Nazarian, announced a $10 million strategic investment from TriArtisan Capital Advisors and its investors, whose portfolio include leading brands like TGI Fridays, PF Chang’s and Hooters.

Singapore-based Ai Palette announced Tuesday that it has raised $4.4 million USD in an oversubscribed Series A round. The round was co-led by Exfinity Venture Partners and pi Ventures, with participation from Anthill Ventures and return investors VC AgFunder and Decacorn Capital.


Los Angeles delivery robot startup Coco this week has announced $36 million in funding. The Series A was led by Sam Altman, Silicon Valley Bank and Founders Fund, with participation from Sam Nazarian, Ellen Chen and Mario Del Pero. It brings the company’s total funding up to around $43 million.


Bengaluru-based agritech robotics startup TartanSense announced on Wednesday that it has raised $5 million in Series A funding. The round was led by FMC Ventures and Omnivore, with participation from existing investor Blume Ventures.

Argentinian startup ZoomAgri has raised $3.3 million in a pre-Series A round from SP Ventures as well as Artesian, GrainInnovate, and Glocal, AFN can reveal. This round brings the business’s total funding to $4.75 million.


BigSpoon, the Ahmedabad-based cloud kitchen startup, has raised Rs 15 crore ($2.024.020,50) in a pre-Series A round from NB VC (Dubai), CreedCap Asia, Zed Capital, and angel investors including Sanjiv Bajaj, Bhanu Chopra, and Jatin Aneja.

Food waste fighting startup Orbisk announced Tuesday that it has raised a €1.05 million (~$1.23M USD) Seed round of funding. The round was led by FoodSparks by PeakBridge, with participation from EIT Food, and existing investors DOEN Participaties, and Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij.

Forward Kitchens was working quietly on its digital storefront for restaurants and is now announcing a $2.5 million seed round. Raghav Poddar started the company two years ago and was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2019 cohort. Poddar told TechCrunch he has been a foodie his entire life. Lately, he was relying on food delivery and pickup services, and while visiting with some of the restaurant owners, he realized a few things: first, not many had a good online presence, and second, these restaurants had the ability to cook cuisine representative of their communities.

Small Robot Company (SRC) has raised £4 million in a securities offering on Crowdcube. The company has now secured £11 million in funding to date. According to previous reports, SRC was raising capital at a pre-money valuation of £15,000,000 or an 18.63% equity stake at a per-share price of £0.66. The company reports that over 2600 retail investors backed the campaign, with the initial target of £2 million raised on the day of launch. The offering doubled its funding target closing early.


Signature Products has landed a funding commitment of approx. €800K in funding from the state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany for the development of a regional hemp protein value chain.

Corporates

The Puratos group’s cocoa sustainability scheme, Cacao-Trace, has received a major boost as a group of private investors has agreed €1 billion finance package for the initiative, reports Neill Barston.

Mondelēz’s latest investment of €12 million (US$14 million) will be used to expand production capacities and optimize the energy supply to achieve the sustainability goals at its German site. Since 1957, the Bad Fallingbostel location in Lower Saxony has housed the production of brands like Philadelphia and Miracel Whip.


After recently launching the UK’s first Vegan scotch egg into Tesco supermarkets, Squeaky Bean is now set for a huge investment injection as the producer looks to meet the increasing demand for plant-based chilled foods. Winterbotham Darby, the brand’s parent company, has announced a £5 million investment in Squeaky Bean to open a second state-of-the-art facility.

M&As

Cox Enterprises has acquired BrightFarms, an indoor farming company and provider of locally grown packaged salads. The move solidifies BrightFarms’ leadership in the indoor agriculture space and provides a strong, stable foundation committed to accelerating growth with partner retailers. The relationship between BrightFarms and Cox dates back to 2018, and Cox has held a majority stake in the company since 2020.

Salad chain Sweetgreen announced Tuesday it is acquiring the robot restaurant Spyce. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter, and terms were not disclosed.

Vancouver’s SemiosBio Technologies Inc. is set to become the world’s largest independent agriculture technology company after agreeing to buy Australia’s Agworld Pty Ltd. for more than $100-million.


Angel Yeast Co. has established a joint venture (JV) company to invest RMB 100 million (US$15.4 million) to acquire yeast relevant assets of Shandong Bio Sunkeen Co. As part of the move, Angel Yeast will optimize its production capacity and further consolidate and strengthen its position.

IPOs

One of the largest private cannabis companies in the world could soon go public on the OTC Markets with a valuation of more than $1 billion.According to a report from Reuters, PharmaCann could IPO as soon as next fall, as it looks to raise funds ahead of New York’s adult-use cannabis program’s debut. Some of the sources indicated other options are still being considered, though.


 

News & Trends:

Matias Muchnick, the young CEO and founder of Chilean plant-based success story NotCo, Thursday announced on social media a new partnership between his company and Burger King Paraguay, which will now produce the Veggie Whopper with NotCo’s vegan meat.

US farmer-owned cooperative Growmark is the latest agribusiness player to throw its hat in the carbon credits ring. To aid its entry, Growmark is partnering with Carbon by Indigo, the Indigo Ag division which has been involved in carbon credit generation since 2019. The collaboration will see Growmark’s network of FS-branded ag retailers help their farmer customers get started with carbon trading.


Food prices in July were up 31 percent from the same month in 2020, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. This rise is fueled by supply chain disruption and extreme weather conditions.


An Israeli startup, Entoprotech, has drafted an environmental warrior, the South American black soldier fly, to help cut back on greenhouse gases while producing high-protein animal feed.


One of China's biggest tech firms has pledged to hand over its entire profit for the last quarter to rural development projects in the country as Beijing steps up the pressure for wealth redistribution.

E-commerce firm Pinduoduo (PDD) on Tuesday pledged to donate the $372 million it made in the three months through June 30 toward the development of China's agricultural sector and rural areas. In total, it expects to donate 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) toward such causes.

The Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) has formed a company that will provide synthetic biology research and services to emerging Israeli startups and established firms in the fields of healthcare, agriculture, energy, food tech, and defense and security.

Bumblebees largely contribute to the pollination of crops. However, they are threatened by land use changes due to climate change. Long-term simulations have now shown that smart land management may stabilize some species.

Researchers have devised a new 'greener' method to make a key compound in fertilizer, and that may pave the way to a more sustainable agricultural practice as global food demand rises.

The future connection between human waste, sanitation technology and sustainable agriculture is becoming more evident. According to research directed by University of Illinois countries could be moving closer to using human waste as fertilizer, closing the loop to more circular, sustainable economies.

Brazil-based Solinftec, which invested $50 million in 2018 to expand into the US, now offers software for the grain trade that aims to bring more efficiency and transparency to transacting, handling, and storing the commodity.

Planterra Foods, the U.S. plant-based subsidiary of Brazilian meat giant JBS, added a new R&D Innovation Center to its expanded headquarters in Colorado. The innovation center will test and develop new ingredients and plant-based products for the company.

Nespresso has begun a collaboration with the Swedish company Bower, allowing customers to collect points when they recycle their used coffee capsules. By scanning Nespresso’s recycling bags in the Bower app, coffee drinkers can use their earned points for various offers or donate them to the Nespresso Farmer Future Program.

Starbucks Coffee has opened its first Farmer Support Center in Brazil, its tenth globally. It aims to provide resources to local coffee communities as part of its commitment to source coffee responsibly.

Leading organizations within Europe’s seafood sector have joined forces to lead a four-year project intended to propagate the “most sustainable-farmed salmon” using novel ingredients sourced circularly with a low carbon footprint. The Millennial Salmon Project is spearheaded by Nofima, a Norwegian institute for applied research within the fields of fisheries, aquaculture and food research.

Sugar reduction remains a crucial theme for industry as both consumers and governments push for healthier food and beverages. And while many can agree “less is more,” opinions differ on how this should be done. Industry has, in turn, developed a host of systems to reduce sugar by varying degrees.

Climate-smart fisheries can change the fate of our oceans and thrive amid heightened consumer interest in sustainable seafood, according to a new report from WWF, Marine Conservation Society and RSPB.

The Wild Hare Group is using its environmental backstory to break into the cut throat world of ready meals, as they plan to become the first net zero carbon ready meal.

Piestro, which makes an robotic pizza kiosk, announced Tuesday that 800 Degrees Pizza will be using Piestro’s technology to offer a fully automated eating experience.

Following the launch of JUST Egg in South Africa this week, the plant-based egg leader is now launching in South Korea as the country undergoes an egg shortage. JUST Egg’s award-winning products will first enter South Korean foodservice before a full retail and e-commerce launch.

Discover the new trends in packaging that will impact the marketability of products and enable brands to compete more effectively? Some of them include, sustainability, QR codes, interactive packaging, free samples and packaging as art.

Farmers using no-till production -- in which soil never or rarely is plowed or disturbed -- can reduce herbicide use and still maintain crop yields by implementing integrated weed-management methods, according to a new study.

General Mills appears to be developing an animal-free dairy cheese brand called Renegade Creamery.

Arla Foods Ingredients is launching Lacprodan SoftBar, a new concept to help manufacturers create protein bars that offer healthier indulgence without compromising on functionality.

Nabati Foods, a plant-based food tech company, is launching its plant-based liquid egg product in Canada. Nabati Plant Eggz is poised to disrupt the retail shelves and promises to rival the consistency, taste, and texture as a traditional chicken egg.

Taste is the single most important consideration for consumers of salty snacks, according to a new report from Innova Market Insights. The pleasure of the eating experience drives many purchasing decisions. But which types of flavors elicit a mood-boosting response differs, suggesting variety is vital to snack innovation.

The Climate Action 100+ coalition says food and beverage companies are ‘not on track’ for an 85% cut in emissions by 2050.

Dutch start-up Orbisk, which says its monitor can help hotels, restaurants, and industrial kitchens reduce food waste, is scaling up in preparation for market entry.

Misfits Market, the online grocer that specializes in rescuing food products that might otherwise be thrown out, announced the geographic expansion of its services to four more states today.

A new market study reveals that the plant-based dairy market is predicted to expand by nearly 3X over the next ten years from $11 bn to an estimated $32 bn. China is identified as a key market which is described as “flourishing” and cheese is identified as the next frontier in terms of innovation.

With a global population projected to reach 10 billion in 2050, new protein alternatives are necessary to meet our future needs in a more sustainable way. The good news is that technological innovation in both plant-based proteins and lab-grown animal proteins is accelerating. But growing production capabilities do not equal a growing appetite for mass adoption.

Chobani is taking an important step toward a more sustainable future, announcing today that we're launching a paper cup. Chobani's paper cup marks a milestone in our efforts to reduce plastic use and put more sustainable packaging on shelves across America.

Cell-based meat company Vow is partnering with Nourish Ingredients, a company that makes animal fats through precision fermentation. The two Australian companies will blend their products together, adding fats to cell-based meat so the end product more accurately reflects the taste and mouthfeel of meat from an animal.

Foodservice giant Sodexo North America and Israeli food tech company SavorEat announced Thursday that they have partnered on a program that will test out a new type of robotic plant-based cooking appliance to colleges and universities next year.

Kelly Roddy, CEO of Woworks, is determined to grow this company into one of the largest plant-based and good-for-you companies in the restaurant sector.

British dairy-free food producer Nush has expanded its range of Yogs with a Mango & Passionfruit variant; and its epicurean potted desserts with a Chocolate Fudge Pot flavour.

Banza's chickpea-based pizza crust and topped pizzas will soon be available in 8,000+ stores including national distribution with Walmart.

Unicorn Biotechnologies has just launched this month to offer its manufacturing platform to help other cell-ag companies get to market.

OmniFoods announces that its 100% plant-based pork are now available at Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market across 23 states. The range consists of OmniPork Ground, OmniPork Strips and OmniPork Luncheon – AKA vegan SPAM – the hotly anticipated product which was the first of its kind globally.

Scientists from Osaka University claim to have created the world’s first 3D-printed wagyu beef in Japan this week, using bovine satellite cells and adipose-derived stem cells isolated from Wagyu cows to 3D-print a realistic steak piece containing muscle, fat, and blood vessels.

Accelerators & Incubators

The Dao Foods Incubator has announced its second cohort of Chinese and China-focused alt-protein startups. It is the latest stage of the organisation’s plan to invest in 30 alt-protein ventures over the next three years.

The ‘Scaling Digital Agriculture Innovations through Start-ups’ (SAIS) project has called for startups to apply for its Investment Readiness Programme. Applications for the programme are open until 31 August. The German project aims to support Agritech and Foodtech startups in Africa by scaling up their digital products and services.