The Encounter Weekly: 7-12 August

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




IPOs, M&As & Investments:


Cargill and Continental Grain reached an agreement to buy Sanderson Farms for $203 per share in cash, representing a total equity value of $4.53 billion for the chicken producer. The two buyers plan to combine Sanderson Farms with Continental Grain subsidiary Wayne Farms and create a new privately held chicken company. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval, and is expected to close at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022. Wayne Farms CEO Clint Rivers will lead the combined company.

Swedish vertical farming company Kalera has agreed to acquire German counterpart &ever in a deal worth €130 million ($153 million). Under the terms of the agreement, &ever shareholders will receive €21.6 million in cash plus 13% of Kalera’s shares. The acquisition of &ever will allow Kalera to instantly expand its international footprint.

CropX, an Israel-based farm management software platform provider, has acquired Dacom Farm Intelligence to expand into Europe. This acquisition represents a major consolidation of agriculture digital twin capabilities, acres serviced, and geographic datasets. It also doubles CropX’s team and significantly increases its number of farms and total service area, with more than 20,000 new farms in over 50 countries.

Shiok Meats, a company best known for its developments in cultured seafood, has acquired a 90 percent steak in Gaia Foods, according to Tech in Asia, which broke the news. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

GreenLight Biosciences Inc. is combining with a special-purpose acquisition company to go public in a deal that values the RNA-technology firm at about $1.5 billion, the companies said. A developer of mRNA vaccines to fight Covid-19 and other diseases, GreenLight is simultaneously working on RNA-based sustainable alternatives to pesticides and herbicides. By reproducing cell growth without actually using live cells, the Boston-based company hopes to address the challenge of making vaccines and other RNA products at scale.


***

Trendyol, an e-commerce platform based in Turkey, has raised $1.5 billion in a massive funding round that values the company at $16.5 billion. General Atlantic, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Princeville Capital and sovereign wealth funds, ADQ (UAE) and Qatar Investment Authority co-led the round.

80 Acres Farms just announced the close of a $160 million Series B round led by US growth equity firm General Atlantic. Other investors in the round included Siemens Financial Services as well as Barclays, Blue Earth, Taurus Investment Holdings, and General Atlantic’s impact-focused BeyondNetZero team.

London-based Butternut Box, a leading UK and European direct-to-consumer fresh dog food brand, today announced that it has raised around €34.1 million in its latest financing round led by the European fund L Catterton.

The Finnish startup Innomost raises €5 million to bring their birch bark innovation into new markets as a sustainable alternative for environmentally harmful ingredients in consumer products. The funding round was led by Metsä Spring with Innovestor and angel investors joining the round.

Super Coffee's parent company raised $106 million in a Series C funding round, bringing its total valuation to over $500 million, according to Bloomberg. Kitu Life, which makes the better-for-you coffee brand, will use the funds to expand product distribution as well as increase brand-building efforts, CEO Jim DeCicco told the publication.

WoodSpoon, the New York City-based online marketplace where home chefs can make their food available for ordering and on-demand delivery, announced Tueday that it has raised a $14 million Series A round of funding. Restaurant Brands International (RBI) led the round with participation from World Trade Ventures, Victor Lazarte and other individual investors.

Bite ninja, a remote hiring technology platform for restaurants, has announced Wednesday that the company received $675,000 in pre-seed funding led by Y Combinator, AgFunder and Manta Ray.

Proteon Pharmaceuticals has secured an investment of €21 million to accelerate the commercialisation of its bacteriophage products, which aim to reduce the reliance on antibiotics within aquaculture and livestock farming.

Cirkul, a beverage technology company, raised $30 million in a Series B round this week. The round was led by AF Ventures and also saw participation from SC.Holdings, Siddhi Capital, and several other private investors. This brings the Cirkul’s total funding to $41.6 million.


Sydney, Australia-based Fable Food is the latest plant-based food startup to announce funding. The company, which uses mushrooms in its meat alternatives, has raised $6.5 million AUD (about $4.8 million USD) in a seed round led by Blackbird Ventures

 

News & Trends:


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations’ climate science research group, concluded in a major report that it is “unequivocal” that humans have warmed the skies, waters, and lands, and that “widespread and rapid changes” have already occurred in every inhabited region across the globe. Many of these changes are irreversible within our lifetimes.


AeroFarms, leader in indoor vertical farming, announced its plan to expand to the Midwest region as part of a project with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the St. Louis Controlled Environment Agriculture Coalition (STLCEA) to demonstrate innovative strategies to minimize the environmental footprint of indoor agriculture. Furthermore, the company also announced an official partnership with Nokia Bell Labs to further develop the technology capabilities of its industrial-scale indoor ag operation. Nokia Bell Labs, will contribute its autonomous drone control and orchestration systems to the partnership as well as imaging and sensor tech and new AI capabilities.


Growing food in space is an important component of long-term space missions. But the benefits aren’t only practical, as two experiments currently running on the International Space Station (ISS) aim to show. Astronauts on the ISS have grown lettuce, radishes, chili peppers, and more. But the challenges of physically growing crops on the station — in terms of light, moisture, keeping plants healthy, and so on — is only part of the picture of food in space. The other part is understanding the psychology of eating, what makes food appealing to astronauts, and how fresh food could improve astronaut’s mental well-being as well as their physical health.


Pranav Tiwari and Dhruv Sawhney had one thought when they wanted to start up after working at Ola and Zomato Hyperpure - there are thriving ecosystems for entrepreneurs in many sectors around the world that provide access to the best of talent, working capital, and resources. But for the farmer, there is no such organised ecosystem available.This led them to start nurture.farm, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UPL, out of Bengaluru in 2020. The agritech startup fosters resilient farmers, making agriculture simple, profitable, and sustainable through technology-led solutions.

Israeli startup Equinom unveiled a new protein rich sesame seed which could solve alt protein challanges as well as help bring prices down as another report predicts a market poised for growth.


The supplier’s range of stevia ingredients produced through bioconversion of stevia leaf extracts will be commercially available to European food and beverage manufacturers later in 2021. This will in fact lead to a tremendous potential to grow the stelvia market in Europe following these approvals. In addition, PureCircle – now operating as PureCircle by Ingredion – received a positive safety opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for the use of its Reb M, Reb D and Reb AM stevia ingredients produced through bioconversion of stevia leaf extracts. This opinion also recognizes that there are up to 60 molecules from the stevia leaf that are safe for consumption.


The cell-based sector has seen tremendous growth during the last three years, and the space continues to gather speed. Berlin-based Bluu Biosciences is ramping up production of the world’s most popular edible fish species – Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout and carp. Dr. Sebastian Rakers, co-founder and chief science officer, tells FoodIngredientsFirst how the company is “optimizing its cell lines for omega 3, fat content and superior nutrition” in the cell-based seafood arena.


Finless Foods' upcoming plant-based tuna was sort of an accident — one that led to a fantastic product, co-founder and CEO Michael Selden said. The California company was founded in 2017 to create cell-cultured seafood. Finless Foods is currently working on creating bluefin tuna from cells, since the large and endangered fish cannot be naturally farmed in an economic way.

Just eight technologies, including precision fermentation and cellular agriculture, can directly eliminate over 90% of net greenhouse gas emissions worldwide within 15 years, according to think tank RethinkX.

Benson Hill, Inc., a food tech company unlocking the natural genetic diversity of plants with its cutting-edge food innovation engine, today launched its advanced yellow pea breeding and commercialization program. The program is an important next step in the Company's growth strategy and will enable Benson Hill in the coming years to bring to the fast-growing plant-based protein market and the pet food and animal feed markets a portfolio of enhanced, non-GMO yellow pea ingredients.

Beyond Meat and Yum! Brands said Tuesday they will debut a new pizza featuring plant-based pepperoni from Beyond Meat. The pizza will be available initially at 70 Pizza Hut locations, including Albany, N.Y.; Columbus and Macon Georgia; Houston, Texas; and Jacksonville, Fla.

Competitor Impossible Foods ​​is bringing its meatless sausage to U.S. grocery stores including Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway, Wegmans and Stop & Shop and has plans to release meat-free chicken nuggets in restaurants this fall.

Danone SA is introducing Silk Greek Style Coconut milk Yogurt Alternatives, the result of a multiyear effort to deliver the signature traits of Greek yogurt without the dairy, Danone said. Certified vegan and Non-GMO Project verified, Silk Greek is formulated with live and active cultures, vitamin D2 and pea protein.

China yeast firm Angel Yeast is investing heavily in acquisitions and production as it attempts to seal its position as Asia’s largest yeast company.

GOOD PLANeT Foods, creator of premium plant-based, allergen free cheeses, today unveiled the first to market snackable Plant-Based Cheese Wedges. Crafted with real, allergen free ingredients, these deliciously creamy wedges are individually wrapped for convenience, making them the ideal snack for adults and kids alike.

South Africa’s Mzansi Meat Co. is on a mission to improve food security, all while bringing subsistence farmers’ into the formal economy, through its production of cultivated local delicacies.

Meal delivery firm Freshly has launched its first line of plant-based meals. The Purely Plant line features six options, including a burger with sticky carrot jam and sautéed vegetables; a salsa verde burrito; an Indian-spiced chickpea curry bowl with basmati rice, lentils and vegetables; and baked pasta with cashew cheese and vegetables. Purely Plant adds to the subscription meal delivery service's menu options and taps into growing consumer demand for meat substitutes.

Wendy's has expanded its partnership with Reef Technology, which was originally a pilot of eight units in Canada, to open 700 delivery kitchens over the next five years in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, according to a press release. About 50 kitchens are expected to go live this year, and the remainder will launch between 2022 and 2025.

Starship Technologies will roll out its robot food delivery service on Embry Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach Campus, making it the first college in Florida to offer automated delivery robot service to its students. Also, Kiwibot said it would also expand its robotic fleet to three campuses in the United States. Both of these agreements are partnerships with Sodexo.

HelloFresh results illustrate meal-kit sector’s still-huge room for growth. The German meal kit company recorded a record turnover of €1.56 Billion in the second quarter and received almost 31 million orders between April and June.


Stockholm-based startup Lifvs created technology to run self-service grocery stores in Sweden. These stores are unstaffed and run remotely, which means they can be open 24/7 to help residents get their groceries in rural Sweden. Low labor and rental costs enabled Lifvs to open stores in low traffic areas and rural communities.

Robotics and automation are more affordable now than they once were, and with more people questioning whether or not they want to be involved in the food services industry due to unstable schedules and relatively low wages, there might be no better time than the present for restaurant operators to further test the waters.

Too Good To Go is an app that connects users to stores and restaurants with unsold surplus food and offers it at a discounted price. This week, the company announced that it has partnered with Waze, a GPS navigation software app, to fight food waste.

Foodservice operators that only increased their on-the-go services during the pandemic are potentially missing out on a high, stable consumer demand that is still relevant today

Tortoise‘s sidewalk delivery robots are making their way to Dallas, Texas, thanks to a new pilot program with Vroom Delivery and Urban Value Corner Store announced today. Launching in the coming months, the new service will use Tortoise’s teleoperated robots to deliver goods like milk and eggs, as well as snacks and alcohol.

Last week the Financial Times reported that third-party delivery giant DoorDash was in talks to buy a stake in German speedy grocery delivery startup Gorillas. While there weren’t a ton of details, such as how big any such stake would be, a follow-up story from Axios said the deal could give DoorDash the option to acquire a controlling interest in Gorillas eventually.