Alessio D’Antino, a 2018 London Produce Show and Conference speaker, gives a sneak peek on the Foodtech movement & what attendees need to know.
Innovation is something near and dear to Alessio D’Antino. In fact, D’Antino turned down a permanent position with London-headquartered Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits, because he didn’t feel the Fortune 500 company was innovative enough. In 2013, he resigned and traveled 6,000 miles to join a San Francisco, California-based, tech-focused startup accelerator as an intern.
A startup accelerator is a program that provides startups with the recommendations, resources and mentorship necessary to succeed. D’Antino led the accelerator’s marketing and business development efforts. He discovered several food entrepreneurs who were launching incredible innovations and fantastic products but were struggling to raise the money needed to grow their business. In 2014, he founded Crowdfooding with the aim of broadening access to capital for food and Foodtech entrepreneurs. From that point, and as the chief executive and managing director of Crowdfooding, D’Antino built a community of innovators that tackled some of biggest challenges affecting the global food system.
Today, Crowdfooding no longer crowdfunds. Instead, it operates as the world’s first collaborative platform for the food and beverage industry. As D’Antino says, this is “where we bring together food and Foodtech entrepreneurs and established food organizations to nurture food innovation through meaningful collaborations.”
Innovation and collaboration are subjects with which PBUK readers may be familiar. Last year, the European sector leader of Agrifood at PwC, Peter Hoijtink, spoke at the Amsterdam Produce Show’s Thought Leaders Breakfast. Hoijtink analyzed various future directions of the agricultural industry and how finding new ways of collaborating is something businesses will need to survive: www.producebusinessuk.com/insight/insight-stories/2017/11/30/collaboration-and-innovation-two-essential-capabilities-for-the-future
This year, at the upcoming 2018 London Produce Show and Conference, D’Antino will discuss the concepts of the Foodtech Movement and Open Innovation. To give readers a preview, we talked with D’Antino about the latest trends, some of the global companies involved in Foodtech and about the benefits of startups collaborating with large corporates and vice-versa.
1. How would you describe the Foodtech Movement, to give our readers a working definition?
Although there is no universal definition of Foodtech, I believe Sue Nelson, in her recent book Food Tech UK, has summarized it very nicely: “Foodtech is how we use technology or processes to create an efficient, sustainable ecosystem for producing, transporting, preparing and cooking food.” I like to believe that behind any innovation, there are people. I’m of the opinion that Foodtech is first a ‘movement’ (more than a sector) made of people who are passionate about solving some of the most pressing issues affecting our food system via technology.
2. Could you share a few examples of Foodtech companies?
Most notable examples include: Impossible Food (US), JUST (US), Winnows (UK), Growup Farms (UK) and ChickP (Israel) and many others. We have created a taxonomy to describe key trends and have divided Foodtech companies into eight categories: Smart Appliance & Kitchen, Next-Gen Food & Drinks, Food Safety, Surplus & Waste, Ag-Tech, Food Processing, Consumer Apps and Food Delivery.
Those companies in more detail:
1. Impossible Foods: Plant-based burgers are the brainchild of founder Patrick Brown, M.D., Ph.D. This Silicon Valley startup has taken the sensory experience of meat, from how it looks to how it tastes, and recreated it molecule by molecule using only plant ingredients. Impossible Burgers are available in Hong Kong and U.S. restaurants.
2. JUST: Known for its eggless dressings and mayonnaise, this San Francisco-based startup’s latest product is a vegan cookie dough line created by Michelin-star chefs. The key ingredient is mung bean, which scrambles like an egg.
3. Winnows Solutions: Reducing food waste in commercial kitchens — everything from busy restaurants to cruise ship galleys — is the purpose of this simple, clickable, trackable technology developed by this London-based company.
4. GrowUp Farms: This urban farming startup located in London, operates its demo farm – The GrowUp Box – on the eastern side of the city. The box farm is made from a recycled shipping container with a greenhouse built on top. Fish, salad greens and herbs grow and are sold to local restaurants.
5. ChickP: Based in Rehovot, Israel, this company makes neutral tasting, non-GMO, environmentally-friendly chickpea protein via a proprietary technology. This plant-based protein can be incorporated into other foods or served in place of meat or dairy.
4. You’ve been quoted as saying that most corporations believe in Foodtech because it can change the dynamics of the industry. However, Europe is way behind in its Foodtech journey compared to the U.S. West Coast. What, in your opinion, does Europe need to do to catch up to other parts of the world in its Foodtech journey?
The answer is by building and nurturing an ‘ecosystem’ mindset. That is, governments, entrepreneurs, investors and the industry need to work together.
5. In terms of collaboration, I understand that in May, Crowdfooding has launched the second version of its Global Foodtech Map. Could you explain how this gives visibility to companies involved in Foodtech?
The Global Foodtech Map is an interactive tool that aggregates the world’s most innovative AgriFoodtech companies into one easily accessible digital database. I think produce companies can leverage this tool to better navigate the Global Foodtech ecosystem and identify solutions that can allow them to be more competitive in the long haul.
6. Could you tell us about the concept and significance of Open Innovation?
I personally think it’s a bit of buzzword and a marketing gimmick that most corporates use to ‘engage’ with startups to show they are ‘open’ to source external innovation. Although the term suggests that an open environment/culture should be created to make these collaborations with startups happen, often it’s quite challenging to find this within most corporates. We preach to our clients to do ‘Closed Innovation.’ This means we don’t want either the startups or the established food organizations to change their business models to be able to collaborate.
7. If you could leave the audience with one take home message that is key to your presentation, what would it be?
‘Meaningful innovation starts with collaboration.’
Register here to attend The London Produce Show and Conference, 6-8 June at the Grosvenor House on Park Lane.