Dear Startup Investor,
Buck Jordan here, and this week I want to talk about food – my favorite subject.
Through my work at Piestro, Miso Robotics, Nommi, and more companies on the horizon, I’m constantly reminded that food production is both art and business. Rich with experimentation, and the landscape is changing fast.
I’ve been at the forefront of food innovation for the past five years; here are the top five angel-investing trends I think you should pay attention to.
As I’ve written before, the robots are coming… While that sounds dystopian, it’s a good thing for a variety of reasons.
With changes to worker preferences and increased competition for labor, there has been a multi-year worker shortage building in the restaurant and agriculture industries (with little prospect of improvement). Instead, with the costs of robotics and sensors dropping dramatically over the past decade, restaurants and other food operators have started experimenting with automation.
I was on the forefront of bringing robotics into the kitchen when I helped co-found Miso Robotics in 2016. Today, Miso is one of the leading robotics companies in the food industry thanks to our burger-flipping arm, Flippy.
The work I did at Miso showed me how eager restaurant operators were for innovation and, it gave me the confidence to double (and triple) down on automating the kitchen. Since then, I’ve launched two other startups automating different types of food prep.
This week, I’m proud to announce the launch of our fourth food-tech startup, Nommi, where we are building robotic kiosks that automatically prepare a range of menu items and can be deployed on college campuses, malls, high streets, and more.
Another trend attracting a lot of investment is lab-grown meat (a.k.a. cellular agriculture) – and for good reason. Agriculture is the second-most pollutive industry in the world after energy generation, accounting for 25% of all global greenhouse gas emissions – the bulk of which coming from livestock and cattle rearing.
Shockingly, livestock and cattle alone account for a whopping 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Consider that livestock production produces 7.1 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions per year. To put that in perspective, the entire US is responsible for 6.5 Gigatonnes of emissions annually. It gets worse – about 44% of livestock emissions are in the form of Methane (CH4), a gas that warms the earth 86X as much as CO2.
Lab-grown meat is artificial meat produced in – you guessed it – laboratories using cell cultures and bioreactors to replicate the cellular profile and characteristics of farm-grown meat. There are now dozens of startups around the world in this sector, such as Finless Foods, New Age Meats, Mosa Meat, Good Meat and more.
This technology is still in its infancy, and it remains significantly more expensive to produce a lab-grown steak than a farm-raised steak. But things are evolving fast, and lab-grown meat is already being served in places like Singapore.
Indoor farming (often called vertical farming) is growing like a weed (*ba dum tss*).
The indoor-farming industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9% and exceed $24 billion in size by 2030, up from just more than $3 billion today. This isn’t new technology; instead, we’ve just perfected it in recent years. These technologies – hydroponics, drip irrigation, UV lighting – enable dramatically more efficient food production – in some cases 40X as productive as traditional agriculture.
Companies like AeroFarms, Bowery Farming, Gotham Greens, BrightFarms and numerous others are building large, indoor farms around the world. Soon enough your next salad will be grown indoors!
One of the most important ongoing changes in the food industry is consumer preferences. While our parents and grandparents had no problem smoking a cigarette, drinking a sugary can of Coke and eating lots of red meat, times have changed! Health and wellness through food has become a huge priority, particularly for younger millennial and Gen Z consumers.
This “Clean-Eating” trend encompasses several things, including sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan products. Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies – like Nestle. Unilever and a range of startups – are launching products in all these categories, powered by rising consumer demand.
Sugar substitutes are forecast to hit $24 billion by 2028. Similarly, the gluten-free market is expected to grow by almost 50% and reach $36 billion by 2026, up from $22 billion in 2019. Finally, the market for vegan products is growing the fastest and expected to reach $31 billion by 2026 – a steep increase from $14 billion in 2018.
Growing consumer awareness around nutrition’s impact on health continues to accelerate a shift toward clean eating, even motivating fast-food chains like Burger King to offer meat-free options (see Impossible Whopper)
As mentioned before, the agriculture industry is under significant pressure and needs innovation. Today, we’re seeing startups bring robotics, aerial mapping and advanced sensors to the field for the first-time. These startups are helping farmers do everything – save water, detect diseases early, measure crop and soil health and much more.
Here’s why agricultural innovation is critical: by 2050, the global population is forecasted to exceed 9 billion people, and estimates suggest a needed 60-70% increase in global food production to feed the world by then.
Cutting down forests and using more land is not sustainable. Instead, we need technology to make agriculture dramatically more productive.
Fortunately, farming has long been an early adopter of technologies throughout history, ranging from the plow to fertilizer and mechanization. That’s why I’m excited to be building Future Acres, which is helping automate a small – but important – part of the farming process.
There are huge opportunities in food and agriculture in the coming years, and I’m excited to continue to invest and build great companies in these areas.
You’ll be hearing from me soon. Now, time for me to grab a bite to eat…