It’s been a challenging year for investment, with many financiers hitting pause until the disruptions to our food supply chain restabilized. What does the food-tech investment landscape look like now, and how have investor approaches changed?
At Future Food-Tech San Francisco on March 16-17 2023, leading investors will share their assessment of the market, including which areas of innovation are ‘hot’ (and what’s not). Beyond the early-stage investments which have so far dominated the sector, what are investors looking for when considering later stage finance?
To set the scene for the vital discussions at the summit, we asked seasoned investors joining us in San Francisco for their predictions for 2023.
The best year in food-tech advancements yet
As 2023 begins, our investors feel a fresh sense of hope that this year will mark real change in the industry.
“2023 will mark the survival of the fittest, as 2021’s incredible food-tech funding reaches its 18-24 months period end for many companies. The strong, differentiated and realistically economic solutions will maintain their attractiveness as investors become more cautious and selective. Others may be forced to close down, potentially releasing much needed talent to the market. I expect we will start seeing more consolidation of technologies, as extensively funded food-tech companies will struggle to secure commercial viability. But most importantly – funding will not stop. The need for a new food system is ever more prominent, and as awareness of threatened food security keeps growing, the potential, the opportunity and the need will keep driving food-tech investments,” shares Noga Sela Shalev, CEO, FRESH START.
This tougher, more competitive environment could in fact provide more opportunity for select companies, propelling those with a competitive edge ever closer to their goals.
Costa Yiannoulis, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, SYNTHESIS CAPITAL, champions these conditions as potential winning factors for the right company: “As with previous market downturns, we expect this period to be the making of the biggest future food tech success stories – both for well capitalised companies in leading positions, and for earlier stage companies with clear differentiation, there is an opportunity to further entrench their competitive advantages at a time where fewer new companies are being founded and fewer rounds are being raised.”
Calls for further disruption in the sector
Food-tech investors are upbeat, but Hadar Sutovsky, VP External Innovation & General Manager, ICL PLANET reiterates the urgency for change, to take the movement even further and progress to a new normal:
“Even though the dust seems to have settled after severe crises in FY 21/22, namely, climate change, Covid-19, the Russia-Ukraine war, there is no room for a ‘business as usual’ approach. This could only lead to a disturbing future, characterized by increasing uncertainties and aggravated socioeconomic gaps. There is an urgent need to accelerate the transformation of agrifood systems and broaden interconnectivity with social and environmental systems.
“Looking at global trends and alternative future scenarios, key areas of innovation that MUST be addressed by investment and capital are food consumption, agricultural production, natural resources and production factors. Innovation is needed, and “more of the same” is not enough anymore it will lead the world to the point of no return.”
Willingness to invest
Despite the trials and tribulations of preceding years, 2023 begins with a lot of excitement for investors. SYNTHESIS CAPITAL‘s Costa Yiannoulis adds his voice to the view that there is light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to investment: “For specialist investors with a deep understanding of the food tech sector, there will still be ample opportunity to be found, and for those funds with capital to deploy, 2023 is set to be a great year to invest.”
Simon Burton, Managing Director, NOURISH VENTURES echoes this in his prediction: “Year-end 2023 will look a lot better than 2022. Valuation could continue to face more pressure, and we will see rigorous diligence and more diversity in investment.”
Greg McParland, Investment Director, DSM forecasts that “Cash is king in 2023 and companies who can demonstrate sound manage cash strategies will attract more investors.“
Priority investment areas
Joining investors’ declared willingness to invest, Simon Burton, NOURISH VENTURES tells that he is most excited for investments in “sustainability, agtech, personalized nutrition, fermentation and the supply chain.”
Greg McParland, DSM is looking towards “innovative ingredients with human clinical data related to the gut microbiome and in particular the gut-brain axis.” He defines key areas for investment: “Personalized nutrition for the mass market rather than just niche markets. Food security and waste reduction.”
SYNTHESIS CAPITAL‘s Costa Yiannoulis shares that sentiment: “Several promising areas of innovation are highlighted in 2023. One example is fermentation efficiency, which has been overlooked to date with most investor focus squarely on capacity, which is only one part of the equation. While fermentation efficiency can be measured by titre, it must also be thought of through the overall efficiency of operational inputs as well – feedstock, energy, and water use. As such, companies working on alternative feedstocks, developing strategies to improve microbe efficiency, or designing new styles of bioreactor that can improve these metrics are all interesting to us. Another area of innovation where we see a great deal of promise is the emerging technology of molecular farming, and we recently made an investment in this space. We believe that for commercial-scale production of certain protein ingredients, molecular farming could be the next frontier.”
Hadar Sutovsky, ICL PLANET elaborates further: “I would be excited to see new disruptive business models that address macro trends, innovative climate conscious “carbon negative” food ingredients and techs based on the ‘food as a software’ approach, that could unlock food metagenomics and create opportunities for the further optimization of fermented-food production and the harnessing of their health-promoting potential.”
Global hotspots for innovation
ICL PLANET’s Hadar Sutovsky notes the importance of learning from our mistakes and the impact of limiting dependence to one region: “In order to make it possible to push agrifood systems towards sustainability and resilience, innovative solutions and investments to the sector’s challenges should be directed to all across the agrifood value chain. Recent conflicts have shown that excessive dependence on essential food items from few countries poses a serious threat to global food security, this possesses opportunities for more disruptive solutions that could interlink through flows of goods and services and generate long-term resilience.”
But will new hotspots replace those traditionally holding this title? Which areas specifically are investors looking to?
Greg McParland, DSM believes there is room for more: “There are more and more innovation “hotspots” around the world. Existing hotspots will continue to foster the majority of new innovations but we are continuing to see more innovations from areas outside of the traditional hotspots.”
Costa Yiannoulis, SYNTHESIS CAPITAL elaborates: “Regions we are particularly excited about include the Middle East – with COP28 coming to Dubai, and a new focus on food, as well as the issues in the Middle East with food security, it seems a great time to make alternative proteins a key part of the discussion. Overall, 2023 is set to be a groundbreaking year for innovation!”
Simon Burton, NOURISH VENTURES is also eyeing international hotspots for innovation, notably “Singapore, Israel, Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, and the U.S.” .