NEW YORK — Three food and agriculture startups were named the winners of Rabobank’s FoodBytes! Pitch 2020 competition on Dec. 2. Agricycle Global, Envara Health and SWAN Systems were selected among 15 finalists to receive a $10,000 grant as well as consulting services from companies including Archer Daniels Midland Co., PepsiCo, Inc., and Tate & Lyle.
The virtual pitch competition was part of the redesigned FoodBytes! Pitch startup discovery program, which offers opportunities for emerging brands across the globe to network with investors and industry professionals representing some of the biggest food and agriculture corporations in the world. Hundreds of entrepreneurs applied to the program. This year an expanded selection of 45 startups received one-on-one connections to investors and corporate members and will permanently join the FoodBytes! alumni network.
“Standing out from a record field of nearly 340 applications globally, the FoodBytes! Pitch 2020 winners represent the future of food and agribusiness innovation,” said Anne Greven, head of food and agriculture innovation at Rabobank. “Their breakthrough technologies have the potential to help solve major food system challenges, including food loss, malnutrition, and water scarcity. That’s why FoodBytes! Pitch is about so much more than a prize. Rabobank is facilitating productive, lasting connections between startups, investors and large food and ag companies who can help drive change at a global scale together. We’d like to thank our first FoodBytes! Pitch corporate and investor members for their active participation and collaboration with these startups toward building a more sustainable food system.”
Standing out among the finalists in the consumer food and beverage sector was Agricycle Global, Milwaukee, which offers a portfolio of sustainable and ethical brands upcycling food loss from rural female farmers. The company designs simple and scalable technologies, such as solar dehydrators, and trains members of partner cooperatives in food safety and quality standards to produce market-ready products. The first-to-market brand is Jali Fruit Co., which upcycles tropical sundried fruits that are traceable for tree to shelf.
“Being recognized as the FoodBytes! Pitch 2020 CPG winner is incredible validation for our model and for our vision that it’s possible to source quality food from remote villages around the world,” said Josh Shefner, founder and chief executive officer of Agricycle Global. “Smallholder farmers deserve to be included in the food system, and we’re proving that we can empower these farmers with the technology to create upcycled ingredients and products that fight food loss. The exposure and connections to corporate leaders and investors, as well as other entrepreneurs who are a few steps ahead in their paths, will be so impactful to us as we grow.”
The winner in the food technology category was Envara Health, Wayne, Pa., which makes a structured lipid ingredient that increases nutrient absorption without the need for digestion. The company’s first product, Encala, was developed for patients with cystic fibrosis who struggle with malabsorption.
“FoodBytes! Pitch is a program designed to showcase innovation and help make participating companies successful,” said Jim O’Connell, CEO and co-founder of Envara Health. “We are honored to win today, and we’ve been encouraged by the number of doors FoodBytes! has already opened for us. The right contacts at big food companies are hard to make, and we’ve been receiving outreach daily. Envara Health has an ambitious goal to address malabsorption in nutrition, and Rabobank brings together leaders that can help us achieve our mission. It’s a terrific community to be part of — now, and in the future.”
The agriculture technology winner was SWAN Systems, Perth, Australia, which offers a cloud-based precision irrigation and fertilizer platform to help growers schedule, monitor and optimize management of water, nutrients and crop health.
“Water scarcity is a growing problem, and we need to be smarter about how we produce food, so this honor from FoodBytes! Pitch is about much more than an award to us,” said Rod Campbell, executive chairman of SWAN Systems. “Rabobank’s validation is a powerful force for engaging new customers and scaling our impact on sustainable agriculture. Our team has been amazed at the quality and breadth of connections we’ve made through FoodBytes! as we look to raise capital, and ultimately expand into North America.”
A replay of the FoodBytes! Pitch 2020 virtual competition may be viewed here.