FoodBytes! Pitch is a global start-ups competition and ‘discovery programme’ held annually by multinational food and agriculture financing institution Rabobank, and this year’s Top 45 list was selected from around 340 applications worldwide, and 15 companies were selected under each of the Consumer Food and Beverage (CPG), Food Tech and Ag Tech sectors.
According to Rabobank, Head of Innovation, Knowledge & Networks Nathalie Gibson, this year’s participation saw record representation from the Asia Pacific region, especially from Australia, India, Singapore, and South Korea.
“It’s exciting to see such growth from the Asia Pacific region - 18% of our selected startups for FoodBytes! Pitch 2020 are from APAC, which is three times the average of participants in previous years,” Gibson told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[This is one of] our largest application pools for a global FoodBytes! Pitch competition from the APAC region. The application pool basically quadrupled in size this year compared to previous applications.”
One of the finallists under the Food Tech category, Alchemy FoodTech from Singapore, is best known for its plant-based fibre blend Alchemy Fibre that slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and lowers the GI of high-carbohydrate foods by simply being added during the cooking process.
“Alchemy Fibre is also high in prebiotics, which studies have shown to be beneficial for gut health and immunity, which is both essential and exciting during this period of COVID-19, as immunity has become a top consumer trend for consumers,” Alchemy FoodTech Co-Founder Verleen Goh told us.
“It can also be added to most diets via daily staples such as rice, bread or pasta, so not only will GI be lowered but prebiotics can also be incorporated easily, which is important for demographics such as the elderly such that they won’t need to get this via more tablets or other means.”
When we last spoke to Alchemy, the firm had just launched its Alchemy Fibre blend for rice in the Singapore market, and already has its eye on the China market to help improve the diabetic situation there.
Under the CPG category, India’s Evo Foods has also made the list as a ‘clean protein company’. The firm has a plant-based focus, and has just launched its plant-based liquid egg made from legumes locally.
The firm has a global outlook as well, as evidenced by its decision to first focus on creating an egg alternative as opposed to other conventional protein sources.
“Eggs are very versatile, and can transverse geographies and regions,” Evo Foods COO Shradda Bhansali told us.
“In the protein field, meats can have certain taboos. For instance, beef consumption in India is quite controversial, while pork is prohibited in some religions.
“The aim is to use crops grown in India which are readily available, extract proteins from these and produce affordable and high-quality protein sources for the rest of the world.”
Evo also let us in on their plans to expand as far as the United States when we last spoke to them.
Other APAC finallists include Australian snack firm I am Grounded with its sustainable snacks made from discarded coffee fruit; and Australian sustainable packaging firm Carapac which uses crustacean shell waste to produce a compostable plastic alternative.
The Agricultural Technology segment also saw three firms from Australia and one from South Korea making the Top 45 based on innovations to solve sustainability challenges further up the food chain at the agricultural level.
These were: Australia’s SWAN Systems with its precision irrigation and fertilizer platform, Agerris with its robotic agricultural equipment and AI solutions, and ProAgni with its healthier nutrition products for sheep and cattle to reduce emissions. South Korea’s Green and Seed came in with technology to enable rice to be planted outside of water using a biodegradeable film.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event is taking place virtually this year, which Gibson said carries some positives.
“FoodBytes! has always given startups the opportunity to participate in a globally recognised program that gives them access to leading F&A mentors, judges and investors to help them grow their businesses – the virtual format does not change that,” she said.
“In fact, being virtual has its benefits – it allows startups to participate without the expense of long-distance travel and they’re able to continue managing their businesses with limited disruptions.”
The redesigned format will allow all 45 startups to participate in two weeks of virtual mentorship programming and one-on-one meetings with corporate leaders and investors. They will also be pitching their solutions to Rabobank, and 17 other corporate and investor members, from where 15 finalists will be chosen to participate in a live-streamed pitch competition.
All finallists are competing to win a US$10,000 cash prize and consultation opportunities from each of the three categories. The final live competition will take place on December 2.