Usually seen as an alternative rather than “conventional” investment, agriculture and foodtech is increasingly becoming a profitable industry to invest in.
Food and agriculture (F&A) is a huge industry, having a consistent customer base of more than 7 billion and growing. According to the World Bank, F&A made around 10 percent of the global GDP in 2019, which turned out to $8 trillion globally.
Despite the explosive population growth in the last few decades, the prices of food have steadily gone down.
Nevertheless, the food industry is facing challenges in smarter food production and distribution, increasing demand for more innovations in food safety, as well as regulations that are being forced from consumer trends. As global food requirements evolve, food technology provides a huge opportunity to invest and shape the sustainability of worldwide agriculture.
Pressures on the food industry to innovate
As certain parts of the world are getting more affluent, the taste and the requirements for food and its quality are developing swiftly, too. Agricultural innovations have increased in recent years, creating exciting new ways to enhance the world’s food supply by utilising the power of technology.
Scientists and innovators are working on the solutions that would help achieve significant sustainability goals such as reduce carbon emissions, minimise water usage, and potentially stop deforestation.
Peter van der Werf, Team Lead at Robeco, the asset management company, said at Responsible Investor Digital Festival: “It is very clear that diversity loss is closely linked to deforestation and it is one of the key challenges for the upcoming decade, which up to date is still poorly understood and not appreciated enough by investors. Diversity loss is actually a twin emergency next to the climate change which we as an investor community really need to embrace and solve it before it is too late.”
Drivers triggering food tech investments
Consumers are not only getting pickier and looking for convenience, but are also seeking nutritious and fresh food which limits waste creation and goes hand in hand with their personal brands.
In fact, consumers are ready and willing to pay more for innovative foodtech that can meet their needs for convenience, health, ethical beliefs, and low environmental impact. The opportunity for food innovators to capitalise on these market demands is growing at a rapid speed leaving an open door for new creations.
Progress on food technology today
There are many innovations in the food tech industry today and more is yet to come. For instance, by using machines the industry can drive down the cost of keeping the food fresh and increase productivity. The use of machines in the food industry ensures quality and affordability. Scott Technology, a New-Zealand-based robotics firm, uses robots to cut difficult parts of the meat and thus can save many butchers from injuries.
Another great example is 3D printing applications in the food industry. NASA astronauts can now print an edible, cheesy pizza in the space using a pre-programmed robot. Also, 3D printing can help create soft food for those with swallowing disorders.
A more common example of foodtech is grocery ordering and delivering. In fact, it represents the largest foodtech category as of today with such prominent global unicorns as Swiggy, India-based food delivery startup, Instacart, a US grocery delivery service, Germany’s Delivery Hero or the UK’s Deliveroo.
In addition, plant-based and packaging has also become a big priority. Some of the biggest names in the beverages industry, like Coca-Cola or PepsiCo, have pledged to use 50% recycled plastic in its bottles by 2025. Consumers pay attention to labels and ingredients, and many companies now use technologies to help them go green.
Rob Holston, Ernst and Young’s global consumer industries advisory lead, says: “Plant-based meat substitutes will continue to gain acceptability and extend beyond burgers and beef products to fish and pork. The challenge for the sector is how to scale-up its infrastructure to satisfy demand.”
What is more, people also seek information on where companies source their products, check if employees get a fair wage and how they handle waste. Currently, around 40% of food is thrown away in the US and is, therefore, a massive issue ready for innovation.