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Report reveals blockchain solutions and plant-based proteins as 2021’s major agricultural innovation trends

COVID-19 highlighted the food insecurity of millions worldwide. The pandemic exposed the vulnerability of the current food system, and more specifically the existing weaknesses in every stage of the supply chain. Rabobank’s Foodbytes! platform has shared its predictions in a report titled “From Farmgate to Plate: Top Food & Ag Innovation Trends for 2021”. 

Sustainable Supply Chains

Ahead of the next food crises lies an opportunity for greater readiness. Customers are demanding more visibility about where their food  comes from. Despite the consumer cost of marketing products sustainably, market share has been maintained and in specific demographics such as millennials, growth has occurred. Therefore, ensuring increased traceability and transparency in the supply chain can lead to a potential cost reduction. 

Blockchain Solutions

Blockchain solutions are one example of the future of traceable technology. Put simply, they are a type of database that collects information in groups, known as ‘blocks’, which are chained together. When a ‘block’ is full, it is set in stone, providing an irreversible timeline of data. These processes showcase the existing consumption and production processes and allow them to become more transparent and therefore enhance their potential sustainability.

Startups to watch:

Farmforce

Arable

Bushel

Connecting Food

Improved Animal Health

The pandemic highlighted consumers’ animal welfare concern, particularly ways to lower the environmental impact of animal agriculture. This would result in carbon neutrality or at the least reduced emissions. 

Startups to watch:

Pro Agni 

Mazen Animal Health

NovoNutrients

Upcycled Products

As consumers seek products with a smaller carbon footprint, upcycled products are a clear path forward. According to Forbes, upcycled products “could reduce more than 70 billion tons of greenhouse gases generated by food loss and waste.” 

Startups to watch:

Agricycle

Wheyward Spirit

Improved Resource Management

Pressure to reduce carbon emissions has increased worldwide, from both governments and consumers. Marketing these milestones through public goal setting is a strategy being implemented by many companies to promote their commitment to the industry. A growing number of influential companies are demonstrating their commitment to more sustainable practices, which include plans to meet net zero carbon targets, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and moving towards 100 per  cent renewable energy operations. Most notably, the ‘farm to fork’ strategy has been implemented, with increased traction predicted for 2021. This focuses on a shorter supply chain and reduced carbon footprint across key areas, and shows that efforts across the entire chain are necessary to create results.

Carbon Sequestration 

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon in plants and soil. This highlights soil health as a pathway forward. The maintenance of healthy soil ensures that carbon is stored in the ground and not released as harmful greenhouse gases. Consumers are driving the conversation that regenerative agriculture allows sustainable food purchasing decisions and therefore a reduced carbon footprint. 

Startups to watch:

BPS Agriculture 

Agricore

Water Reduction

Two thirds of the world’s population face water shortages by 2025. This highlights that next to labor, water remains a major resource constraint. Using water more efficiently in agriculture is essential to minimising  the scarcity of water in coming years. 

Startups to watch:

Swan Systems

Waste Reduction

Currently there are 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year, costing the global economy 940 billion dollars annually. However, opportunities to stop waste exist across the entire supply chain. This begins with farms but extends to retailers and households. Companies are setting ambitious waste reduction goals to offset this, however, consumers will be challenged to do their part as well. When the pandemic hit in Australia, earlier consumer progress in reducing food wastage was derailed.

Startups to watch:

Nanoguard

Imperfect Foods

Sustainable Packaging

In the interest of public health, progress in sustainable packaging stalled throughout 2020. This was seen with initiatives such as “bring your own cup” halted and a heightened use of single-use packaging during the year. A reduction in this packaging is the future – with 100 per cent recyclable packaging made from recycled plastic paving the way. In addition, design innovation, alternative materials and cost-effective reusable business models have been highlighted in the report as key areas of innovation in 2021.

Startups to watch:

Planeteer 

Mi Terro

The Next Frontier of Nutrition

Consumer expectations have expanded beyond taste, to include a focus on health benefits and enhanced performance. Specifically, gut health and immunity are now considered  almost medicinal demands and are thought to provide a better understanding of a food’s nutritional values . Sustainability and health has been pinned as the top drivers of consumer purchasing behaviour alongside price, taste and convenience, with further increases expected.

Reevaluating Food as Medicine

Importance has been placed on the concept that an industry must leverage technology to deliver food demands. There is an outstanding opportunity and category for products that address the health needs of an aging population, such as saving money on medical bills by supplementing with foods that can deliver health benefits. Nutrient dense foods are attracting consumer attention, with a focus on nourishing the body as well as the mind.

Startups to Watch:

Alchemy

Envara 

Beyond Plant Based Protein

The ‘plant-based’ label has continued to grow on supermarket shelves, with burgers leading the way. Consumers are now seeking out a range of plant-based products, extending beyond food or drink, and opening up a sizable gap in the market. However, an increased focus on improving the taste and texture of the food products is necessary to allow customer retention. 

Startups to Watch:

Pleese

Evo

Redefine Meat

Biotech Meets Food

Although not a new innovation, food biotechnology acceptance has increased. With an ability to allow for gene and genome editing, fermentation and cellular agriculture are emerging as opportunities worthy of investment. Each biotech application has experienced significant growth and commercialisation during 2020, with further success predicted. 

Startups to Watch:

Michroma

Spira

Zymtronix

Higher Steaks

Cellular Revolution

To read the full report, visit Foodbytes World 

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Emily Dobson

Emily Dobson

Emily is a student at Deakin University completing her final year of a Bachelor of Communications degree, majoring in Journalism. She is interested in politics, business and entertainment.

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