All words used to describe 2020’s global upheaval due to the pandemic, which has sent shock waves through many industries and fears of investor confidence being rocked by plummeting oil prices and widespread uncertainty. Yet a recent report has shown an encouraging level of investment into European agri-food tech businesses, with London leading the charge as the city with the most start-ups in the sector (250 in total).
Top food tech trends for agri-food innovation
Automation, crop optimisation, remote sensing and vertical farming featured highly as top trends for innovations of the future – plus those developing cultured meats. Interestingly, we have just recruited our first member in this field, Cellular Agriculture. The report highlights 30 different companies in this space in Europe alone, who have jointly raised around €70M.
Positive indicators for agri-food
Forward Fooding’s latest report “Europe Food Tech Trends – H1 2020” uses its proprietary data intelligence platform to analyse the story so far in the sector across Europe. And they are revealing some positive indicators of a sector with confidence and opportunity, albeit against a backdrop of future uncertainty.
So far this year, global agri-food tech companies have attracted a total of €4.3B of investment, (compared to ≅€6B for all of 2019). Of those, Europe is home to just over half of them, boasting over 640 out of a global total of nearly 1150. Collectively they have pulled down nearly a fifth of the global investment in agri-tech so far.
And the UK continues to punch above its weight, as the saying goes. With some shining examples of UK companies to watch – including the Small Robot Company and Norwich-based Tropic Bioscience (the latter having attracted €25.62M in Series B funding, one of the top agri-tech deals in Europe).
Enhanced opportunities for robotics
Covid has, unsurprisingly, highlighted a number of drivers for innovation. Labour shortages have highlighted a pressing need to reduce reliance on people and increase efficiency, which are likely to lead to enhanced opportunities for robotics and automation.
And as with those of us who are preparing for a more digitally-delivered future, the agri-food system is showing an increased emphasis on e-commerce routes to market and enhanced appetite for digital solutions, both on-farm and across the supply chain. Digital approaches also enable greater transparency and traceability, not to mention safety of food, people and livestock.
Lockdown has meant we are all eating differently. The challenges to the food service sector as we are not eating so much out of the home, and the concerns about staying healthy and reducing obesity to combat Covid are also fuelling increased demands for sustainably produced food.
And finally, the need for flexible distribution channels has been starkly highlighted with the collapse of food outlets and companies along the supply chain.
So while there is no room for complacency, there is still room for optimism. We need to be realistic about growth trajectories but at the same time celebrate the positives and focus on the future.
Start-up Showcase at REAP
Come and hear the line up of exciting Start-Ups we are featuring at REAP 2020 – to register click here.