At the recent session “Funding the FoodTech Revolution” during SXSW 2017, ThinkFood founder Rob Wilder discussed how disruptive ideas and technology are impacting the food industry.
He called the food industry “enormous and broken,” as the approach to many of the challenges facing the food industry hasn’t changed in the last hundred years. The global agriculture and food industry makes up about 10% of the world’s gross domestic product — a $7.8 trillion market.
Wilder believes any major change is going to come from small-scale startups, bringing disruptive ideas to the table. These new and innovative ideas are having an impact on all levels of the food industry.
During the talk, a number of restaurant entrepreneurs — Eileen Gordon Chiarello from Barnraiser, Alice Cheng of Culinary Agents, and Eric Ellestad of Local Roots — shared their startup stories. They have used creative ideas to engage customers, secure funding, and solve the challenges facing the industry.
Barnraiser is a social network and funding community connecting business and consumers seeking healthy and local foods. The network allows users to find and save favorites from over 40,000 profiles of food makers and artisans. The company was founded in 2013 and has already received $2.7 million in funding.
Local Roots is addressing the issue of waste within the restaurant supply chain. The goal of the startup is to deploy, build, and operate indoor farming solutions so that restaurants and suppliers can harvest their own food at just the right volume without any reduction in texture and taste. The company harnesses cutting-edge technology, such as custom LED lights, climate control sensors, and plant health monitoring software. Local Roots was founded in 2013 and has received $3.5 million in funding.
Culinary Agents, positioning itself as “LinkedIn for the food industry,” occupies an important niche — addressing the current shortage of cooks in the rapidly expanding industry. The company offers job matching and professional networking for the hospitality and dining industry. With postings in more than 30 different cities, applicants can create a profile visible to thousands of businesses. The system also has a feature for messaging and has raised $4.2 million since its founding in 2012.
Wilder believes the problems facing the industry will be solved from “the bottom up,” and it will be startups like these on his SXSW panel that will deliver the solutions.