Food + City is an emerging voice to be reckoned with in the world of food tech. The organizations calls itself a “catalyst for supply chain innovation to improve how we feed cities.”  The process brings together visionary entrepreneurs to showcase their impactful ideas for creative solutions to the myriad issues facing the future of food.

As part of its work, Food + City holds an annual challenge prize that brings together the best of the best of emerging food tech from around the globe to compete for $50,000. The third annual event will be held 11 am to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 4, 2017, at the McCombs School of Business at  The University of Texas at Austin. This year, the 17 finalists range from a logistics-based alternative to landfills to an innovation in portable refrigeration.

As Curt Nelson, an investor in food tech and new judge for Food + City’s third challenge prize puts it, “We seek the enablement of for-profit entrepreneurs to solve some of the world’s biggest problems in the food space. Our focus is on people, the planet, and profits.” The group’s mission takes on even greater meaning, considering many business-to-business food tech startups don’t have the sex appeal or lucrative investor exit strategy that most venture capitalists require for investment.

Nelson will be challenged as he examines this year’s finalists. They include:

Bucketload: High-tech harvesting using the cloud

Eat Pakd: Delivering healthy lunches directly to homes

Epicure: Health vending machines

Evaptainers: Portable, electricity-free refrigeration

Farm Fare: Mobile, logistics for expedient buying and selling of local food

Fresh Surety: Technology to improve tracking of produce shelf life

Hazel Technologies: Products that extend the shelf life of fruits, vegetables, flowers and plants

Joe’s Organics: Food recycling that turns food waste into compost to grow specialty produce

Local Libations: Barfly system for tracking location and volume of kegs

Nuweil: E-powered bikes for improving city travel logistics

Open Data Nation: Database of public health inspections of restaurants

Phenix: Waste reduction services

Origintrail: Facilitates product differentiation based on food origins

Rise: Turning spent barley into flour for bakers

Rust Belt Riders: Food waste logistics

Science for Society: Solar-powered food dehydration

Smallhold: Delivering partially grown mushrooms and leafy greens to farms for completion and harvesting.

Yarok: Microbiological testing to avoid bacteria-based recalls

What will Nelson look for as he works through the array of worth finalists for the challenge prize?

“It will be really important that the company has the possibility of fundamentally changing the way of delivering (products) through the value chain,” says Nelson. “It needs to be something that has the potential to crack open the nut or seed of an idea that can grow from there.”

The Spoon will be at Food + City this week so stay tuned for more updates.

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Allen Weiner is an Austin-based freelance writer focusing on applications of new technology in the areas of food, media and education. In his 17-year career as a vice president and analyst with Gartner, Inc., the world’s largest IT research and advisory firm, Allen was a frequent speaker at company and industry events as well as one of the most-quoted analysts in the area of new media. With an extensive background in publishing and publishing technology, Allen is noted as the founder of The Gate (sfgate.com), the nation’s first daily newspaper on the web. Born in Philadelphia, Allen is a graduate of Muhlenberg College and Temple University.