Fast food chain Chipotle is getting into the startup biz: the company announced today that it is launching a new accelerator program for food-related ventures.
Dubbed the Chipotle Aluminaries Project, the seven-month program will be run in partnership with Denver-based non-profit Uncharted and will focus on ventures working on “alternative farming and growing systems, farming and agriculture technology, food waste and recovery, and plant and alternative products.”
Buzzfeed News reports that Chipotle is contributing $200,000 to Uncharted to support the program and will lend its marketing and communication expertise to the ventures. Programs accepted also get some Chipotle perks, like monthly office catering and free burritos.
Chipotle has even recruited celebrity chef (and future Smart Kitchen Summit speaker!) Richard Blais and restauranteur (and member of the Chipotle Board of Directors) Kimball Musk to provide mentorship for those ventures accepted into the program.
The elephant in the room for Chipotle, of course, is their checkered past with food safety, including a recent incident that left hundreds of people in Ohio sick. Though the company didn’t specifically call out food safety among the types of ventures it’s looking for right now, a Chipotle rep told Buzzfeed” “We anticipate that we could see some food safety ventures, no doubt.”
The verticals Chipotle has identified are pretty hot areas — especially food waste and plant-based products. Both of those sectors have seen an influx of venture funding lately.
But food tech accelerators in general are all the rage nowadays. BSH Home Appliances teamed up with TechStars to create one. TechStars has its own Farm to Fork accelerator. A.P. Moller-Marsk partnered with startup accelerator Rockstart for a food waste-focused program. Hatch is an accelerator for aquaculture from Alimentos Ventures. Food Nest should be announcing its first cohort soon. And while technically not an accelerator, Albertsons recently formed a grocery tech venture fund with Greycroft. And there’s even more than those!
Let’s hope there are enough good ideas to fill all those accelerators. If Chipotle is looking for a few good startups to invest in, they should swing by our Startup Showcase at the Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle in October. And if you’re looking to join the Chipotle accelerator, they start accepting applications on September 12.