China’s middle class is changing and with that change comes emerging differences in the way their population consumes food. This week Fast Company introduced the new food tech accelerator, Bits x Bites – the first of its kind in China – and how it’s looking to help shape the nation’s food and agricultural systems. According to Matilda Ho, founder of Bits x Bites, the accelerator’s mission is to “shape the future of good food by investing in early stage startups that use technology to solve food system challenges in China.”
Ho founded the successful Chinese food startup Yimishiji, an online farmer’s market that delivers chemical-free produce by electric bike to Shanghai consumers. Her work with Yimishiji made Ho realize she wanted to expand on the vision and help build a community of other food tech startups that were working to shape food and agricultural sustainability across the country. The Bits x Bites accelerator was born and the 120-day program, based in Shanghai, gives startups capital, coaching and a like-minded community to network and help them take their idea to the next level.
While all of the startups under Bits x Bites are offering innovative solutions that are also common in other parts of the world, they also appeal to the nuances of Chinese culture. In Chinese culture, salad is not a common meal as it is in the West. Startup Frugee markets their cold-pressed, high-pressure pasteurized juice from fruits and vegetables as a nutrient-rich alternative to eating salads. Another participant startup, Alesca Life, addresses the issue of limited arable land in China by producing hydroponic farms that come in shipping containers, coupled with software to run them. Their first focus is on hotels that want to grow their own produce for in-house restaurants.
A third, currently unnamed startup addresses the issue of creating a sustainable animal agriculture system by developing noodles and other foods that are made from silkworm flour similar to the way other global startups are producing cricket flour. Since the worms are often discarded after using their cocoons for developing silk, using the by-product is a cost-effective alternative to wheat or other grain flours.
In an interview with That’s Magazine, Ho commented on her vision and drive to pursue an accelerator in Shanghai and how it might transform. the Chinese food system,
There are more than 4,000 startups opening shop in China every day. If we can harness some of this entrepreneurial energy to solve food system challenges, the impact can be astonishing. With our experience building the online farmers’ market Yimishiji, we hope to help more startups accelerate their growth and build a sustainable business.
Ho sees food tech startups growing rapidly in China, but recognizes that a lot of work needs to be done both in China and across the global food industry – starting with participation in accelerators like Bits x Bites. She is already seeing an influx of major Chinese food companies visiting the startup each week, looking for ways to get involved with food incubators or their own or to help make strides in the space. As a global leader, increased investments in tech for China’s food and agricultural system is important for sustainability inside and outside of the country.