Happy weekend. This was a big week for food tech news, with funding updates from Instacart and Impossible Foods, and big partnership announcements from Innit/Chef’d and Kenwood/Drop. But there were also a bunch of smaller stories that caught our eye, even if we didn’t have time to write a post about them. So we rounded them up in one place for you! Put an egg on something and eat it while skimming through our roundup of this week’s food tech news stories.
Report: Postmates and DoorDash mull over merger
Sources told Recode that Postmates and DoorDash, two food delivery giants, have discussed a possible merger at least once over the past year. This move would be a bid to gain advantage over competitors like GrubHub and UberEats in the hotly-contested food delivery war.
These murmurings come only a month after DoorDash secured $535 million in funding, which they said they would use to expand operations (and maybe invest in robots?). As of now there’s no deal, but this wouldn’t be such a bad idea. The food delivery sector is just too crowded — if these competitors could pull off a merger and optimize their service, I say go for it.
Unilever wants to turn plastic waste into food safe packaging
Unilever announced this week that it’s starting a new initiative to recycle polyethylene terephthalate resin, which is commonly used in clothing, food and drink packaging, and engineering projects. They want to turn any of their products made with PET resin, including ones that are colored, into transparent, food safe packaging. The consumer goods giant is partnering with recycling tech startup Ioniqa and Indorama Ventures, the world’s largest producer of PET resin, on the project.
It’s an interesting time in the world of food packaging. Various groups, including NASA and the military, are trying to make it lighter, safer, and more resilient. This initiative from Unilever might make it more environmentally friendly, as well. But it’s got a long way to go; currently, 91% of plastic waste isn’t recycled. With a massive company like Unilever behind it, this project might be able to reduce that statistic significantly.
MRIs can qualify meat taste without touching them
Researchers at the University of Extremadura in Spain have found a way to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the same technology used in hospitals to look inside our bodies, to measure the taste properties of whole loins and hams — without touching them.
The technology uses non-invasive magnets and radio waves to take images of the meat, which is then run through a computer vision algorithm. Scientists can use the images and readings they see to make predictions on the quality of the meat, including its fat content, color, and salt content, without having to damage a pricey Iberico ham.
Would brewers replace hops with GMO yeast?
Hold on to your IPAs: A team of chemists and geneticists in California have developed a genetically modified yeast that can mimic the flavor and aroma of hops. To make it, they spliced DNA from mint and basil plants into the genes of brewing yeast, which gave the yeast a grapefruit-like flavor typical of the Cascade hop.
By swapping out hops for GM yeast, brewers could have greater control over their product, reduce the costs of beer-brewing, and reduce environmental impact. As might be expected, craft brewers aren’t eager to replace hops with GM yeast — they feel it takes some of the art out of brewing. But we’re seeing more and more intersections of beer and tech, from IoT-powered beer tracking systems to beer publishing systems for at-home brewers.
AgVend raises $1.75M in seed funding
Last week ag-commerce startup AgVend raised $1.75 million in seed funding. The round was led by Drew Oetting at 8VC, with participation from Green Bay Ventures, Seahawk Capital, The House Fund, and others.
Agvend is a digital commerce platform which lets farmers compare prices and purchase ag services and inputs. With AgVend, farmers can order a specific fertilizer and have it delivered (via AgVend’s partners) the same day or take advantage of flash sales promotions, without ever leaving their farm. The startup launched at the beginning of 2018 and now covers states across the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, with plans to expand later this year.
This year has been a big one for agtech startups. In the last few months indoor farming company Agrilyst and peer-to-peer farming network WeFarm also closed fundraising rounds. Agtech is definitely a growing market, and one to keep an eye on.