As we continue into week who-knows-what of quarantine, time is beginning to lose its meaning. It’s hard to remember what day it is, and weekends can start to feel basically the same as weekdays.
Except, of course, weekends are when we release food tech news! This week we have stories on Ocado’s first automated fulfillment center in North America, Chick-fil-A reintroducing their meal kits, Strella Biotech’s fundraise to fight food waste and more.
Ocado to open first fulfillment center in North America
Ocado, the company that makes robot-powered automated grocery fulfillment centers, announced this week that it had completed construction of its first North American location in Vaughan, Ontario. The fulfillment center will work with Canadian grocery chain Sobey’s and its e-commerce service Voila, which caters to the Toronto area. Ocado and Sobeys are currently doing a limited pilot of the fulfillment technology. Next up, Ocado plans to build another center in Quebec and has 20 centers in the works for the U.S. with partner Kroger.
Cargill to expand plant-based meat offerings in China
Following a successful pilot of plant-based chicken at KFC in China, U.S. agribusiness company Cargill stated that it will expand its meat alternative offerings in China (h/t Reuters). Cargill trialed its plant-based nuggets at three KFC locations in China from April 28 to 30 and, according to the company, they quickly sold out. Following the successful trial Cargill plans to release more plant-based products via foodservice partners. It’s also set to release a consumer-facing brand of meat alternatives called PlantEver at the end of June.
Chick-fil-A to reintroduce meal kits
Fried chicken chain Chick-fil-A first started testing meal kits featuring its signature — you guessed it — chicken at select stores back in August 2018. The kits didn’t stick around. Now, almost two years later, the fast-food chain is reintroducing meal kits to cater to people seeking convenient food during the coronavirus pandemic (h/t CNN). This time around, there’s only one option, chicken Parmesan, which costs $14.99 and feeds two. Starting May 4, the kit will be available via delivery or for drive-thru pickup at all locations that opt-in to offer them.
Strella Biotech gains $3.3 million in seed funding
This week the investment arm of Yamaha Motor Co. and Catapult Ventures announced they had co-led a $3.3 million seed funding round for agtech startup Strella Biotech (via BusinessWire). Additional funding was provided by Union Labs, Art Mesher, Mark Cuban, and Red & Blue Ventures. Strella Biotech uses IoT-enabled sensors placed on shipping palates to track the freshness of produce as it journeys through the supply chain, sometimes taking as long as a year to make it from the farm to consumers’ plates (ew). Using their insights distributors can decide how best to allocate the produce, hopefully cutting down on food waste. The new funding will help Strella Biotech expand distribution and improve its technology.