This morning foodtech accelerator Food-X announced the eight startups chosen to participate in its Cohort 9 class, which is currently underway at the Food-X space in NYC.
There was an applicant pool of 500 companies this time around, and we asked Food-X Program Director, Peter Bodenheimer, how they waded through that list to select just eight. “We take a bit of a portfolio approach to how we do things,” Bodenheimer told me by phone earlier this week, “We try and balance it between the technology in the industry and the more consumer-product side.”
In keeping with that balance, the startups who will participate in Cohort 9 range from an AI-enabled voice assistant for restaurants to a company that makes functional foods for soon-to-be mothers. As Bodenheimer explained it, Food-X has a couple of main areas it focuses on when it comes to whittling down the application pool and choosing participants.
The first is what he calls “the application of advanced technology across the food system,” which can be anything from voice tech to AI to sentiment analysis. The other area Food-X looks to is ingredient tech — or finding new functions for ingredients, whether that’s pea protein for plant-based proteins or infusing coffee with wildcraft mushrooms as a natural energy boost.
Into this latter category also goes the concept of food as medicine, which was, according to Bodenheimer, the original inspiration behind that mushroom-infused coffee. “We believe the next generation of ideas will go beyond just “healthy” and deliver products and systems that become integral parts of how we avoid and treat disease,” Bodenheimer wrote in a recent blog post on Medium.
More generally, Food-X also carefully considers the actual people behind the products during the selection process. “You can have the best idea in the world, but if the team can’t execute, it won’t happen,” says Bodenheimer.
He also notes that part of the reason for this emphasis on people is the importance Food-X places on the community aspect of its program. Alumni from past cohorts are encouraged to work at the Food-X space alongside current members, and in doing so they create a lot of potential for collaboration between different companies: “Having that stability and having that sense of community between the different founders, it sounds a little bit hokey to say but that’s where the magic happens,” he says. “A connection gets made, an epiphany happens, a problem gets solved. That’s the stuff I love about having our current cohort companies and our alumni cross-pollinating.”
All participants to the current Food-X cohort get $120,000 (for which Food-X takes a small equity stake), mentorship opportunities, space in the NYC Food-X office, and, as mentioned, continued access to the latter once the cohort wraps.
Cohort 9 is happening as we speak. Here are the participating startups:
Kafina: an organic energy elixir
Mushroom Cups: maker of the aforementioned mushroom coffee
Paragon Flavors: a flavor encapsulation company
Mindwell: maker of plant-based “meaty” snacks
Simply Good Jars: sustainably packaged ready-made meals
Sweetie Pie Organics: food for expectant mothers
Vaartani: AI-powered insights for companies based on customer data
Voix: an AI-powered automated voice assistant
Previous participants to Food-X include Ingest.AI, an AI-powered management system for restaurants, RFID-enabled waste-reduction solution Wasteless, and Kindly, whose meal-delivery company services patience with chronic illness.
Cohort 9 is taking place right now in New York City. Stay tuned to learn more about these companies in the coming weeks.