You know what is not coming back anytime soon? Salad bars. Whether they are at the grocery store or in a restaurant, the idea of bins of food sitting out in the open served with utensils hundreds of other people have touched is not appetizing, to say the least. This is why Sally, Chowbotics’ salad-making robot, could shine in these pandemic times. It houses 22 ingredients in separate, sealed chambers that are themselves kept inside the sealed confines of the robot. This provides a level of transparency around hygiene that a wary nation re-emerging from quarantine will seek out. Plus, the bot can hold lots of different ingredients, so it can also make parfaits, grain bowls and a whole lot more. While Chowbotics lost a line of business when universities closed down, there are big opportunities for the company in retail.
There’s a revolution brewing in the world of food, pharmaceuticals and other industries in the form of biomanufacturing. Nascent startups like Geltor and others look to build the next big food product using bioreactors, rather than industrial food processing. Right now, the primary limiting factor is access to on-demand biomanufacturing capacity and related digital tool workflows to help accelerate the move into scaled production. Culture, which bills itself as a cloud bioreactor company, is building a bioreactor-on-demand service and has gained over 50 clients since its launch. In the way Cisco and Amazon provided platforms to help build out the Internet 1.0 and 2.0, Culture is positioning itself as a pick-and-shovel company for the cell-ag food revolution.
It’s been a couple years since Drop pivoted from building its own hardware (the Drop scale) to making software to digitize the consumer kitchen. But if the last 12 months are any indication, the company made the right move. Over the past year, Drop has continued to pick up integration partners for its “kitchen OS,” including deals with two of the leading connected kitchen hardware brands, Thermomix and Instant Pot. The company also was featured recently by Apple as an early App Clips partner, and, in June 2020, announced a $13.3 million funding round. The new funding round also brings a couple new board members, including the former lead engineer for Android, Steve Horowitz.
Many vertical farming companies are trying to make the supply chain for leafy greens more local by placing grow systems in massive warehouses close to major cities. Berlin-based InFarm has actually removed even more steps from that supply chain by dropping its indoor farms right inside the grocery store. These standalone farm pods can live in the produce section (or restaurant kitchen) and run off a mix of software and hydroponics to grow leafy greens and herbs, which are some of the most difficult produce types to transport. InFarm is already in Coop Denmark stores, Marks & Spencer in the U.K., Kroger stores in the U.S., and Aldi Süd in Germany.