SinGrow is notable among vertical farming companies because it isn’t just making a high-tech system to grow leafy greens. Company co-founder Bao Shengjie has since 2016 been been cross-breeding the seeds of strawberries — an especially difficult plant to get in Singapore — for years now, and the company grows its own versions of the fruit using proprietary hardware and software systems. Some robotics provide further automation to the process, which brings down the costs of producing non-leafy greens via vertical farming. And SinGrow isn’t stopping at strawberries. The company plans to grow other crops in the future to supply the local Singapore food supply chain with more homegrown goods.
While some kitchen tech startups have struggled, Tovala’s been on an upward trajectory over the past year as demand for its meal delivery service and smart steam oven has skyrocketed. It’s not just COVID-related demand either (though that’s helped). CEO David Rabie says once the startup stopped thinking of itself as a tech company and made helping busy consumers put dinner on the table its mission, it saw demand spike. This spiking demand and insanely high retention rate compared to other meal delivery companies helped Tovala raised $20 million during a pandemic to fuel company growth.
WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN
World Central Kitchen may not be the tech-iest entrant on this list, but it is certainly innovative during a time of massive disruption across the food industry. The non-profit fronted by Chef José Andrés has responded quickly to help feed people during previous disasters, and the global panedmic was no exception. The restaurant industry has been decimated by COVID-19 and World Central Kitchen is helping keep it alive by purchasing millions of meals that are distributed to those in need. This pandemic will recede, but the work of World Central Kitchen will keep going, and the world is better for it.
ZERO G KITCHEN
There are a lot of perks to being an astronaut on the International Space Station. You’re pioneering space travel, advancing science, and there’s a killer view. But you know what you don’t get? Fresh baked cookies. At least not yet. But Zero G Kitchen is working to change all that. It’s developed an oven that can be used in the tight spaces and microgravity of a space ship. The dough is stored and cooked in silicone rack inside a special cylindrical oven. The Zero G was used to bake cookies on the ISS at the end of last year, but sadly, the astronauts on board weren’t allowed to eat them, they had to be frozen for further study. Hopefully, fresh-baked cookies will blast off soon.
There are plenty of startups looking to retrofit grocery stores with cashierless checkout technology (not mention Amazon wants to license out its tech). But Zippin separates itself from the pack by going small. The company launched Zippin Cubes last year for retail brands to create cashierless pop-up retail. This year it was the first startup out of the gate to portion off a cashierless aisle of a supermarket. The effect was to create a store-within-a-store and could start a trend for grocers looking to create more contactless payment systems without diving all the way in to a full build out of cashierless tech.
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