The produce supply chain has a people problem. Namely that people who sell produce and people who buy produce don’t always agree on what “good produce” means. One person’s perfect tomato may be another’s trash. AgShift is working to remove these biases through a combination of computer vision and artificial intelligence. With their mobile phones, buyers and sellers in the supply chain can take a picture of their product, which AgShift then analyzes for color, bruising and other factors. Using USDA (or customized) guidelines, AgShift then returns an objective rating for the food, which buyers and sellers can use to determine a fair price while keeping food from going to waste.
Caliburger seems like that one friend you have who is always up for an adventure. The quick service restaurant’s Pasadena location is a test bed for new technology; in the past year the company has implemented Miso’s burger cooking robot, as well as automated kiosks that let you use your face to pay. While the Flippy the cook had to be sidelined after just one day, it has since returned to the line and is working the lunch shift every day. CaliBurger’s willingness to experiment and stick with new tech secured them a spot on our list.
With the launch of the Pico U, PicoBrew continues a pattern of delivering new products with more functionality at ever-lower prices as it tries to use technology to take the homebrew market mainstream. PicoBrew’s digital beer marketplace has created a template for others by creating a successful recurring revenue food business for its connected kitchen appliance, while also creating an entirely new line of business for craft brewery brands. The company has also established an onramp for aspiring craft beer pros with the launch of its PicoBrew Z series, the long-awaited successor to the product that started it all: the Zymatic.
While the first generation of CafeX’s robotic coffee maker definitely turned heads when it was released in 2017, the second generation, which the company unveiled this past February, gives us a true glimpse into how this automated coffee shop in a box could truly serve the masses. The newer model is smaller than the original — taking up only 40 square feet — and costs less to install, making it an attainable purchase for cafes and offices alike. That said, anyone who’s ever been a barista knows there’s a definite skill involved with making coffee drinks which may not be as simple to replicate with machines as tech pundits might hope. On the other hand, if one of these got set up at LAX, jet-lagged travelers would probably line up in droves.
Beyond Meat’s plant-based products are non-GMO and soy-free, relying on pea protein to mimic the taste and texture of meat. Unlike black bean veggie burgers and the like, Beyond is one of the new plant-based meat companies trying to make animal-free burgers that taste (and cook) just like the real thing, but are healthier and don’t have the ethical and environmental costs of meat. The company has drawn some serious investors such as Leo DiCaprio, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson. After some debate, we chose Beyond Meat over Impossible Foods as the company most shaking-up the plant-based meat industry. We were impressed by how consistently good — and widely available — their products are, as well as their wide range of options (sausages, chicken strips, beef crumbles, etc). Their versatility and accessibility mean that Beyond Meat really does have a shot at becoming “The Future of Protein.”