A subsidiary of the French pharmaceutical company Cellectis, Calyxt uses TALEN — essentially a higher-tech, more efficient form of genetic modification similar to CRISPR — to manipulate crops to have better nutrition and eliminate food allergens. This technology is already starting to touch the food we eat and will only become more omnipresent, especially as climate change makes farming more challenging. Calyxt’s first product is a soybean whose genes for trans fats have been “turned off” so the final product has fewer unhealthy fats. Next up, they’re developing a high-fiber wheat.
Singapore-based Shiok Meats is representing the cell-based meat space on this list for a few reasons. First, the company makes cultured crustaceans — a rarity in a space filled with burgers and chicken nuggets. It’s also the most evolved cell-based meat company in Asia, which just so happens to be the place where cell-based meat will likely enter the market (hi, Hong Kong!). Shiok Meats was also the first cultured meat company to be accepted into the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator, and just closed a $4.6 million funding round.
Solar Foods sounds like something out of science fiction: the Finnish company makes edible protein using just air, water, electricity and microbes through a technique called gas fermentation. It not only creates protein — something that lately we can’t seem to get enough of — it also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere. But it isn’t only intended to work on Earth; Solar Foods is also in talks with the European Space Agency to use their tech as a renewable food source for astronauts.
Keep your eye on the edge, because that is where food creation is heading. Bellwether creates electric, ventless coffee bean roasting machines, which basically allows any business to roast their own coffee with no build out. That alone is worth a spot on this list as it lets local grocers and smaller coffee chains create their own bean roasts customized to their region’s (or even neighborhood’s) preferences. But Bellwether is emblematic of a bigger trend: de-centralized production. Coffee no longer needs be roasted at central locations and shipped across the country. It can be made on the spot, anytime.
Sure, Creator has a burger-making robot, but that’s not new. Creator is on this list because of how it integrates robots and humans in the workplace. In other words, the company seems to genuinely care about its human employees. By offloading the repetitive task of “burger flipping,” Creator frees up human workers to provide more customer service and take on more creative and social roles. Creator also gives its employees 5 percent time to learn a new skills beyond just working on robots. Automation is coming to the food world, and Creator is showing thoughtful leadership in using robots to create human-centric dining experiences.