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My son and I have been watching Futurama to pass the lockdown time lately, so I’ll open this newsletter with an homage to Prof. Farnsworth:
“Good news, everyone!”
Well, mostly it’s good news for people with gluten, peanut or other food allergies.
Tel Aviv, Israel-based Ukko came out of stealth this week to announce a $40 million Series B fundraise and talk about its technology. Simply put, Ukko uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine why certain foods trigger allergic reactions in people. Based on that data, the company creates therapeutics, or, more germane to our purposes, reconstructs the food itself so it is safe for consumption by people with allergies.
For instance, Ukko is developing a good type of gluten that delivers all the stretchy, nutritional goodness of normal gluten but without the allergic reactions. It does this by breaking the gluten protein down to its component parts. From there, it gets rid of the bad parts and keeps the good by either modifying a wheat plant or fermenting the new protein out of yeast or some other base cell.
Ukko’s approach differs from those of a lot of other food-allergy-fighting companies we’ve covered in the past. Most of the allergy-related startups we write about either alter their recipes to be allergy friendly (like Magic Spoon cereal) or provide detection systems for those with allergies (like the Nima or the Allergy Amulet sensors). But Ukko is tackling the problem at its source — the makeup of the actual food.
The end result will be an entirely new (but same!) ingredient that can be used to make all kinds of foods that gluten-intolerant folks will be able to enjoy like everyone else. No more crumbly cakes or crusts!
But it’s not just about gluten. The ability to identify “good” and “bad” components of food and then precisely alter it opens up entirely new worlds of customization. It won’t be long before foods can be tailored for specific purposes: boosting the immune system, improving athletic recovery, reducing sugar and benefits that we have yet to think up.
And that is good news, everyone!
It has been a busy week here at Spoon HQ!
One corner of the food tech world that was particularly busy was robotics. It seems like 2021 will be a big year for food automation (as I predicted!). Let’s recap:
- Kroger is building its next robot-powered warehouse in Phoenix, AZ
- Miso Robotics equity crowdfunded $17M
- Ottonomy is preparing to launch its delivery robot here in the U.S.
- Starship raised another $17M
- Walmart is scaling its robotic fulfillment with Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric
The pandemic has spurred increased interest in food robotics for a number of reasons. For restaurants, cooking robots like Miso’s can alleviate staffing issues and create social distance in the kitchen. For delivery services, robots offer another method for contactless delivery. For grocery retailers, robots can speed up fulfillment of online orders, creating more capacity for curbside pickup and delivery.
I also predict that I’ll be busy for the next few months, writing up robot news.
E-Fish Delivers Fresh Fish to Your Door 48 Hours After It’s Been Caught – Online marketplace connect your order directly to fish harvesters.
Foodspace is Using AI to Create Better CPG Data So You Find That Spicy Cheese Faster – The Boston-based startup uses machine vision technology that analyzes scanned product images to synthesize and assign attributes based on its understanding of the product packaging and label data.
Siggi’s Launches a ‘Palate Training Kit’ to Help Consumers Cut Sugar Intake – Learn how to re-train your palate so you don’t crave as much sweetness in your food.
Choco Rebrands, Launches New Feature For Multi-Unit Restaurants to Manage Their Kitchens – Owners and managers can oversee their entire inventory and list of suppliers across all of their locations.
Entomo Farms Raises $3.7M CAD for Cricket Protein – Currently, the company operates in 60,000 square feet of production space, and produces cricket products through its own brand and for other food companies globally.