In 2014, Fortune Magazine broke down how hot the food industry is among venture capitalists. In in 2013 alone, VCs had allocated $2.8 billion into food-related startups.
Various factors, including sustainability, health, and digitalization, influence the food industry, making it increasingly diversified and interesting. Fascinating concepts and services are evolving around food. EntoCube, PlateCulture and EpicFoods are among the startups that have developed innovative businesses around food.
EntoCube is an international food tech company based in Finland. The company aims to improve sustainable food production by making insects more palateable. Their scalable, edible insect farming technology in modular shipping containers can impact billions of lives by opening the doors to a protein-rich, nutritious, and very delicious food source. The shipping container system mass produces crickets in urban and rural settings — anywhere in the world.
“The idea was inspired by a key challenge in colonizing Mars: sustainable food production. On Mars, cultivated inedible plant parts can be fed to insects, which provide nutrition to colonists. On Earth, food waste — which adds up to 30-50% of global food production — can be fed the same way to insects to feed the growing global population. Ending hunger and colonizing space go hand in hand,” says Robert Nemlander, engineer, former astronaut candidate, and co-founder of EntoCube. “After my friend, who was 26 years old, passed away while running a marathon with me, I made it my mission to stop running past vital challenges. Making a business out of sustainable protein production is absolutely central in ensuring humanity’s continued prosperous existence for generations to come,” he adds.
In their daily work, the EntoCube team members are driven by various personal motivations: ending hunger, protecting the environment, colonizing space, doing cutting edge science, and building the next industry unicorn. EntoCube believes that strong values are the fuel of modern economic growth, as millennials today crave a deeper meaning and vision in both into the work they do and the products they consume.
The company launched its first generation container solution in the summer of 2015 and their first deal has already been closed. EntoCube has also launched a consumer product line. Over 8000 people in Finland have tried and fallen in love with EntoCube crickets during the past 6 months. The next step for EntoCube is to develop the next generation container solution, which will feature automated processes and dramatically increased production capabilities.
Epic Foods prepares and delivers food that people can feel good about when eating. The company provides its services for both households and companies. The chefs, who have worked at famous Finnish restaurants, focus on three different meals per day in order to have better control over the amount of food waste and food quality. Delivery is free and fast. “Our model is a full stack concept: we have our own kitchen with our in-house chefs, we built our own delivery platform and have our own delivery fleet,” explains Oona Hilkamo, who is in charge of Marketing and Business development at Epic Foods.
The company aims to offer the best price-to-quality ratio for food that is both high-quality and healthy. To achieve its mission, Epic Foods has reconsidered the logic of a restaurant. “Instead of expensive facilities in a central location, we have a kitchen in a business park just 10 minutes drive from our biggest delivery areas. Instead of waiters, we have drivers. Instead of a long menu, we focus on just three different meals daily,” says Hilkamo.
The business was launched last April and it has experienced a 20% monthly growth rate. The Epic Foods team is ambitious and aims to take the concept abroad, and has already set its eyes on a list of cities where it believes there is demand for its service, “We believe food is the next big industry to be disrupted. For investors, this is your chance to be part of the next big thing from the Nordics,” concludes Hilkamo. The audience will have the chance to see Epic Foods in action, as it will participate in the Slush 100 pitching competition.
PlateCulture is a web-based platform that connects people who love cooking and hosting dinners with others who enjoy eating authentic home-cooked meals. Users can either take on the role of a chef or arrive at the chef’s home as a guest. The idea for the Lithuanian company was born when Reda Stare, CEO and Founder of PlateCulture, spent one year traveling through Southeast Asia and India. In Kerala, she had been invited to a traditional dinner where the host prepared homemade South-Indian dishes, which she hadn’t yet tried during her two-month stay in India. “It was one of those amazing evenings when you get to taste the best food and see all of the culture from inside,” she explains.
Longing to offer a similarly unique experience to more people, Stare started PlateCulture. “The challenge was to bring it to the Internet, give it a shape, and tell more people that if they have a passion for cooking, love hosting people and sharing their culture, we will help them transform their dinners into PlateCulture events,” says Stare. Moreover, Stare emphasizes that in order to form a growing community, it is essential to figure out who your community is, what drives them most and what is the key factor that unites them. “At Plate Culture, food is no.1. People who are joining PlateCulture like to explore new tastes and they can talk about the food they are preparing or eating with great passion,” Stare explains.
The company was founded in 2013 and since then, the community has grown from one country to 25 countries. “Recently we had our first chef in the Cook Islands. I believe this is really symbolic and shows that we will be a global product one day,” says Stare. She believes that Plateculturing could stand for a word meaning a better alternative to restaurants in the future, as PlateCulturing would refer to feeding not only your body but also your soul.
Slush is the biggest startup and investor event in Northern Europe, organized on November 11-12th in Helsinki, Finland. Read more about the event at slush.org.
Ultrahack, part of Slush Hacks is held on 6th through 8th of November in Helsinki, Finland with a long pre-game. Challenge winners can win up to €20,000! Register at ultrahack.org.