Few things are as fundamental to human experience as food. And yet, from a tech perspective, food often seems something of a red-headed stepchild. It comes from dirt. Ick. Or slaughterhouses. Even more ick. And, it lies fundamentally outside the realm of human-generated tech wizardry. It is quotidian.
But we feel differently. We see an impending tech-driven revolution in food, top to bottom. Agriculture and raw materials are being transformed as sensors, and AI can predict crop yields, water availability, and even turn soil into a system that self-reports on its own health. We see the never-ending hunt for new ingredients being made over by AIs that can indicate what people are likely to want, and deep bioscience that indicates what people’s bodies really need. We see new lab techniques making once extremely rare and expensive “healthy” sugars widely available for the first time. Imagine if the sugar in your food could actually help you lose weight!
The end product we put in our bodies is being, literally, remade, as well. State of the art gene science and biogenesis are creating whole new food substances. Meatless meat. Fishless fish. Breast milk that comes from no human mother. In addition, the new deep dives from bioscience can tell us with precision what is the best diet for our body chemistry. We are beginning to see personalized food.
Finally, the ties between food, the gut biome and mood are becoming better understood. Food is mood, as your mom always knew. This may open new ways for us to eat ourselves away from anxiety and toward joy.
For all these reasons, we have decided that next generation food should be an area of investment focus for our funds in 2018.
We won’t be traditional food investors. We aren’t looking for the next Froot Loops or cronut or franchise eatery. Our attention, rather, will be on:
· Food products that derive from synthetic biology
· Alternative, healthy food and beverage products based on real science that redefine markets in unsaturated areas of eating experience
· Deep science diet-aligning products such as personalized probiotics
· New ingredients and novel combinations of known ingredients that produce delightful products tied to innovative distribution and payment models
· Alternative meats/sugars/proteins
· Innovations in coffee, teas and sauces
· New, science-driven approaches to pet food and baby food
Until now, food and tech have been ingredients kept in separate containers. Now, they are intermingling for the first time. And we intend to be there, in the kitchen, watching to see what delicious startups result.
By Managing Partner Mike Edelhart