Wendy, with Evolve, discusses 2020's food highlights.
2020 heralded significant changes in the food-tech world. As predicted, there was significant growth in the food delivery sector. The pandemic boosted this to epic proportions, complete with an end of year IPO for DoorDash. When COVID-19 shut down factory farms and exposed other flaws in the US food supply chain, B2C food operations became the new go-to.
Evolve has seen farmers posting to distribution sites like farmsthataredelivering.com, local farmers markets creating online portals, and farms delivering directly to their customers. People went back to basics and cooked a lot more comfort foods. While the pandemic has been terrible for most of the population who didn't invest in Zoom stock and incredibly awful for restaurants, the silver lining is that more people are more aware of where their food comes from now.
1. Animal-free dairy
2. Reduce food waste between farm to table
3. Insects as a feed for other creatures
4. The expansion of cellular agriculture
5. Vertical farms scale-up
Demand for fresh, local food is becoming more of a priority, inspired in part by COVID-19. The pandemic stretched long-established food systems across the world and highlighted food security issues. Vertical farms help solve this by growing produce close to or inside your corner store.
Vertical farming is another technology that used to be the thing of science fiction and dreams. Now we are seeing them rise worldwide (no pun intended) from the deserts of Kuwait to the border of Glacier National Park. Many are just starting, and the more established ones are expanding. Bowery Farms just announced a fourth location in Pennsylvania. Miami's Box Greens multiplied their shipping container farm this year and are utilizing their indoor space in more efficient ways.
This movement will continue to grow in 2021 because of investment and infrastructure efficiencies. Venture capital offers strong support even though returns are not immediate. There has been an explosion of vertical farm investment in places that traditionally import the majority of their produce, like the UAE and Singapore. Materials are getting cheaper and smarter with refinements like "smart irrigation," nanobubble systems, robotics, and AI. There are even seed companies, like Unfold, creating strains of seeds specifically for controlled environment agriculture. (Full disclosure, Unfold is part of a joint venture between Temasek Holdings and Bayer, aka Monsanto, so I'm not sure if this is terrific news or terrifying news.) Energy remains top of mind for new farms as they explore using alternative power, like solar or wind.
Also, industry support structures are in place, like the newly-founded CEA Food Safety Coalition. The global vertical farm trend means fresher, nutrient-rich produce for local consumers, and we will be eating this produce in 2021.