The Internet of Food is a term you probably haven't heard of. I hadn't heard of it until this week. The buzzword surfaced late last year, and just as the Internet of Things relates to all things connected, the Internet of Food refers to the entire food tech ecosystem, including the sensors and analytics systems in all levels of the supply chain, startups and incubators, and food delivery and distribution services, that are all quickly becoming more connected.
In the first half of 2014, food and beverage startups attracted $1.1 billion in venture funding worldwide, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. The US leads that race. Investors are pouring money into these food tech companies, from grocery and restaurant delivery services to farming analytics, to web platforms that connect consumers with the farmers they purchase food from. Here are 11 companies innovating in the food tech industry that you should watch in 2015.
1. Future Food Institute
The Future Food Institute is a nonprofit organization that seeks to research and analyze trends and find new solutions to improve the food system around the world. They focus on four main things: communication to raise awareness about the issue; research and innovation; policy making; and entrepreneurship, to improve food business activities among young entrepreneurs. Fun fact: They also host a hackathon called Bibimbap, named after a Korean rice dish.
ipiit is the "food ambassador" that will help guide you through the jungle of products in the grocery store to find food that's healthier, allergen-free, GMO-free, and organic. Its database is filled with more than 280,000 food products. Simply scan the barcode to find out more information about the product. Customize what you're looking for, create lists, compare products, and talk to a community of people about what you find.
Tastemade is a video network built for the mobile generation, where people can come together and share information about food and travel. The community is now about 20 million people strong, and growing. The Tastemakers cover niche food and travel topics that aren't covered really anywhere else, like vegan Southern cooking, grilled cheese, mixology, and nutrition and fitness.
4. Dig Inn
Dig Inn Seasonal Market is a chain of 10 restaurants in New York City that just raised a $15 Series C seed round in January. The restaurant's average bill is $10 and uses farm-fresh ingredients, and is trying to bring about a farm-to-counter movement on a budget. Really, the company is trying to democratize this movement, and is using their web platform and app to help with that. Dig Inn is apparently planning to expand to more cities this year.
5. Farmers Web
Farmers Web wants to build a better food chain by connecting consumers to the farmers they get their food from. The website allows chefs and purchasing managers to order fresh dairy, meat, and produce and see exactly where it comes from. The food is picked and packed fresh to order and comes within 250 miles of the buyer. You can shop from multiple farmers and arrange a specific pick up, or just order from one. It's free for buyers, but farmers can pay an affordable fee to get their business publicized and/or work with a local food hub.
Sourcery is a web-based wholesale food supply directory to connect you to the best ingredients anywhere. The company also just launched a payment platform that allows chefs to see market prices in real-time, and allows buyers to keep all the invoices and payments in one place. Farms can track payments and Sourcery has an analytics team to help them maximize business potential.
BovControl is a Brazilian startup that gives online data about cattle to farmers and ranchers. Instead of farmers having to manually track cattle by searching for their tags and writing down the information, BovControl digitizes the process. They put in basic information about the cow, track the animals, and then upload the information to the cloud. Then, the BovControl system crunches the numbers and analyzes them, providing farmers with graphs, timelines, and charts about their livestock. The company is also building a platform that allows food providers to find out where their beef comes from.
8. 640 Labs
This startup is based in Chicago — not where you think a precision agriculture company would spend its time. The 640Drive is a device that uses geo-tagging to gather data from tractors much faster than any other tool, and sends the information straight to a mobile device. The information is then stored and analyzed all in one place. It's used by farmers, manufacturers, seed companies, and universities around the world.
Food-X is a food business accelerator that launches food & beverage, health, and environment-related ventures with a multi-stage evergreen fund, SOSventures. It offers $50,000 per team funding for 8% equity and also provides mentorship for entrepreneurs. The spring 2015 program kicks off in March in New York.
10. Consumer Physics
Consumer Physics is based out of Tel Aviv, Israel. The company is most well-known for its SCiO, a handheld sensor that scans the molecular and nutritional content of food and other products and sends the results to a smartphone app. Consumer Physics also created an Application Development Kit to allow third party developers to build other apps and explore this world. Though other companies have created similar sensors, Consumer Physics was the most successful crowdfunded product, and its open source approach offers a world of possibilities for these sensors and other technology.
AgerPoint provides precision agriculture solutions for tree and vine crops, like citrus, fruit, and wine. It could be a single tree you need information for, several groves, or even urban or community farms, which are gaining popularity in cities all over the world. The vehicle mounted scanner drives through the groves or orchards and accesses real-time data. It also takes photo and compiles them, getting down to the details like leaf color and number of blossoms.
Lyndsey Gilpin has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Lyndsey Gilpin is a former Staff Writer for TechRepublic, covering sustainability and entrepreneurship. She's co-author of the book Follow the Geeks.