Q&A: Astanor Ventures on emerging food tech trends

Christina Ulardic, Astanor Ventures

The rise of food tech deals that mark a shift towards the sustainable aspects of food and its environmental impact is causing food startups and brands all over the world to integrate alternative, local, produce and personalised nutrition structures into the very core of their operations.

In this exclusive Q&A interview, Private Equity Wire asked Christina Ulardic, partner at Astanor Ventures, some of our most burning questions regarding the future of food tech and her view on how it relates to the opportunities that private capital can provide in this space.

What will the future of food tech look like?
 
The global food industry needs a fundamental re-think if we are going to reach the Paris Agreement targets, with the industry using up half of the Earth’s habitable land and causing between 21 to 37 per cent of global emissions. Technology has to be part of any rethink and there are a few trends that have been emerging that will improve the sustainability of the food industry and help restore the balance between food and the planet. 
 
Alternative proteins are becoming increasingly more popular – from alternative sources of proteins such as plant based, insects, fungi to designer proteins and lab-grown meat, fish and dairy. A recent study found that the alternative protein market could be worth at least USD290 billion by 2035. As consumer attitudes change and prices come down, broader adoption of alternatives could help to save more than a gigaton of carbon dioxide equivalent. Betterfish, one of the companies we support, uses seaweed to create tuna products. Seaweed absorbs carbon to grow biomass and is a great source of proteins, omega fatty acids, fibre, vitamins.

That's interesting – what other themes do you see emerging?

There is also growing awareness around regenerative agriculture and the idea that by employing certain agricultural practices, such as cover crops and no tilling, we can slow climate change through rebuilding soil organic matter and restore degraded soil biodiversity. Regenerative practices include avoiding the use of harmful chemicals – yet farmers need alternatives. We, for example, invested in a next-generation agro-biological company called Aphea.Bio, which develops innovative and sustainable solutions for farmers to reduce fertiliser and pesticide use. 
 
Finally, vertical farming is something else we’ve been watching closely. We’ve supported Infarm since the start of their journey and their innovative technology is now in 400 live farms across the world. This model drastically reduces food miles, eliminating the waste and emissions that come with transportation and packaging, and bringing healthy food closer to people in cities and towns. It’s an exciting sector that has lots of potential, and one that is only set to grow in the next few years.

How do you think the market for online restaurants and delivery apps will transform in the next few years?

There is a lot of demand for these services but for investors like us that want to improve the sustainability of our food system, online restaurants won’t have a big impact. Instead, we’re focusing on supporting companies such as La Ruche Qui dit Oui, which connects local farm produce with consumers across Europe. This brings value and transparency to the food system by multiplying farmer revenues and ensuring consumers have access to healthy and high-quality products.

How do these developments relate to private capital?

Creating the next-generation technologies that will transform the food system and combat the climate crisis takes time, money, and needs investors that have the right mindset to support these endeavours. There is an urgent need for private capital to fund these innovative companies – we all have a responsibility to invest in our planet for the future.