Why corporates struggle to collaborate with startups and how does the biggest interactive FoodTech Map operate? Part 2 of our interview with Alessio D'Antino, Forward Fooding founder and CEO

  • Why corporates struggle to collaborate with startups and how does the biggest interactive FoodTech Map operate? Part 2 of our interview with Alessio D'Antino, Forward Fooding founder and CEO (ale-1.jpg)

Editor's Note: This is the second part of our interview with Alessio D'Antino. You can read the first part here.

In one of your interviews you mentioned, that you often talk to Fortune 500 food executives about potential partnerships with startups, so you understand the challenges they face when it comes to innovation. What are these challenges and how can they be solved?

Although corporate-startup collaboration makes a lot of sense on paper, there are a number of challenges we still need to cope with in order to successfully enable this type of partnerships. In my experience, the most common challenges are:

  1. The sizes of these businesses are usually not compatible: Corporates have structured procedures in place and their decision-making process requires different stages of approval while startups tend to be more flexible and faster when taking partnership decisions or making changes.

  2. Ability to embrace failure & human fit:: As there might be some uncertainty when it comes to measuring the outcome of a pilot between a startup and a corporate, it's of pivotal importance to find a good human fit between the entrepreneurs and corporate executives who will be in charge of the collaboration.

  3. Alignment of goals & commercial viability: A very clear fit between the corporates' needs and the solution offered by the startup company might be insufficient without a commercially viable proof of concept.

There is an opinion, that we should consider food a basic human right, take it out of the capitalistic system and offer it for free. What is your take on it?

Well, everyone needs to eat least one or twice a day, so yes, it should be outside of the capitalistic system. However, it is very arbitrary what should be considered as human right or not. Should public transport also be a human right?

Governments have to protect business interests and human interests at the same time. That is why I find in difficult to envision the world where politicians would be keen to adopt this idea. There are definitely some steps we could take to go into that direction: State can incentivize companies to provide better food, we can work on more equitable distribution, but this is still quite a long way to go.

  • Food Data Navigator (fdn-homepage.png)

    The interface of FoodTech Data Navigator - new solution by Forward Fooding

  • Food Data Navigator (fdn-buzz-monitoring.png)

With more and more people living in the urban environment and a growing trend for local food, which food trends along with vertical farming might become prominent?

I see three potential trends here:

  • Tech-centric solutions like aquaponics and hydroponics;
  • Circular economy-centric solutions — food surplus turned intro nutritional products or packaging made of plant-based by-products;
  • Ancient-centric practices like last mile food delivery and burnt grains. The latter is an ltalian tradition which comes from the times when farmers used to burn the fields to prepare the land for sowing. Poor people used to harvest the burnt grain and make pasta and bread. Burning gives the flour a hint of coffee or popcorn.

Almost a year ago, you launched a new project – Global FoodTech Map. Can you tell more about it?

At some point, I struggled to make sense of the global FoodTech ecosystem. We knew that there are companies working in the direction of food innovation and clean eating, but had no idea how are they called, where are they based and which solutions do they offer.

We came up with an idea of a Global FoodTech Map to aggregate the world’s most innovative AgTech and FoodTech companies into one easily accessible digital database.

Our initial data was mainly US-related, with only a few companies originating from other regions.

To expand our database, we started reaching out to international partners who had their ecosystems in other parts of the world mapped. We are currently cooperating with Australian consulting firm AgThentic, Italian Andrea Tolu Content Marketing, Spanish Food Republik, Sweden FoodTech, Portuguese Inovisa, Chinese BitsxBites, Britain's Food Talk Show by Breakthrough Funding, Israeli Incubator The Kitchen FoodTech Hub and Rebelbio, a life science accelerator based in the UK and Ireland.

How large is your database now and how do you keep it up to date?

The Global FoodTech Map currently lists more than 1,700+ startups across 5 continents divided in eight categories:

  • AgTech
  • Consumer Apps and Services
  • Food Delivery
  • Next-Gen Food and Drinks
  • Smart Appliances and Kitchen Machines
  • Surplus and Waste Management
  • Food Processing
  • Food Safety and Traceability.

You can read more about these categories in our whitepaper.

  • Infographics (discover-agrifoodtech-infographic_1.png)
  • Infographics (discover-agrifoodtech-infographic_part2.png)

We have also recently launched the FoodTech Data Navigator by Forward Fooding, which provides big businesses with access to the AgriFoodTech data and insights, allowing them to access new information on innovators, investors, investments and the social buzz created globally within AgriFoodTech.

How do you expand your databases? Is it crowd-sourced or is there is still a group of people working on it?

We have built machine learning tools in the back-end of our database that regularly check and flag inactive websites. If the website is down, quarantine system puts these companies on hold and sends an email alert to founders. Inactive companies get delisted automatically.

We also leverage the power of the crowd to make sure we can discover and capture the latest companies venturing out in this space. We often meet the companies at the conferences and ask for their permission to add them.

Companies can also proactively add their details to our database. Our editorial team verifies all the entries manually to make sure that only relevant companies appear on the map.

For the users, there is an option to add a company as favourite and request a direct introduction to them. It works like a double opt-in mechanism: if the business accepts the invitation, they will be put in touch for free. In Europe, most corporations and investors are just not ready to get behind these startups and we want to break down these barriers.

  • FoodTech Map (globalfoodtechmap.png)

    Interactive Global FoodTech Map by Forward Fooding has more than 1700 international AgriFoodtech companies mapped up to date

Which startup impressed you the most in 2018?

I would say, Almond that is a resident of Forward Fooding Food Innovation Hub. They develop blockchain solutions that help consumers trace the food products back to their origin by simply scanning a QR code.

I am impressed by its simplicity, effectiveness and of course speed. The founders started working on it just a year ago and have already launched a sustainability campaign with Whole Foods in London, driving awareness of their new technology.

The NX-Food visual branding and website are developed by dombek—bolay and Albert Naasner, in close collaboration with the NX-Food team.