We sit down with Alicia Robb, a managing partner at Next Wave Impact, an early stage venture fund, to gain insights into the investor perspective on food start-ups. She is a Visiting Scholar with the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, as well as being the author of several books on investing in women-run and minority-run companies.
We ask her what she looks for in a food entrepreneur, as well as her take on diversity in investing and the future of veganism.
To kickoff our new mentor video series, we sat down with the illustrious founder of FoodFutureCo, Shen Tong, to give some insight into FFC’s vision for the future role of food businesses in shaping our food system, and the potential of accelerators to amplify that change.
Company founders and impact advisors, Margaret Gifford, Principal at Watervine Impact, and our own Shen Tong, Partner of FoodFutureCo, give advice on how to find patient capital from foundations, focusing on program related investment for mission driven companies and nonprofit organizations. Watervine Impact is a consulting firm for mission-driven companies and investors.
Through the coming decade, what we eat will be shaped by new tastes, new innovations, and primarily, by new concerns held by consumers. Food businesses will have to offer more personalized food products, more sustainable packaging, and more international tastes (Japanese snack boxes, anyone?) delivered to our doorstop. Younger generations will be a driving force of change in food ways, and food producers are tuning into their concerns and habits. Our culture has shifted from considering food as an energy and sensory pleasure source to an accessible way to relate to culture, to nature, and to friends and communities.
Cooking is often an expression of ourselves—our values, our lifestyles, and our cultural traditions. The holidays present an opportunity to express these values as we attempt to weave them into our daily lives, including conscious eating and sustainable living. It is a time to reevaluate our traditions, and take a stand on practices that don’t contribute to a robust, healthy food system. It is also a time to reinforce and celebrate traditions that we can feel good about, from sourcing our food in an ecologically responsible way, to making recipes that repurpose food waste into soups, stocks, and preserves. By being aware of what we (literally) bring to the table at the holidays, we can conscientiously share our ethics with family and friends.
By now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the world is facing a global water crisis. What is less apparent is how this crisis is intimately tied to how we source, produce, and consume food. In the face of drastic warnings of reduced freshwater around the world in coming decades (UNESCO has explicitly warned that climate change will alter the availability of water and threaten water security), it is important to identify what, exactly, a lack of freshwater means. What are the most urgent risks, and where will it take its highest toll? What are our best areas for innovation?
The soil microbiome is crucial to our food future and global food security. It demands our attention in regards to both human health and the health of our planet. If we continue to degrade the earth’s arable land at our current pace, then the challenge of feeding 10 billion people by 2050 may become insurmountable. By supporting the soil microbiome, we can sustain long-term farming yields and thereby incomes, reduce greenhouse gas emissions (and potentially sequester additional CO2), and reduce farm runoff into rivers and lakes.
We look at which innovations in technology have potential to change our food system, and which ones might be more about novelty than sustainability. Considering diverse technologies ranging from blockchain to 3D printed food, it is important to consider which will cultivate a sustainable and productive food system.
It seems as though everyone is talking about sustainability, but what does it really mean when it comes to creating a better food system? Our founder, Shen Tong, discussed sustainability on the Solving for Sustainability panel produced by Seeds & Chips at the Summer Fancy Food Show. Moderated by Ayesha Vera-Yu of Advancement for Rural Kids, other panelists included Mary Cleaver of The Green Table | Cleaver Co, Steffen Schneider of Hawthorne Valley Farm, and Liz Vaknin of Our Name is Farm.
Medicinal mushrooms like reishi, chaga, and cordyceps are taking the U.S. market by storm. While these fungi have long been central components of Chinese medicine and eastern traditions, the growing interest in wellness and preventative care among U.S. consumers is opening up opportunities for entrepreneurs to introduce these ancient ingredients to a new generation of health enthusiasts.