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.

What does the future look like for food businesses?

In the next 10-20 years, we will see “authentic” and ethical food becoming more mainstream trends for food businesses. Food and cooking will continue to rise in popularity among all demographics, providing more entry points and niche markets. But the major focus for future food and agriculture organizations will be the appreciation of soil, water, and the microbiome. Food and ag businesses will need to look beyond the idea of “we are what we eat” to the idea that “we are what we eat eats.” The emerging science frontier won’t just take into account the microbiome in our gut, but will consider the microbiome in our soil and in our environment, revealing how this intimately affects our food and our the health of our food system. Business will benefit from asking how nature’s own “R&D” can be better integrated into agricultural practices and food practices. Our relationship with nature will be rediscovered through both culinary traditions and new food science.

In the next few years, food and agriculture innovation can and should fulfill its promise to its grand promise to be a main carbon sink and help to significantly reduce greenhouse gasses. We have ever reason to hope that innovations in this space can help mitigate climate change and make our food system and our planet more sustainable for future generations. Future food businesses will need to show their positive environmental impact, as well as impacts on healthy, culture, economy, and local communities. Food companies will need to provide holistic, sustainable products.

What is the role of a food accelerator?

Food Future Co works to scale food and agriculture companies that not only have huge business potential, but ones also take into consideration their social and environmental impacts. We are interested in food entrepreneurs that look forward to the point of success in those terms, and work backwards. What kind of change or positive impact can your business have, and how to we build a path there?

In the age of the internet, size does not matter. Niche food markets have proliferated. All you need is the brainpower that rivals the resources and marketing budgets of other huge companies, and that is where an accelerator’s network comes in. Our well-curated network of mentors that provides a braintrust for young companies, helping to propel their food business to success.

What sets Food Future Co apart?

There are a couple things that set Food Future Co apart. Firstly, we are differentiated by our focus of social and environmental entrepreneurship and mission-driven companies. Secondly, we work in with companies at a different stage of development than you typically see—the scale up stage, as opposed to the start up stage. We feel that this is a critical stage, and work with companies who already have their early adopters and are looking at adding the next zero (or two) to their first million dollar revenue. The scale up stage crosses companies from early adopter to early mainstream.

Lastly, we operate as a network. Different from other accelerators where you may have a finite set of key advisors, we have hundreds of mentor advisors and co-investors that function as resources for food and agriculture businesses in our program.