April 27, 2022 #ChileSustentable

Chilean companies that are revolutionizing the health food industry

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The growth of the world's population, climate change and the scarcity of natural resources, together with the international trend in the search for a better way of feeding ourselves, is generating new opportunities. Whether through the use of artificial intelligence, new agricultural techniques, mushrooms, fermentation of microorganisms, upcycling or other innovations, several Chilean startups are today at the forefront of the healthy food industry.

NotCo has become an icon of the healthy food industry not only in Chile, but also worldwide. It was a pioneer in replacing the animal component of food with plants, using artificial intelligence, and today this foodtech created by Chileans is valued at more than US$1.5 billion, and big names such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have already bet on it.

This company has gone around the world, paving the way for many Chilean startups that are seeking to create the future from healthy food, in a context of population growth -which by 2030 will reach 10 billion people worldwide-, climate change, and scarcity of natural resources. Through the use of artificial intelligence, new agricultural techniques, fungi, fermentation of microorganisms, upcycling and other innovations, several Chilean startups are already at the forefront of the industry.

Agrourbana: vertical agriculture in the middle of the city

Founded in 2018, AgroUrbana is the first company in Latin America to introduce vertical agriculture, which per square meter produces 100 times more than traditional agriculture, and is possible thanks to the hydroponics technique, which does not use soil, but water and nutrients to produce plants. Its revolutionary technology makes it possible to grow vegetables and greens while saving water, since they need only 5% of the water required by traditional agriculture. In addition, it does not use pesticides.

Production is done in vertical layers using LED lights and hydroponics to deliver the light and water needed to harvest vegetables with precise nutrition in climate-controlled spaces. Their crops are already sold in supermarkets as sustainable products.

AgroUrbana's founders, Cristián Sjögren and Pablo Bunster, two professionals with a background in renewable energies, created this company in response to two major needs: on the one hand, the need to feed a growing population given the impact of climate change, water scarcity and the depletion of agricultural soils; and, on the other hand, the growing need of consumers to know more about how the products they eat are made.

The Live Green Co: artificial intelligence for plant nutrition

Priyanka Srinivas and Sasikanth Chemalamudi, originally from India, chose Chile -specifically the city of San Fernando- to create in 2018 their company The Live Green Co, which is dedicated to developing plant-based foods as a healthy alternative to animal-based foods, thanks to the artificial intelligence of its Charaka platform, which replaces additives with plant-based products.

Foodtech used Chile as a platform to develop its products and export them to the rest of the region. And its growth has been dizzying. In January 2022, the startup closed a Pre-Series A round, raising US$7 million, with investments led by funds from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Argentina. And two months later, it reported the acquisition of five Chilean startups in the areas of agriculture, food and manufacturing: Terrium, Aztlan Dulcería, Gibit, Regional Food and EcoKetrawe.

Srinivas explains that the choice of Chile for the creation of this startup is due to a number of reasons, including the wide network of trade agreements that Chile has (65 worldwide), the support of organizations such as ProChile, InvestChile and Corfo through Startup Chile and the human capital.

Mycobites: the power of fungi

Foodtech Mycobites is revolutionizing the industry with a new category of nutritionally dense, seal-free, multi-benefit "Fungi based" foods, which for now includes a burger (Funger), meatballs (Fungi Balls) and its latest creation, ground mushrooms (Smashrooms).

The company was born in 2015 (under the name of La Roblería), by the hand of 3 partners who sought to undertake an environmentally conscious project. They started by promoting the production of shiitake mushrooms, and after two years of research, Mycobites was founded by Rodolfo Ulloa and Juan Enrique Bernstein, after developing a biotechnology matrix called Mycomix -which allows the creation of food using mushrooms as its main component-.

In 2022, the company was recognized as the fifth foodtech in Latin America in the world ranking #Foodtech500, a list that seeks to distinguish companies in the AgriFoodTech world. Its three products are available in stores and restaurants.

Amarea Snacks: the future is in the sea

For Amarea's founders, the future lies in the sea, specifically in algae such as cochayuyo, fast-growing organisms that do not need water, soil or fertilizers for their cultivation.

Lovers of the sea, in 2019, José Tomás Sagredo and Ignacio Cueto decided to do their master's thesis with a project linked to the ocean, taking advantage of the properties of seaweed, and at the same time linking themselves to the work of the seaweed harvesting communities on the coasts of the O'Higgins, Maule and Ñuble regions. For this, they also turned to chef Marcos Baeza, known for having founded the Naoki restaurant in 2014.

This is how Amarea was born, a healthy snack company whose mission is to take advantage of algae to make delicious, nutritious and sustainably produced food. Its products are crunchy cochayuyo snacks and are made almost entirely of seaweed, so that they are composed of 50% dietary fiber, generating a feeling of satiety and contributing to digestion.

Quelp: taking advantage of the versatility of algae

Another company that has innovated on the basis of algae is Quelp, which offers healthy, easy-to-prepare, vegan, gluten-free and seal-free frozen foods under a triple positive impact model: it contributes to health, provides work to more than 200 algae harvesting communities and sustainably manages natural algae meadows.

The idea emerged as a thesis project of the agronomist Alejandra Allendes, who then did a master's degree and continued with the idea, founding the company together with her classmate Alonso Diaz. After 3 years of studies and research, in 2019 they started selling, first hamburgers and meatballs, then nuggets, and now they are making prototypes to launch sausages and chorizos.

Its name Quelp comes from the word Kelp, which in English refers to the family of brown algae, including cochayuyo and huiro, which are the most important raw material for its products.

But Quelp wants to go further. Alejandra Allendes says that their goal is to develop biomaterials, in order to replace plastic with algae. They entered the program of the U.S. accelerator The Conscious Venture Lab, to raise capital. And in June their products will be sold in the United States.

Cáscara Foods: upcycling as a purpose

The juice industry discards up to half of the fruit it uses. This means that thousands of tons of fruit end up in the garbage every year, which end up polluting the environment if not treated.

With the aim of addressing food waste in Chile, Cáscara Foods was born, a startup that in 2019 was recognized with the national Avonni award in the healthy eating category. Cáscara Foods was created in 2017, as part of the thesis of three commercial engineering students at the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, of which today Mateo Rubio and Domingo Chong remain.

This startup is in charge of transforming fruit waste used by different juice companies into ingredients: apple, strawberry and blueberry fiber. This, taking advantage of the benefits contained in their pulp, peel and seeds. As a result, these ingredients are used to formulate products such as Azana, apple fiber powder; antioxidant collagen; apple fiber bars with oats and quinoa; and premix for pancakes.

The process they use is called "upcycling" or suprarecycling, which means rescuing a resource that would otherwise be discarded, and through technology, converting it into a new product of greater value.

The Imperfect Project: imperfect is perfect

This foodtech is also based on upcycling: it uses "imperfect" fruits and vegetables that are discarded by fairs, SMEs and small farmers, to transform them into long-lasting healthy bars (sweet and savory), avoiding food waste and impact on the environment.

The Imperfect Project was created in 2021 by agricultural engineers Adriana Behm and Pedro Mena, and dental surgeon Amanda Behm, taking a concern they had for years about the waste of fruits and vegetables both in fields and at fairs and markets, which they dreamed of transforming into vegan, practical and long-lasting (more than 12 months) food.

This startup has just been among the winners of the fifth edition of Talento Emprendedor Caja Los Andes (Tecla 5), and is part of the Food Innovation Catalog 2021, where the 50 most innovative products of the year were selected.

In the medium term, they seek to continue entering more Chilean retail chains and, in the long term, to test the model in other parts of the country and other countries, in order to adapt it and continue contributing to the reduction of food waste.

Wild Foods: the major player in cereal bars

The food company Wild Foods was born from the hand of Pier Colonello and Felipe Hurtado, who sought to revolutionize the health food market. In 2018, the company raised US$100 thousand, and at that time Javier Castro entered the ownership.

The company grew until today it is present in 15 categories with more than 80 products, ranging from granolas and cookies to food supplements for athletes and pizza premixes. The way to do this was by outsourcing production processes and selling in Chile, Peru and the United States. In addition to selling seal-free products, Wild Foods has internalized recycling in its philosophy: all its packaging is 100% recyclable and, thanks to an alliance with TodosReciclamos, one container is recycled for each bar sold.

In 24 months, they positioned themselves as the No. 1 player in cereal bars in Chile, and in March of this year, the BTG Pactual Venture Debt I fund backed this company with a US$1.5 billion financing line.

Today its goals are ambitious: to become the health food company with the largest product portfolio in the region.

Done Properly: microorganisms for the future

Born in 2019, Done Properly is a foodtech that uses specific microorganisms to transform vegetable raw materials into bio-ingredients from fermentation technologies, offering protein alternatives with natural flavor. Its two main products are Raise, a natural flavor enhancer that allows in addition to improving the taste of food, to reduce the use of salt; and Mico, a mushroom-based protein alternative that uses 20 times less water in its production, and can be transformed into burgers, sausages, or nuggets.

This company was created by four partners who saw the need to unite science and technology in food and to be in tune with the planet: Eduardo Zavala (MSc in Biotechnology); Freddy Boehmwald (PhD in Biotechnology); Claudio Pedreros (commercial engineer) and Javier Olave (commercial engineer, MSc in Management).

In 2020, the company won the Avonni Innovation Award in the "Agro of the Future" category. And last October, it arrived in Spain with the Europastry company and is also collaborating with large Chilean and multinational companies to reduce the use of sodium in their products and develop products based on new protein alternatives.

Froyatt

Belonging to the same family as "La Casona El Monte", Froyatt is a line of natural products that can replace a complete meal with a 20-gram serving. Its different formulations generate a wide line of reduced-calorie products, with a large amount of nutrients and made from spirulina (although eliminating its characteristic smell and taste).

It all started in 2017 with the dream of creating a complete food, easy to prepare, containing all the nutrients necessary for the body in a natural way, without allergens, gluten-free, free of seals, without added sugars or fats, without preservatives and with a good taste and aroma. This led its founders to discover that the WHO defined spirulina as the most complete food in the world, even used by astronauts.

The company's name derives from the initials of its founders: sisters Fernanda and Rocio Rodriguez, and their mother Yanett Omegna.

Today they produce the Froyatt core as a new ingredient for the food industry and also 14 products for retail, including pastas, cereals, flours and powdered nutritional products. They are present in Chile and the United States.

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