“Parole parole” From an external viewpoint, the masterpiece song by the great Italian singer Mina could sound like the ideal soundtrack for Italian agrifoodtech.
An environment where there is a lot of talk, where ON the stage it’s repeated like a mantra “make way to the young” but then left them on the BACKstage.
This sounds even stranger if we consider that in the rest of the world the foodtech is running at an incredible pace, as evidenced by the 9 billion invested in agrifoodtech in the first half of 2020 (source: Agfunder); a figure that should also be confirmed for the second half, as a proof that COVID-19 has not stopped the food innovation, which is set to a primary role in the post-COVID-19 world.
THE MODERN CONSUMER PARADIGM
However, a certain distrust of innovation by the first Italian industrial sector, keeper of the best agrifood heritage in the world, is more than plausible. We must not forget that Made in Italy food has become great thanks to the incomparable tradition and great individuality.
But it’s time to look beyond.
Considering the changed market conditions, with the environment deserving much better and modern consumers becoming ever more demanding, the Italian agrifood sector is called to a momentous change of direction, struggling to adapt to “Modern Consumer Paradigm”: not any more “customers for their products” but rather “products for their customers” to paraphrase the great Seth Godin.
A GROWING ECOSYSTEM
But fortunately, Italian agrifoodtech is not just words. In recent years, we have witnessed a growth, not exponential, but certainly massive, of the Italian agrifoodtech ecosystem, and 2019 that can truly be considered the year zero.
In this article, I included the 77 most influential Italian foodtech people: startuppers, entrepreneurs, managers, professors, investors, and researchers who will lead Italian food towards a new era.
Not the usual puff piece in journalistic style (at least not all), not the usual list of startups without rhyme or reason, but a description of the people striving to build the first Italian agrifoodtech ecosystem.
WHAT DOES 77 STAND FOR?
First, the answer to the question that everyone is asking. Why 77?
100 would have been a pretentious copycat of Time’s annual survey, and to get to 100, I really would have had to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
77 is the atomic number of iridium, whose name derives from the Latin “iris”, rainbow. Symbolically, therefore, these 77 people symbolize the rainbow on Italian food, after an exceedingly difficult year.
77 is also a double number symbolizing a great esoteric power, but also great difficulties.
Finally, a cinephile like me couldn’t help but wink at the cult western “The Magnificent 7”, which millennials can also appreciate thanks to the 2016 remake. A banal reference, but due.
THE MAGNIFICENT 77
So, who are these “Magnificent 77”? Here they are, in alphabetical order.
- ALBERTO MUSACCHIO — CEO of Joy Food, the plant-based meat Made in Italy, sold under the brand Food Evolution. Alberto can be defined as an old-style entrepreneur, but with the same energy of a youngster. In 2020 Food Evolution meat analogues have been launched by Italian retail. What’s new next year? “We are not inheriting the land from our ancestors, but rather we are borrowing it by our own kids. It’s time to change. It’s definitely time for plant-based”.
- ALDO UVA — After a long-standing career with C-Level positions in companies such as Nestlé, Firmenich, and Ferrero, Aldo is COO and President Americas of Livekindly, the company aims to transform the global food system through a full commitment on sustainability and animal welfare. “The Italian food system is, by culture and tradition, focused on quality and goodness. These are two differentiating and necessary features to be leading figures in the new segments of nutrition. To win through innovation, it’s needed to systematize the skills of the entire value chain; academy, startups, companies, politics. Even today, many startups are left behind without support by an endemic lack of angel investors, capital and, above all by, by a culture that is not inclined to take risks. A cultural change is necessary to do not accumulate more delay”.
- ALESSANDRO ANNOVI — Open Innovation Manager of CirFood, entrepreneur, investor, business angel. A true polyhedric guy in the Italian food and food service industry with a great desire to do. “The future that awaits us is ever more challenging and exciting, built by technologies to serve people and solutions driven by user and experience. The world is running, and we run with it, looking at the future with startups eyes and with the positivity owned by innovators”.
- ALESSANDRO GRAMPA — The cofounder and CCO/CMO of Hexagro, the first urban farming platform, can be considered as an authentic sustainability warrior. “We have to exploit this moment of consumption reassessment to expand our technologies at a global level and create accessible solutions for everybody, preparing for a world completely changed”.
- ALESSANDRO SANTO — Kaufmann fellow, angel investor, and consultant building the first “Distributed Corporate Venture Capital’’ focused on the food (and manufacturing) industry. “Italian agrifoodtech must open up to international markets, to be able to attract talents and technologies from abroad to be joined with our competence and market presence, to accelerate innovation and, finally, think big”.
- ALESSIO D’ANTINO — Founder and CEO of Forward Fooding, ideator of Foodtech500, whose second edition will be announced in the next weeks. A valuable partner for the podcast “10 minutes of foodtech with…” But, of course, that’s not all. We look forward to more exciting news for next year. “I think the agrifoodtech ecosystem in Italy has been developing really fast over the last couple of years both in terms of companies created and funding activity — as a matter of fact, according to our data intelligence platform, Italy ranks 4th at the European level for foodtech startup investments. In addition, the creation of Milan’s first foodtech hub and numerous open innovation programs based in Italy makes me really optimistic about its future as quite a few Italian corporates and other established organisations have just started taking stoke to the foodtech revolution. I think the latter can massively accelerate the development of this space and put Italy on the global map of foodtech excellence”.
- ANDREA ROBERTO BIFULCO — KTCHN LAB Co-Founder, the first Italian ghost kitchen and virtual brands source, based on A/B testing and lean approach. The startup has successfully participated in the second edition of Foodtech Acellerator, and he’s ready to take flight. “Italy is the worst place when launching a food startup, as it’s a country full of chefs, but once you overcome the challenge, there are no limits’’.
- ANDREA COSTA — Cofounder and CEO of Amoreterra, an Italian startup manufacturing traditional products based on cereals and ancient grains with a truly innovative value chain approach. “Foodtech must be the main path, but most of the time it’s being walked abroad. In Italy, it’s still a matter of “parlor” and handled by a limited number of people. Italian must learn at first to work as a team and to communicate, making foodtech ever more mainstream”.
- ANDREA COVA — We expect great news in 2021 by Soul-K, whose Andrea is co-founder and CEO, a startup providing a revolutionary “Food As A Service” option and many other interesting services. “Adapt and make an excellent product, that’s what Italian foodtech must do in the next years. Italy can rely on two important head starts, such as the food culture and best raw materials in the world, but to gain a share in the market it must craft products and services going beyond the concept of commodity, something with a tangible added value. For example, thanks to such principle, along with a strong commitment, we have been able to pivot from a food service-oriented business to a retail-oriented business.
- ANDREA LIPPOLIS — Founder and CEO of FeatFood, a startup pioneer of meal delivery (alumni of Foodtech Accelerator), that has just closed a successful crowdfunding campaign with some reliable investors’ involvement. Included who’s writing. “Italy has always been considered as a true excellence in the world concerning food, so it’s absolutely needed to maintain this leadership through constant innovation in products and processes. The only way is to keep investing in agrifoodtech without fear”.
- ANTHONY BYRON PRADA — The co-founder and CEO of HotBox Food, along with the 3 friends, aims to revolutionize food delivery thanks to an innovative portable oven able to maintain food temperature at 85 C for 40 minutes. “Italian agrifoodtech is growing, with so many interesting projects and so much innovation, but to compete at a global level, it’s needed to think big, investing for startup expansion abroad. Most of the time, the Italian startuppers think about their projects just at “a local level” making them unattractive for the investors”.
- ARIANNA MASCHIETTO — Corporate Partnership and Program Manager at Plug and Play Italy, the world’s largest Open Innovation platform born in Silicon Valley and that is bringing a wave of innovation in the Belpaese’s food industry. “The Food and Beverage industry is seeing a profound wave of innovation and the need for a more sustainable industry has become the new bottomline: new packaging solutions, product and agtech innovation and waste reduction will enable a cut in carbon emissions, while preserving the environment and the health of humans. First, packaging made from plastic keeps threatening the Earth’s ecosystem: adoption of a circular economy model will be pivotal. Secondly, the growing demand for food will have to cope with new ways of production that enable reduction the environmental footprint: through innovation in technologies, and a new category of alternative proteins options, farmers will be able to prevent erosion, loss of soil quality and small crop yields, while maximizing efficiency and effectiveness of their farming practices. Lastly, the food supply chain will play a big role in reducing food waste and misuse”.
- BARBARA VITA — She is the leader for Nestlé in Italy in “Innovation Beyond The Core”. Over 20 years of experience dedicated to the “Biggest Food Company in the world”.
- CHIARA ROTA — CEO of one of the most interesting Italian startups in meal-kit”. My Cooking Box aims to valorize typical Italian dishes enclosing them into a box. ““In this difficult year, when everybody talked about digitalization but Italy was still lagging behind, italian foodtech has been the heartbeat of the economy. Logistics and e-commerce have been literally “stormed” and the consumers definitively discovered the comfort of digital retail. The pandemic drove to a greater awareness about the importance of digital innovation, even concerning the small local stores”.
- DAMIANO ANGELICI — The founder, along with Giovanni di Mambro of Elaisian, an agritech startup initially focused on olive precision farming, but that soon expanded his focus to other crops and more countries than Italy. “In Italy we must absolutely grab the agrifoodtech opportunity, as it’s a sector in huge growth becoming ever more important thanks to the increased awareness of politics, companies and consumers. We promote everyday agritech and innovation to further increase this awareness and the agribusiness digitizalized first will have a great competitive advantage on the market”.
- DAVIDE BONETTO — What if you combine plant-based with meal replacement? You get Bivo Food, the Italian answers to meal replacement behemoths. Thanks to the formulation 3.0 recently launched, Davide, the co-founder, and the whole team are ready to expand the business, even abroad. “Thanks to its great agrifood heritage, Italy can and must give its contribution to improve the global food system, even through inputs from other countries”.
- DAVIDE ROSSI — Cofounder of Cicalia, the firs Italian online supermarket, a startup that’s contributing in increasing the digital penetration l in Italian retail, a sector that that has obviously been boosted massively even by the pandemic. “Pandemic boosted digitalization in the whole food sector, accelerating the launch and the consolidation of new services. This trend was growing even prior to February , but it was restrained both by consumer habits and by lack of quality services”.
- EMANUELE PREVE — Entrepreneur, co-owner of Italian brand Riso Gallo, rice industry leader. He invested, both individually and through his company, in different foodtech startups. One name above all? Feat Food. “I think that nowadays we cannot avoid to look at the world of foodtech, many of the innovations of the following years will come from this “ecosystem” and it is essential to be present and constant in following it and being close to the young people who carry out their initiatives with persistence and conviction”.
- ENRICO PANDIAN — A serial startupper and absolute point of reference for the Italian foodtech ecosystem thanks to a reliable record of accomplishment that includes, among the others, Everli, Checkout Technologies, and FrescoFrigo. “American VCs take us into consideration only when we talk about fashion, design and food. So now you understand in which sectors we have to invest”.
- FABIANA SURACE — CoFounder of Cynomys, the first Italian zootech startup aimed to bring innovation, sustainability, and animal welfare in livestock farming thanks to an innovative IoT ecosystem that monitors over 30 parameters in animal farms. “I believe the future of the agri-zoo-tech sector is made of greater awareness. Thanks to new technologies, we will have ever more comprehensive information to really bring precision agriculture and precision animal farming to life. From the producers’ side, we will be able to complement tradition to make productivity more competitive and sustainable. From the consumer side, we will be able to have more transparency along the supply chain for a more conscious purchasing power”.
- FEDERICO RONCA — Innovation consultant at Sweden Foodtech. The Italian passion and competence for food that meets the Scandinavian organization. Is there anything better? “Watching Sweden, where both sustainability and innovation lead the most important investments, even in agrifood, I strongly believe that the Italian agrifoodtech ecosystem could push the country “beyond the tradition”, avoiding making our great agrifood heritage a limit to innovation. Some elements of our tradition, such as the Mediterranean diet, could be a great head start to develop and promote a new food system more efficient and sustainable”.
- FILIPPO MARIA RENGA — Co-founder of Digital Innovation Observatories of Politecnico di Milano, the largest technical university in Italy. The reports issued by Smart Agrifood, Food Sustainability, and Blockchain observatories, among the others, can truly be considered as a reliable data source and point of reference for the whole Italian food industry. “Italian agriculture can be defined as extremely innovative, with a solid and pragmatic entrepreneurial drive. The “Conditio sine qua non” to invest in complex technologies is that the latter would bring clear and tangible benefits for farmers. In such an environment it’s still fundamental the cooperation and the connection with the food system, otherwise there won’t be room for investments on a large scale”.
- FRANCESCA VARVELLO — Sugar reduction is of the most actual world trend in foodtech. In this sector. Italy is very well represented thanks to Heallo, the startup founded and managed by Francesca, included in the second edition of Foodtech Accelerator. “In the next future, foodtech will be ever more committed to men’s health, social welfare, and environment; Don’t process but save, don’t waste by reuse, don’t advertise but inform”.
- GABRIELE MOLARI — The Innovation Manager of Tetra Pak Italy champion of Plug and Play program can definitively be considered as the Italian warrior in sustainable food packaging. “We are all working for a future where healthy and delicious food will be equally and sustainably distributed everywhere: no food waste, no package waste, zero impact to the planet, thanks to the circular economy. And the italian agrifood system has formidable natural resources, culture, competence, technologies, and people to be at the lead of this transformation!”
- GANNA ABD EL MALAK — Co-Founder of Guido Girasole Food Consulting, specialized in dark kitchen and virtual brands setup, the present and the future of food service, impacted by the global pandemic. “The pandemic has given us the opportunity to finally bring the disruptive innovation the Italian hospitality (food delivery in particular) desperately needed to become the next European foodtech powerhouse. Tradition, Made in Italy and technology need to go hand in hand if we want to bring an evolution to the productive system of this Italian field so full of unexploited potential”.
- GIACOMO BIZZARRI — Founder of Mashcream, the “Italian Gelato” to…roll, thanks to an innovative technology developed in-house, a kind of “cool plate”. A new way to taste one of the most beloved Italian foods. “Today, it’s still more mandatory to promote and simplify the competitive development of Italian food system, through corporations, transfer of knowledge and technological innovation among the players of the ecosystem”.
- GIACOMO FANIN — Entrepreneur, Business Development Manager at Cereal Docks, one of the most important Italian agribusiness, founder and mentor of Foodtech Accelerator, startup investor. The nouvelle vague of Italian agrifood entrepreneurship. “Considering the importance of the Italian food industry globally, our country’s agrifoodtech must aim to play a key role at an international level, starting with the European one. For this reason, in the next future, it will be fundamental the collaboration between companies and venture capital, to combine skills and needs, and building an ecosystem that in other European countries is already a consolidated and virtuous model”.
- GIANCARLO ADDARIO — “The investor Italy needs, but not the one it deserves”. A multi-year record of accomplishment in R&D and Innovation by Barilla for the Principal of Five Seasons Ventures. A true example of how a foodtech VC should be assembled. “Italy among many other countries, has the gift of a rich and diverse historical and cultural heritage in the agrifood sector. This also includes a unique way of being an entrepreneur as a role that goes beyond the business itself, willing to create a legacy for his/her loved ones and for the future generations. This strong link to tradition is a resource which, however, can become a limit to product, process and business model innovation. Companies which successfully solve this trade-off, are able to speed up their growth and become strong competitors not just domestically but in international markets too”.
- GIANCARLO RIBOLDI — The actual “foodtech soul” of Italian food behemoth Barilla is completely aware of the direction taken of the food industry, and he’s giving his great contribution in shaping the future of agrifood Made in Italy. “Technological innovation must be a fundamental part of Made in Italy, but it has to be done with responsibility, ethic and competence, in line with our commitment on sustainability “ he declared some months ago during event#3 of my webinar series “agrifoodtech In Italy”.
- GIANNI INGUSCIO — One of the ideators of SeeYouFood, which allows food service operators to develop their own food delivery app in-house, avoiding the delivery platform, ever more expensive. “2020 was marked by the digital boost of food delivery, that’s not have to be featured just by a digital menu. It’s necessary to create customized solution, with social engagement, gamification and customer retention features”.
- GIORGIA MAINARDI — Innovation Manager by Amadori, one of the Foodtech Accelerator’s founders. She’s involved in different projects aiming to bring innovation to one of the Italian meat industry leaders. “Technology plays a crucial role in Italian agrifood, and it can be considered as a true game-changer able to operate in different fields, especially on sustainability. I think that it’s mandatory to have an “open approach”, to be agile and able to improve the ability to answer quickly to the changes”.
- GIORGIO PAUTRIE — Co-founder and CEO of Mind The Gum, which I indicated one year ago as one of the startups to keep an eye on. Last June, they closed a Series A Round for an undisclosed amount, gathering further Italian Football Players, more than Ibrahimović. The mission? Making “Mind The Gum” a new commercial market, and not just a simple product. “Food is an important sector of Italian economy, but at the same time it’s equally important that companies are aware of how to keep up with technological innovation. Consumer needs are evolving at an ever faster pace, often faster than companies’ ability to adapt and change. Here the “Tech” becomes the key aspect, those who cannot keep up will be left behind sooner or later. Often in this, startups know how to be smarter than historical companies, because they look at the world with new eyes, detached from the preconception of “it has always been done this way. However, the opening to innovation is not only the responsibility of the manufacturing companies but must also become an orientation for the entire distribution chain. only in this way will it be possible to create more and more value with long-term innovation”.
- GIOVANNI MENOZZI — Founder and CEO of Nutribees, the biggest (but more probably the only) Italian competitor of FeatFood in meal delivery, a sector that’s growing hugely, even in Italy. “ Italian foodtech surely misses some reliable exits. I wish that in 2021, we will invert this trend to increase the trust by the whole sector, especially by VC that could really operate as a bridge between the first rounds and the exit. Concerning the startup founders, they should be bolder and aim to build a startup immediately with international ambitions”.
- GIULIA BRIOSCHI — Communication and Marketing Manager at Tiller, the Pos 4.0 for horeca; her creativity is giving a huge contribution in leading the tech revolution in Italian food service. “We are leaving behind a difficult year for the food industry and particularly for the food service. Nevertheless, the Covid-19 pandemic has boosted and accelerated the digital innovation not only for practitioners of the agrifoodtech, but also for final consumers. In Italy as well it has been a prolific year during which many companies partnered together to offer integrated and smart solutions to keep the sector running despite the restrictions”. Giulia explained this topic more in details during episode#4 of “10 minutes of foodtech with…”
- GIULIA GIOVANNINI — Investment manager of United Ventures, an Italian venture capital focused on digitalization in different sectors, including agrifood of course. She managed one of most interesting agritech rounds of the last years: the 3m eur series A of xFarm, which saw United Ventures as lead investor (read further). “As investors, we support game-changing founders to build impactful companies and drive the digitalization of critical sectors, such as the agrifood industry. The effort to make agriculture sustainable passes through innovation”.
- GIULIA SILENZI — The head of Foodtech Accelerator is so excited and ready to lead the third edition of the program, another brick in the wall of the Italian food system.“Foodtech industry is moving fast…even faster after 2020! Crops, agriculture, production, products, sales channels: everything is changing and evolving. It’s time to dare, to test and to focus, using bespoke and flexible tools that allow startups and corporations working together successfully for THAT single, specific and strategic project.” Recently, Giulia has been the speaker of episode#8 of “10 minutes of foodtech with…”
- GIULIANO VITA — The startup Dishcovery, founded by Giuliano and his partner Marco Simonini, contributes to the digitalization of Italian food service, thanks to its innovative service of menu digitalization. Furthermore, hese guys are the creators and promoters of initiative “Io Sto Con I Ristoratori”, that helps and assists food service operators in digital transformation. “The italian foodtech is in great turmoil. We can rely on a great agrifood heritage so we have the opportunity, compared to other countries, to position ourselves as a reference player in a European and global context. We have great international exposure, we possess unique skills and resources that, together with public and private investment policies, would position us as a leader in the sector”.
- GIUSEPPE SCIONTI — The Italian researcher and founder of Novameat can be considered as a pioneer of 3D printed meat, and already gained great visibility in the international press. “It’s crunch time! In Italy, we have a fantastic opportunity to use our ability to innovate and our wide gastronomic culture to stand out in the actual transition to a more sustainable food system, based on alternative proteins”.
- IVAN AIMO — Co-Founder and CEO of Deliveristo, the new B2B marketplace and food delivery service which connects Ho.Re.Ca. (Hôtellerie — Restaurant — Café) with suppliers. Besides the 2,5 million raised between 20019 and 2020, something great may be coming down the pike. “As far as food is concern, Italy has always been on top. So, it can’t absolutely lag behind about agrifoodtech. The ecosystem is growing and there are the conditions to do well and play the game as protagonists”
- JACOPO TEODORI — Cofounder and Chairman of Wallfarm, a startup developing automation systems for vertical farming solutions. The automation of innovation, to use a pun. “Food intolerances, pesticides, over-exploitation of arable land and the increase in population are among the central themes that led me to work for startups in the agritech sector. I have always eaten organic food or food produced by people I know or directly from my land, but problems such as climate changes are making the quantity of production less stable and it is there that I discovered indoor farming and therefore vertical farming with off-ground cultivation”.
- LORENZO GIORDA — Digital Marketing Director of Lavazza and Plug and Play program champion, the Italian coffee giant is one of its founding partners. The proof that Made in Italy is evolving and adapting quickly to the new market needs. “In an ever more challenging and competitive market such as the current one, open innovation represents a great opportunity for Lavazza and for Made in Italy in general, not only in the food sector. Nowadays, I believe that to remain at the top of the market it is essential to know how to innovate, not only by investing in R&D activities, but also by strongly focusing on the consumer and his journey. Lavazza has chosen to open up to an ecosystem of valuable partners such as, for example, Plug & Play and Talent Garden, to be part of these new realities. I believe that today, more than ever, it is essential for Italian Food & Beverage players to work closely with talent and startups, to learn not only new knowledge and experiment with new technologies, but also do it quickly, directly and disintermediately, with an approach that leverages on paradigms different from those to which a company is traditionally accustomed, so as to be able to more effectively intercept the new needs of consumers. It is essential to know and anticipate digital transformation trends, overcome the blocks to innovation by transforming imagination into action and developing innovative leadership. I believe that in terms of innovation, Italy, as a country system, is still a step behind its European partners, but in recent years we have seen a very important acceleration”.
- LORENZO PEZZATO — The main Italian expert in the field of entomophagy, with his startup Fucibo, is slowly carving a niche in edible insects. The innovative Made in Italy is here. “Agri. Food. Tech. They are the 3 words that perfectly represent the innovative and dynamic sector of edible insects. We are working to give an incredible Italian touch and bring the sector to the next level”.
- LORIS ZOPPELLETTO — Healthy food warrior, sworn-enemy of the sugar, founder and CEO of My Lab Experiment and Yango Food,which developed a wide range of food, free form, and sugar-free, for “indulging without guilt”. “The future of food is now. Food must be considered any more as pure “survival”, but it must represent pleasure and health. People are already aware of it, and we strive to satisfy their needs”.
- LUCA TRAVAGLINI — The largest and most advanced vertical farming facility in Europe is the work of Planet Farms, whose Luca is founder and CoCeo. The farming will be inaugurated next year, undoubtedly one of the most exciting events for Italian agrifoodtech. “Agriculture is part of our history and national heritage. Food in Italy is considered a religion, and we have the innovation encoded in our DNA. Thanks to individual entrepreneurship hustling inserted in an ecosystem context, Italian agritech can be a world leader”.
- LUCIA CHIERCHIA — One of the Italian pioneers in open innovation is the Managing partner of Gellify and the key person for Agrofood BIC, the multi-company accelerator for the Italian food industry. “Foodtech ecosystem is evolving on three layers: — ORGANIZATION, through models that put in net the resources giving value to ecosystem players — DIGITAL, through implementations of integrate solutions able to make the supply chain resilient and are the solid foundation to build new business models — TECHNOLOGY, through test and integration of advanced solutions and the collaboration with new emerging companies.
- LUIGI GALIMBERTI — He loves to self describe himself as “Innovative Farmer” and he’s right. Sfera Agricola, the largest technological hydroponic greenhouse in Italy is bringing innovation in the most conservative sector of one of the most conservative countries. “I think that Italian agrifoodtech has still to make steps forward. It grew a lot in the last 2 years, but agriculture needs some disruptive ideas more than other sectors. It’s too old to be innovated, and it must be razed and built again. Bring innovation in agriculture is like bringing a new dress to a moribund granny in a hospital bed” .
- MARCO BEZZI — “Use less, grow more” is the motto of Bluetentacles, a startup providing a complete precision irrigation system, co-founded, and managed by Marco. Great news is expected for 2021. ““I feel honored to be part of this synergic ecosystem that’s shaping new agriculture in Italy and all over the world. All of us are doing our best to make agriculture ever more sustainable and profitable”. “I feel honored to be part of this synergic ecosystem that’s shaping new agriculture in Italy and all over the world. All of us are doing our best to make agriculture ever more sustainable and profitable”.
- MARCO CIARLETTI — Still precision irrigation but with a more “computational approach” for another Marco, founder and CEO of Soonapse, which developed Ploovium a smart irrigation system using AI to predict soil water behaviour with an accuracy of 99%. Something that already aroused interest by some important Agtech investors. “Nowadays, only 2% of italian agribusiness is using solutions related to agriculture 4.0. The remaining 98%, composed at most by SME, risks to lag behind, overtaken by the 2% with an edge. That’s a pity considering that italian agritech can offer some great solutions at accessible prices. It’s definitely time to grow together”.
- MARCO MAGNOCAVALLO — The co-founder and CEO of Tannico, recently sold to Italian beverage behemoth Campari, can be truly considered as the pioneer and inspirational source of what I love to call “digital wine”. A sector that’s in huge growth. “The great Italian food and wine culture are reflected even in the tech environment with some interesting projects, some of which even with European exposure. Surely the lockdown shaped new consumer habits and approached people to new services and companies. The latter, by their side, got an incredible boost in the development of their business”.
- MARCO MOTTOLESE — With Foorban, launched along with 2 friends, Marco aims to revolutionize the lunch break of Italian employees. Not exactly a dark kitchen but the first Italian digital restaurant. With a strong commitment to Made in Italy and sustainability, Ça va sans dire. “The great Italian food and wine culture are reflected even in the tech environment with some interesting projects, some of which even with European exposure. Surely the lockdown shaped new consumer habits and approached people to new services and companies. The latter, by their side, got an incredible boost in the development of their business”.
- MARCO PORCARO — Founder and CEO of Cortilia, which closed in 2019 one of the most interesting investment rounds (an 8,5m eur Series B) in the story of Italian agrifoodtech. The greatest achievement of the startup has been doubtless to have introduced in Italy the concept of D2C: fresh products and groceries delivered directly from producers to consumers.
- MARCO VITALE — The Italian blockchain guru, my fellow citizen, co-founder and CEO of Foodchain, Chairman of Quadrans Foundation, can be truly considered as a pioneer of blockchain technology applied to the food supply chain. He strongly believes that technology can be a worthy ally to Made in Italy. “In 2012, I realized that blockchain was not technology just for fintech. It’s a powerful tool to valorize, protect, and make Made in Italy more competitive.”
- MARTA BONACONSA — Co-founder and CEO of Nanomnia, a biotech startup specialized in nano and microencapsulation, organic and sustainable. Revolutionary technology with a wide range of applications. “Encapsulation of agriculture treatments is at the forefront of next-generation precision tools, aimed at decreasing inputs for plants, soil, food, and groundwater. Pairing with other precision technologies as micro-irrigation, hydric control and drone monitoring, it helps in maximizing the minimization”.
- MARTINA VAKARELOVA — Business Development Manager by Sphera Encapsulation the first Italian company specialized in micro and nanoencapsulation, an extremely versatile technology with different fields of applications, from agriculture to nutrition. Sphera Encapsulation has been selected for the last cohort of StartLife, one the most important and reliable european agrifoodtech accelerator. “We are very proud to be the first Italian company in encapsulation that is dedicated at 100% in sustainability- a factor that is of great importance in the agrofood sector in Europe in his moment. The EU is making huge steps in this direction, including the European Green deal and Italy shall strive to be an example with its companies and startups. Maybe, we need to think more about the innovations in order to to keep up with the other European countries and the big players should dedicate more time and resources in R&D in this direction”.
- MATTEO VANOTTI — Founder of xFarm, the best Italian agritech startup, not to denigrate anyone. “From farmers to farmers” is xFarm motto and absolute point of strength. Like many other team members, Matteo combines an agricultural family heritage with an engineering/IT background. What else? A 3m eur series A round closed exactly one year ago. “I think technology and connectivity are helping the foodtech world to reconnect to the fields. For years innovation in agriculture and the food world has been misaligned, but today they can reconnect, thanks to tools that can enhance data and information throughout the supply chain, bringing benefits from the field to the fork. This is a great opportunity for Italy, it’s time to roll up our sleeves!”. The CMO of xFarm, Nicolò Barbano, has been hosted during episode #7 of “10 minutes of foodtech with…”
- MATTIA NANETTI — Co-founder of Wenda, a collaborative all-in-one platform for monitoring and data management of food chain, particularly focusing on hot/cold chains. Definitively a wonderful way to improve supply chain performance and guarantee food safety. “The awareness towards food safety and waste issues became even more concrete in the last two years, at national and international scale. Food and Retail companies are willing to invest in such areas not only due to consumer pressure, but because they are seeing real internal savings”.
- MAURO GERMANI — Cofounder and CEO of Soplay, a restaurant tech platform delivering the best products to restaurants and caterers directly from the producers. The 3,5 million series A round recently raised recently can be the proof this sector has a bright future in Italy. “I believe that foodtech in the next years will evolve “from fork to farm. COVID-19 boosted food delivery and digital retail, so we must await growth and M&A operation in these sectors. I think there will be a growth of sustainable packaging, last-mile delivery, and fresh B2B in the medium term. In the long term, I think the lion’s share will be taken by agritech and innovative foods”.
- MASSIMILIANO BRUNO — “Max” is the Italian branch principal of goetzpartners, an international advisory company, with strong expertise in food, which is watching with an ever-growing interest in agrifoodtech. “The Italian food chain, despite the long-standing fragmentation, has still room for innovation, obviously respecting the environmental and social sustainability”.
- MICHELA PETRONIO — She’s the Vice-President of BLU1877, the only Italian CVC specialized in food, launched by Barilla. A proof of Made in Italy behemoth’s strong commitment to adapting to the new market needs and shaping the future of food through open innovation.
- MYRIAM FINOCCHIARO — Communication and CSR of Granarolo, as an absolute point of reference for Agrofood BIC, the multi-company agrifoodtech open innovation platform launched by Granarolo, Gellify, Eurovo, Camst, Conserve Italia, and Ima. “Sustainable development must become the reference standard for: public policy, agrifood companies, and people behaviour. We are watching a cultural change in lifestyle and food production with technology that can be considered the enabling factor. In foodtech, it’s time to create new open innovation models, crafting ecosystems where industries, people, and researchers can work together, a value-driven society, with knowledge becoming an assumption”.
- NASTASHA LINHART — CEO of Atlante, a company specialized in plant-based meat production and meat-free brand distribution. Natasha is one of the most influential voices in building “plant-based awareness” in Italian consumers. “Climate change is greatly affected by food production, in particular by livestock. Conversely, the availability of food and water is greatly affected by climate change. The power to turn the tide is on the plate, and this awareness must grow”.
- NICCOLÒ CALANDRI — “The Lord of the Bees” is proudly another of my fellow citizens. The co-founder and CEO of 3BEE, is struggling to save the world through saving the bees. The most famous “Lord of the Flies” was a symbol of backwardness, exactly the opposite of the Italian “Lord of the Bees”. “Talking about sustainability, I see a lot of greenwashing by companies and I think italian food needs a drastic and resolutive change of direction. Regarding the startups, they should lead the way, starting to focus their business not just on scalability but even on sustainability. All of us must invest in sustainable marketing If big brands do it, we can do it too”.
- OLIVIA BURGIO — Co-founder and MD of Eatsready, the first platform gathering companies, employees, and restaurants to provide a digital alternative to traditional meal vouchers and the first Italian click and collect solution. Definitively corporate welfare and horecatech “in one shot”. “I believe in the restaurant click-and-collect trend as in digitalization of the whole food service sector. In fact, this trend is growing and will continue to grow — saving time and money to restaurants and end-users”.
- PAOLA DE BERNARDI — Professor at the University of Turin, mentor at European Commission, EIT Food, Foodtech Accelerator, and many others. Can we consider her as a leading light for the next generation of Italian foodtech warriors? I think so… “In the agrifood ecosystem, the leading role in promoting change is played by producers, in concert with consumers and all other actors, private and public, who represent the complex and dynamic food system. The ability to systematically integrate their strategies and actions with some objectives of innovation (also technological but not only) and sustainability with alignment to the SDGs and agreements on climate change, together with the awareness that the agrifood system must guarantee equity, resilience, health and accessibility for all, can make possible to rewrite a new code of food vitality for present and future generations”.
- PIERLUIGI SANTORO — An established track record in the agritech sector, with an M.Sc in environmental sciences in Wageningen, Pierluigi is actually Key Account Manager Horticulture at Signify, a manufacturer company of lighting solutions for a wide range of sector. “In Italy we have the “food”, but not yeat the “tech”, we have to work on”.
- RICCARDO BOTTIROLI — A Ph.D. researcher who can rely on the collaboration with some interesting European foodtech startup. Beyond any doubt a future leader of Italian agrifoodtech. “Game-changing food products require game-changing approaches to new product development. This is, in my opinion, the essential prerequisite for building up the food system of the future.
- ROBERTA FREQUENZA — Marketing Manager at Emilia Foods, which recently launched “Ideale”, a brand-new plant-based meat brand to gain market share and awareness in the Italian and global market of meat-alternatives. “2020 made considerably raise the bar of the goals we initially set up. Foodtech, in particular the plant-based, has proven to be a powerful catalizator, even in Italy, of global trends that we can’t ignore any more but we’d rather have to embrace and promote”.
- ROBERTO SELVA — Chief Marketing & Customer Officer at Esselunga, the most important Italian retailer and founding partner of Plug and Play Italy, that’s definitely bringing the Italian retail sector to the next level. “Nowadays, consumers are very demanding, extremely careful on what they eat. In this framework, collaborating with startups and exploring new technologies, such as big data and analytics, will allow us to test and improve our internal process, firstly traceability and sustainability”.
- SARA MENATO — Chief Marketing Officer at Sommelier Wine Box, one the most up-and-coming “digital wine” Italian startups. A reliable team of sommeliers selects each month 3 wines, shipped in subscription, from Millennials to Millenials. “Dreamers have always been the ones push real innovation in Italian agrifood. That’s why today drinking and eating are not only a means for survival, but rather it can be a magical voyage through culture and history”.
- SARA ROVERSI — Founder of Future Food Institute + a list of many other positions and projects that would need a dedicated article, always on the forefront when we talk about food sustainability. The absolute Italian point of reference for agrifoodtech. “Agrifood is a complex matter where technological innovation plays an important role but it’s not enough. To innovate we have to work even on education to shift consumer’s mindset”, she said during event#1 of webinar series “agrifoodtech in Italy”.
- SHARONE CITTONE — After a long-standing career spanned between Milan and New York, always with a strong commitment to food innovation and sustainability, Sharon collaborates as Innovation Advisor and Mentor by some reliable companies and projects keen on agrifoodtech. She was the first guest of my new podcast; check it out here. “If we enact a truly systemic and holistic approach that attracts international talent, investments and cooperation we’ll have what it takes to become a leading FoodTech hub that drives innovation forward for all”.
- SILVIA TOVO — One of the Five Agritech Sisters, founders of Meracinque, a startup in perfect balance between familiar tradition and innovative technologies. Their Carnaroli Rice 4.0 already aroused some important Italian chefs’ interest, so great news is yet to come next year.“In Italy, the level of innovation in agrifood is still very low, considering that only 1% of companies use 4.0 technologies. This is due to the fact the agricultural structure is composed mostly by small companies led by old farmers with no interest in innovation, rooted in outaded, unsustainable practices. To overcome this, first of all it’s necessary a cultural shift, a generational turnover, a willingness to change and acquire know-how to produce sustainable and healthy food. To pursue the future trends, all addressed to sustainability, it’s imperative to invest in innovation and new technologies”.
- STEFANO BABBINI — Founder and Ceo of Mogu, that’s not (yet?) a foodtech startup, but owning a great expertise in mushroom fermentation technology, that allowed them to be included, along with Barilla and other international partners, in the “Smart Protein Project’’, backed by European Union’s Horizon 2020 programm. “Nature is an incredible source of inspiration to craft new sustainable solutions able to solve so many problems of modern industry. In particular, mushroom fermentation can transform waste and byproducts in new protein sources for the food industry, in perfect harmony with circular economy principles”.
- VALERIA MORÈ — Communication Manager at Agricolus, an agritech startup, member of EIT Food, whose core business is a cloud platform able to gather and process data by multiple sources, a versatile solution for precision farming practices. “agrifoodtech is finally taking a leading role even in Italy. Agriculture can and must accept all the modern challenges, with support of new technologies, able to optimize both processes and resources use. All of that will definitely drive to a more socio-environmental sustainable and innovative food chain”.
- VALERIO CHIACCHIO — CFO of Alfonsino, one of the most interesting food delivery Italian startups. Thanks to the crowdfunding campaign recently closed and the collaboration with Burger King, Alfonsino’s team is ready to boost its business in small towns of center and south of Italy. “That’s exactly in these uncertain times that we must focus on certainties. agrifoodtech must be part of that in Italy’s future”.
- VIRGILIO MARETTO — Cofounder and CEO of pOsti, which develops traceability solutions for food companies and restaurants using blockchain and IoT. The startup was awarded in 2019 by Instagram people as “The Best Italian agrifoodtech startup”. Virgilio is even the mastermind behind “Giusta” the new delivery platform. focused on ethic, sustainability and traceability recently launched by a pool of foodtech professionals (included who’s writing). “Foodtech is a sector fueled by the ferment of ideas, by the creative, and somewhat revolutionary, boost of new technologies and digital solutions. Circularity, sustainability, accessibility, fight waste, well-being and health are just some of the musts for agrifoodtech in 2021. It will be necessary to analyze the relationship between people, food and technology, bringing out the intangible and unexpressed needs of all the players in the supply chain and imagine, for example, what the restaurant of the future or the new role of the farmer 4.0 could be like”.
- VITALIANO FIORILLO — Director of SDA Bocconi’s AGRI Lab, the research center of the world’s top universities based in Milan, which launched Agribusiness Management Development Program. The course aims to shape the future business leaders in Italian agriculture, accelerating the transition from small and familiar businesses to real agribusiness. “New technologies are essential for food sustainability, but sometimes we are not able to understand their effects in the long term. We must evaluate them as per the potential to generate a positive and durable impact on all food chain players”.
Someone surely will argue the italian foodtech leaders are more than 77, and that’s probably right, but this is not a matter of numbers, as t’s not a matter of people as it’s not a matter of technolgy.
It’s first of all a matter of culture and mindset, as explained by Sara Roversi.
Break the silos, connect the dots, stop looking at his own orchard, take some risks more, craft the culture of innovation inside the companies, embrace open innovation, really make way for young people, start innovate for real and not on the stage.
These could be some ingredients to prepare italian foodtech recipe. What do you think about it? What’s missing? Feel free to share your opinion.
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