What is FoodTech?
The report defines FoodTech as innovation across the entire food value chain – from producing, delivering, and purchasing to enjoying and disposing of food – by leveraging technology to improve efficiency and sustainability throughout.
Switzerland is and always has been an epicentre of pioneering technology and entrepreneurial creativity. The country ranks #1 globally for breakthrough innovation for the tenth consecutive year and was awarded third-best European location for startups in 2020. Emblematic of these feats has been Switzerland’s rising prominence within the international food & nutrition sector. Leveraging an already great foundation within the agriculture industry, the country now looks set to become one of the leaders in worldwide efforts to redefine and reimagine food value chains.
Swiss FoodTech: reshaping food & nutrition
The report finds that Switzerland is at the forefront of many emerging trends within the food & nutrition sector, and that the use of Big Data and blockchain technology in farming constitutes a growing focus area for many Swiss FoodTech startups. In AgTech, fresh trends include the adoption of precision agriculture to minimize resource consumption, the deployment of blockchains to strengthen the traceability of food ingredients, and the trialing of cell-based proteins whereby meat can be grown in a lab in a sustainable and ethical manner.
In food retail, there is a clear move towards zero waste, with shops offering bulk unpackaged wholefoods and the normalization of wonky produce. Moreover, as ever more consumers demand transparency of ingredients and insight into the ethicality of food sourcing, technological enhancements to supply chain management are becoming increasingly sought after.
Swiss actors, for their part, have been especially active. In recent months, two big-brand Swiss corporates collaborated to launch the first Plant-Based Protein Innovation Center in Singapore, while a dizzying array of startups – Essento, Planted Foods and xFarm, to name just a few – have achieved global acclaim for their contributions to pushing the boundaries in areas such as agricultural biotech, alternative protein, ingredient traceability, food upcycling, and sustainable packaging.
A fully fledged supporting ecosystem
Our research finds that Switzerland boasts a well-rounded enabling ecosystem comprising more than 19 big-brand food and nutrition corporates that are either Swiss or headquartered in Switzerland, and more than 160+ domestic FoodTech startups founded between 2017 and 2020. In addition Switzerland is also home to a dedicated R&D landscape. To date, the report identified 30+ incubators, accelerators, research centers, and universities or schools empowering and boosting food innovation in Switzerland.
Testament to this world-class nurturing environment is Switzerland’s remarkable propensity for international patent filings. In 2020 alone, the country managed to file an impressive 8,112 patent applications, the highest per capita of any nation. Out of that, FoodTech came in as the 2nd most patented domain after pharma and, while the world has yet to see the first Swiss FoodTech unicorn, the in-country fundraising climate continues to grow. More than 26 homegrown VC outfits are currently investing in FoodTech innovation start-ups.
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Primed for greatness
A significant factor is the high degree to which Swiss actors are aligned with the latest emerging trends in food innovation. With many food delivery startups reaching maturity in 2020, renewed interest has been placed on the next generation of the European FoodTech ecosystem with AgTech (precision agriculture, robotics, and farm management) and Food Science (sustainable protein) attracting high levels of interest and investment. These happen to be precisely the subsectors where Swiss food & nutrition startups tend to perform best and rank most numerous.
By deploying big data, automation and predictive analytics to produce food more sustainably, Swiss technology is having a large impact on the future of farm management. Meanwhile, Swiss Food Science outfits dedicated to sustainable protein such as the ETH-spin off, Planted Foods, have been managing to enlarge their footprint and go international.
Mapping a future leader
To discover more about Switzerland’s potential as a standard bearer for global food innovation and to dive deeper into the Swiss FoodTech sector, see ‘The Swiss FoodTech Ecosystem 2021’ a comprehensive overview of Switzerland’s FoodTech ecosystem and trends.