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Farmstead is an ambitious grocery delivery startup with plans to defeat Instacart

In its 3,000-square-foot warehouse in San Francisco’s Mission District, Farmstead founders Pradeep Elankumaran and Kevin Li, a pair of former Yahoo product managers, plot the future of grocery shopping. “Think of us as if Whole Foods was rebuilt from scratch by tech founders,” Elankumaran, Farmstead’s chief executive officer, told TechCrunch. “Of course we do delivery because it’s 2018 and no one wants to go to the store anymore.” Elankumaran launched San Francisco-based Farmstead in 2016 after Amazon and Instacart’s food delivery services repeatedly disappointed him. The startup leverages artificial intelligence-powered predictive analytics and machine learning to accurately predict supply and demand of its inventory, a move Elankumaran says has helped the company significantly reduce waste, as well as complete deliveries to Bay Area residents in less than an hour. “I had a lot of trouble getting food delivered consistently,” he said. “My daughter had just turned two and she started drinking a lot of milk and I found myself going to the grocery store three to four times a week to buy the same things.” “So I posted on Nextdoor asking if anyone was interested in a milk, eggs and bread delivery service and in two days, 200 people said yes.” Two-plus years later, the company is today announcing an additional seed round of $2.2 million, bringing its total raised to date to $7.5 million. ARTIS Labs, Resolute Ventures and Red Dog Capital participated in the round, along with Y Combinator . Farmstead completed the Silicon Valley accelerator program in 2016 shortly before its initial launch, similar to Instacart, which graduated from Y Combinator in 2012. Elankumaran said the company plans to use the capital to hire aggressively and expand beyond the Bay Area in 2019.  Farmstead’s business may sound a lot like Instacart, a very well-funded grocery delivery service worth an astounding $7.6 billion, but the startup says the differences are notable. Instacart is a tech layer on top of a supermarket that provides delivery, whereas Farmstead is the supermarket and the delivery service. Elankumaran says this — storing groceries in large, centralized warehouses and making the deliveries — is a highly scalable model destined to defeat Instacart. Resolute…

Agtech startup Imago AI is using computer vision to boost crop yields

Presenting onstage today in the 2018 TC Disrupt Berlin Battlefield is Indian agtech startup Imago AI, which is applying AI to help feed the world’s growing population by increasing crop yields and reducing food waste. As startup missions go, it’s an impressively ambitious one. The team, which is based out of Gurgaon near New Delhi, is using computer vision and machine learning technology to fully automate the laborious task of measuring crop output and quality — speeding up what can be a very manual and time-consuming process to quantify plant traits, often involving tools like calipers and weighing scales, toward the goal of developing higher-yielding, more disease-resistant crop varieties. Currently they say it can take seed companies between six and eight years to develop a new seed variety. So anything that increases efficiency stands to be a major boon. And they claim their technology can reduce the time it takes to measure crop traits by up to 75 percent. In the case of one pilot, they say a client had previously been taking two days to manually measure the grades of their crops using traditional methods like scales. “Now using this image-based AI system they’re able to do it in just 30 to 40 minutes,” says co-founder Abhishek Goyal. Using AI-based image processing technology, they can also crucially capture more data points than the human eye can (or easily can), because their algorithms can measure and asses finer-grained phenotypic differences than a person might pick up on or be easily able to quantify just judging by eye alone. “Some of the phenotypic traits they are not possible to identify manually,” says co-founder Shweta Gupta. “Maybe very tedious or for whatever all these laborious reasons. So now with this AI-enabled [process] we are now able to capture more phenotypic traits. “So more coverage of phenotypic traits… and with this more coverage we are having more scope to select the next cycle of this seed. So this further improves the seed quality in the longer run.” The wordy phrase they use to describe what their technology delivers is: “High throughput precision phenotyping.” Or,…

The Infatuation raises $30M from Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo to bring Zagat into the digital age

WndrCo, the consumer tech investment and holding company founded by longtime Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, has invested $30 million in The Infatuation, a restaurant discovery platform. The Infatuation made waves earlier this year when it purchased Zagat from Google, which had paid $151 million for the 40-year-old company in 2011. Despite efforts to makeover the Zagat app, the search giant ultimately decided to unload the perennial restaurant review and recommendation service and focus on expanding its database of restaurant recommendations organically. New York-based The Infatuation was founded by music industry vets Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal in 2009. It has previously raised $3.5 million for its mobile app, events, newsletter and personalized SMS-based recommendation tool. Stang told TechCrunch this morning that they plan to use a good chunk of the funds to develop the new Zagat platform, which will be kept separate from The Infatuation. “The first thing we want to do before we build anything is spend a lot of time researching how people have used Zagat in the past, how they want to use it in the future, what a community-driven platform could look like and how to apply community reviews and ratings to the brand,” said Stang, The Infatuation’s chief executive officer. “Zagat’s roots are in user-generated content. … What we are doing now is thinking through what that looks like with new tech applied to it. What it looks like in the digital age. How [we can] take our domain expertise and that legendary brand and make something new with it.” The Infatuation will also expand to new cities beginning this fall with launches in Boston and Philadelphia. It’s already active in a dozen or so U.S. cities including Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco. The startup’s first and only international location is London. Jeffrey Katzenberg’s NewTV closes a billion-dollar round, says report Katzenberg, who began his Hollywood career at Paramount Pictures, began raising up to $2 billion for WndrCo about a year ago. Since then, he’s unveiled WndrCo’s new mobile video startup NewTV, which has raised $1 billion and hired Meg Whitman, the former president and CEO of Hewlett Packard, as…

Farmer’s Fridge wants to make eating healthy food as easy as getting money from an ATM

Fast, healthy food is one of those concepts that just seems too good to be true. But Farmer’s Fridge, a Chicago-based startup that recently closed a $30 million Series C round led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, aims to make that a reality. Farmer’s Fridge retrofits vending machines to serve up healthy foods — salads, sandwiches, granola, etc. — for people on the go, for anywhere from $5 to about $8. In order to ensure restaurant-quality food, Farmer’s Fridge has a chef on board who receives feedback from customers to constantly tweak the menu and the food. There’s also a large workforce in place to restock the food, which is prepared daily in Farmer’s Fridge’s kitchen, every morning. I tried the food while I was in Chicago, and I must admit that it was good. And this is coming from someone who generally dislikes salad. While the amount of waste is low (about 5 percent left over) — thanks to its allocation algorithm that determines how much of each type of food to stock in each vending machine location — Farmer’s Fridge has a system in place to deliver leftover food to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a food bank that works in partnership with 700 agencies, including soup kitchens, shelters and pantries. “The hypothesis for the business is that it’s been done for ATMs, it’s been done for movies, and those things have nothing to do with each other. So the only connection would be that consumers generally want things that are faster and cheaper and more convenient, as long as they don’t have to sacrifice any quality from the experience,” Farmer’s Fridge founder and CEO Luke Saunders told me at the startup’s headquarters in Chicago. Farmer’s Fridge founder and CEO Luke Saunders at the startup’s Chicago-based HQ “So, renting a movie from a kiosk — there’s no difference,” he added. “It’s the same movie when you get home. With food, though, it was interesting because there’s a lot of businesses where the experience is supposedly the most important part, so ‘if you have really good…

Rappi raises $200M as Latin American tech investment reaches new highs

Rappi, the Colombian on-demand delivery startup, has brought in a new round of funding at a valuation north of $1 billion, as first reported by Axios and confirmed to TechCrunch by a source close to the company. DST Global has led the more than $200 million financing, with participation from Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia — all of which were existing investors in the company. Rappi kicked off its business delivering beverages and has since expanded into meals, groceries and even tech and medicine. You can, for example, have a pair of AirPods delivered to you using Rappi’s app. The company also has a popular cash withdrawal feature that allows users to pay with credit cards and then receive cash from one of Rappi’s delivery agents. Rappi charges $1 per delivery. To help keep costs efficient, the company’s fleet of couriers use only motorcycles and bikes. Simón Borrero, Sebastian Mejia and Felipe Villamarin launched the company in 2015, graduating from Y Combinator the following year. From there, Rappi quickly captured the attention of American venture capitalists. A16z’s initial investment in July 2016 was the Silicon Valley firm’s first investment in Latin America. The new capital will likely be used to help Rappi compete with Uber Eats, which is active across Latin America. The tech investment wave has reached Latin America The round for Rappi is notable for a Latin American company, as is its new unicorn status. Only one other Latin American startup, Nubank, has surpassed a billion-dollar valuation with new venture capital funding so far in 2018. São Paulo-based Nubank makes a no-fee credit card and is also backed by DST. Investment in Latin American tech continues to reach new highs. In the first quarter of 2018, more than $600 million was invested. That followed a record 2017, which was the first time VCs funneled more than $1 billion into the continent’s tech ecosystem during a 12-month period. The rise in investment is mostly due to sizable fundings for companies like Rappi and Nubank, as well as Brazil-based 99, which sold to fellow ride-hailing business Didi Chuxing in a deal worth $1 billion earlier…

Porter Road wants to herd the meat industry in a new direction

Down a two-lane road on the outskirts of Princeton, Ky., next to a cemetery and past the Light of Truth Church, is the Porter Road Butcher Meat Co. facility — a staging ground for what the Nashville-based startup Porter Road hopes will be a revolution in the American meatpacking industry. For the company’s co-founders, James Peisker and Chris Carter, the refashioning of the meat business in America is the next step in a nearly decade-long journey since the former chefs first met working in the restaurant of Nashville’s historic Hermitage Hotel.  The two men started their butcher business selling locally sourced meat from the East Nashville Farmer’s Market in 2010, and eventually moved to a storefront in the same neighborhood a year later. “We ended up going around and raising funds and opened the brick and mortar shop in 2011,” Peisker said. “Chris worked a job at a friend of ours’ deli in the morning and I worked at a restaurant at night.” But from the beginning the two men had bigger ambitions, and as the business became increasingly successful, they began thinking about how to bring their approach to the meat industry to the entire country. “What we see the future is is being able to reach as many people as we can in the country and offer them the best quality, most sustainably raised products,” said Carter in an interview.  As they began building the business in earnest, the two men realized there was a critical part of the process over which they had no control — the meat processing itself. “I would love to be Omaha Steaks,” said Carter. “But I would love to bring change to the system that Omaha Steaks buys into.” To do that meant not just sourcing from sustainable farms, but making sure that their slaughterhouse and processing facility was operating to standards that the two co-founders set for themselves. “They put up the curtain to hide what’s happening,” said Peisker of the meat industry — although the dirty side of industrial animal husbandry is well known. “Ninety-nine percent of the meat is coming…

Bellwether Coffee raises $10M to bring more transparency to the coffee industry

Caffeine-infused meal replacement products may be all the rage among techies, but a good ol’ cup of joe is still the choice morning beverage for most of us. To capitalize on America’s insatiable coffee habit, Bellwether Coffee has raised a $10 million Series A and begun selling its zero-emissions commercial roaster and online coffee bean marketplace to cafés and grocers. The funding follows a $6 million seed round in 2016. Congruent Ventures led the round for the Berkeley, Calif.-based startup, with participation from FusionX Ventures, Tandem Capital, New Ground Ventures, Hardware Club, XN Ventures and SolarCity founders Pete and Lyndon Rive. As part of the deal, Pete Rive has joined the startup’s board, as has Congruent managing partner Josh Posamentier. Bellwether was founded by Ricardo Lopez, who serves as the company’s head of product innovation, in 2013.  Bellwether CEO Nathan Gilliland says the company sits at the nexus of software and hardware. The latter can be a tougher sell to VCs, though Gilliland said its latest round was oversubscribed. The company has just begun leasing its $1,000 per month ventless, electric coffee roaster to cafés, grocers and other businesses. As part of the monthly fee, Bellwether customers get access to its online bean marketplace, which they can use to order beans from a revolving list of 20-some coffee farms curated by the team at Bellwether. Retailers and coffee consumers also can tip farmers directly via Bellwether. Gilliland explained that could be a game changer for the industry. Coffee farmers, he said, earn roughly 75 cents per pound of coffee sold. If a dollar is tipped on every pound of coffee, a farmer could double their revenue. Tracing where the beans in your daily brew originated from, whether that be Guatemala, Ethiopia, Colombia or another one of the top producers of beans, can be difficult. Bellwether’s marketplace, which lets retailers browse coffee farms based on factors, including whether the farm is organically certified or woman-owned, is intended to add a bit of transparency to an often opaque business. “We live in such a connected world now it really makes sense to enable consumers…

Autonomous retail startup Inokyo’s first store feels like stealing

Inokyo wants to be the indie Amazon Go. It’s just launched its prototype cashierless autonomous retail store. Cameras track what you grab from shelves, and with a single QR scan of its app on your way in and out of the store, you’re charged for what you got. Inokyo‘s first store is now open on Mountain View’s Castro Street selling an array of bougie kombuchas, snacks, protein powders and bath products. It’s sparse and a bit confusing, but offers a glimpse of what might be a commonplace shopping experience five years from now. You can get a glimpse yourself in our demo video below: “Cashierless stores will have the same level of impact on retail as self-driving cars will have on transportation,” Inokyo co-founder Tony Francis tells me. “This is the future of retail. It’s inevitable that stores will become increasingly autonomous.” Inokyo (rhymes with Tokyo) is now accepting signups for beta customers who want early access to its Mountain View store. The goal is to collect enough data to dictate the future product array and business model. Inokyo is deciding whether it wants to sell its technology as a service to other retail stores, run its own stores or work with brands to improve their product’s positioning based on in-store sensor data on custom behavior. “We knew that building this technology in a lab somewhere wouldn’t yield a successful product,” says Francis. “Our hypothesis here is that whoever ships first, learns in the real world and iterates the fastest on this technology will be the ones to make these stores ubiquitous.” Inokyo might never rise into a retail giant ready to compete with Amazon and Whole Foods. But its tech could even the playing field, equipping smaller businesses with the tools to keep tech giants from having a monopoly on autonomous shopping experiences. It’s about what cashiers do instead “Amazon isn’t as ahead as we assumed,” Francis remarks. He and his co-founder Rameez Remsudeen took a trip to Seattle to see the Amazon Go store that first traded cashiers for cameras in the U.S. Still, they realized, “This experience…

Y Combinator invests in a build-your-own mac and cheese restaurant

Y Combinator has invested $120,000 in Mac’d, a build-your-own mac and cheese restaurant that lets customers choose their own adventure from the beginning. I popped over to one of the Mac’d locations last week in San Francisco to get my mac on and chat with the founders. For starters, the mac and cheese was bomb. Sure, one could argue it’s hard to mess up mac and cheese, but it’s somehow been done before. Trust me, I know this from firsthand experience. I opted for a relatively basic mac and cheese with what Mac’d calls its “#Basic” sauce, which is a blend of cheddar cheeses, a spice mix and a hint of asiago. From there, I selected a combination of a shells and elbow noodle base. For those who are gluten-free, Mac’d also offers a cauliflower base. Next, I picked my mix-ins. Again, I’m super basic, so I just went with bacon and topped it with pulled pork and breadcrumbs. Although the restaurant is tech-enabled, it’s less of a tech play and more of a restaurant play, Mac’d founder Chen-Chen Huo (pictured above on right) told TechCrunch. “I wouldn’t necessarily say with full confidence that we’re a tech company but we’re a company that participates in a lot of tech and integrates tech into the production of our product to grow the business,” Huo told me. Mac’d currently has two brick-and-mortar locations, both of which are in San Francisco. Mac’d is also available in Portland through what Huo describes as a ghost kitchen. In fact, ghost kitchens are part of the company’s expansion plans for at least the next 12 months, as it aims to be in about five to seven cities. “How we plan to do that isn’t necessarily building out more brick-and-mortars in these cities but our expansion strategy sort of ties into that idea of cloud kitchens — sort of like ghost kitchens,” Huo said. “Essentially we move into commissary kitchens and hop on to existing catering and delivery networks and serve our customers like that.” In Portland, Mac’d rents out some kitchen space and sells its mac…

How to Make Money Selling Recipes

I love food, I mean who doesn’t?! But cooking it and coming up with your own delectable creations, that takes talent! If you’re a whiz in the kitchen and you’d like to make money from selling your recipes, read on, this post is for you! What Do I Need to Get Started Selling Recipes?   […] The post How to Make Money Selling Recipes appeared first on The Work at Home Woman.

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