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As the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter, the Netherlands plays a modest role in the biennial Food500. Fourteen Dutch companies appear in the latest edition. The top 10 includes six American companies (four of which are in the top 5) and one French, one German, one Spanish and one Israeli company.

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The goal of the 2019 ranking is to “honor those who are shaping the future of food,” said Forward Fooding CEO Alessio D’Antino. “We have pioneered a data-driven methodology that identifies and ranks the top 500 international AgriFoodTech companies.” For this year’s edition, the selection was compiled from more than 1,500 applications from AgriFoodTech startups and scale-ups, according to the organization. Whether that method provides a complete picture remains to be seen. For example, it would not have been strange if a pioneering company such as Protix were to appear on the list. Meatable and Mosa Meat, which are active in cultured meat, are also missing. In reaction, Forward Fooding says this result is caused by the need to apply for all potential candidates. Apparently, the three mentioned companies haven’t done so.

The Dutch contribution to the Food500 and their position in the ranking:

  • 30 Peel Pioneers
  • 31 The Seaweed Company
  • 33 FUL Foods
  • 106 Willicroft
  • 161 Orbisk
  • 176 No Palm Ingredients
  • 246 Nutrileads
  • 251 Tapp
  • 255 Health Food Wall
  • 293 ByFlow
  • 300 Gastronomixs
  • 341 Celine
  • 404 Greencovery
  • 447 Time Traveling Milk Man

The analysis’s author, Max Leveau, co-founder and COO of Forward Fooding, describes the dynamic shifts and emerging opportunities within the AgriFoodTech investment landscape and analyzes the sector’s future. A detailed comparison between 2021 and 2023 shows significant shifts in the global investment landscape. Despite a sharp 74% drop in investment in the sector from its peak in 2021 (to $17.1 billion in 2023), the sector shows resilient signs of transformation and optimism for future growth, Leveau said.

From mega to impact

The drop in capital inflows was not accompanied by a commensurate drop in the number of deals, which declined 44%, indicating a still active market. Interestingly, the median deal size increased; despite the overall investment contraction, there is apparently more value placed on promising ventures. This shift indicates a shift from megadeals and generalist investors to more specialized and impact-oriented entities. These investors are exploring a broader spectrum of innovations to address pressing issues such as food waste.

Geographic and industry trends

The geographic distribution of investment has changed remarkably, with European companies receiving a larger share of 36% of total investment in 2023, up from 23% in 2021. This positions Europe as a growth pole for AgriFoodTech innovation. In contrast, the share of investment in the Asia-Pacific region, especially China, has decreased significantly, while North America continues to dominate the sector.

Sector-wise, the landscape has diversified beyond the previously dominant Food Delivery and Alternative Proteins areas. Start-up investments are increasingly moving toward less mature but impactful supply chain solutions, including innovations in biotechnology and indoor farming, which are critical to addressing global food system challenges.

Proteins and biotechnology

Despite the current downturn, alternative proteins and biotechnology sectors are poised for growth, the report says. Although investments in alternative proteins have fallen 62% since 2021, this sector is expected to flourish in the long term thanks to consolidation, innovation in product development, and increasing regulatory approvals. Biotech investments have also increased significantly, reflecting growing interest in sustainable and efficient technologies for food production.

Indoor farming is another area expected to grow, particularly in regions strategically chosen for climate resilience and food security. Meanwhile, the burgeoning field of personalized nutrition is attracting significant investment, indicating a shift toward health-conscious, technology-aware consumer markets.