Nick Rosa, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Cultivian Sandbox Ventures will be joining us at Future Food-Tech Septemeber 17-18. We were pleased to speak to him ahead of his participation to find out more about the changes in the food-tech start-up scene and evolving investor landscape.

Recently there has been a lot of disruptions in business strategies. What has been the most exciting or surprising investment so far this year, despite the unprecedented challenges? What milestones are you looking for in new start-ups, given that the normal metrics aren’t really available in these strange times?

I’d say that Cooks Venture, a next-generation agtech company that breeds, grows, and sells a proprietary heirloom breed of chicken, is one that stands out. Despite the disruptions in supply chains, consumers continue to want high quality food products that check many of the boxes in terms of taste, regenerative agriculture, pasture raised, and heirloom lineage. Cooks Venture also looks to be versatile in terms of selling to retail, food service (although for obvious reasons that channel is depressed), and direct to consumers. Regarding milestones, I don’t think much has changed because we still focus on the fundamentals like judicious use of cash, revenue growth and profitability. While many environments are very challenging these days, we still look for entrepreneurs that can pivot to meet the challenges.

How has Covid-19 changed the food-tech start-up scene? Has it created new opportunities for agile innovators? What areas of the industry are still lacking innovation, that you would love to see more start-ups in? Are there untapped potentials?
It seems at the moment that Covid-19 is presenting more challenges than opportunities. No one is expecting this pandemic to be out of control forever but it is giving the industry reason to look very hard at supply chains, food delivery, food service systems, traceability, and food safety. The pandemic is also exasperating labor challenges, and as such, we’ll probably see an increase in the amount of innovation in robotics and automation. I think the great opportunity for innovation for the rest of this decade will be enabling technologies to address the challenges with indoor farming, new sources of protein, and most importantly in the area of food as medicine.

What advice would you give to a start-up looking for new partnerships / collaborations / investments? 

One of the most important steps for entrepreneurs in the early stage is to team up with experienced industry partners. Progressive large established players (and there are a lot of them) could be important as early adopters, as well as help in meeting scale-up challenges. This is why I believe our model of engaging strategic industry players as Limited Partners in our funds is an advantage for us and our portfolio companies.

Find out more about Cultivian Sandbox Ventures:

Nick will join the panel at Future Food-Tech –  Investor Panel: As the Dust Settles. Join him and other leading investors to discuss the future of investment in food-tech.