From blockchain to bugs, Shanghai's venture capitalists see a future of good food

  • Bits x Bites offers between $75,000 and $500,000 in capital for no more than 15 percent equity in start-ups it chooses to incubate.
  • From day one, meat alternatives has been a top priority for Bits x Bites. "China has a long legacy of well-balanced diets, but the country's expanding middle class has driven the appetite for meat to an all-time high," Ho told CNBC.
  • One of the eight companies Bits x Bites has invested in this "harvest" is the Bangkok-based Bugsolutely, which is already known for their "cricket pasta," which is made of 25 percent farmed-cricket protein from Thailand.
Bits x Bites

China accounts for 20 percent of the world's population and is the biggest food consumer and producer on earth.

This growing demand has led Bits x Bites, China's first food tech accelerator, to invest in start-ups on all spectrums of food technology. From blockchain to bugs, this Shanghai venture capital platform shortens the gap between growers and consumers.

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." Matilda Ho, the founder of Bits x Bites told CNBC. "Over 120 days, we offer coaching and capital to help accelerate start-ups who share our passion to a sustainable purpose-and-profit business."

Bits x Bites offers between $75,000 and $500,000 in capital for no more than 15 percent equity in start-ups it chooses to incubate.

From day one, meat alternatives has been a top priority for Bits x Bites. "China has a long legacy of well-balanced diets, but the country's expanding middle class has driven the appetite for meat to an all-time high," Ho told CNBC.

One of the eight companies Bits x Bites has invested in this "harvest" is the Bangkok-based Bugsolutely, which is already known for their "cricket pasta," which is made of 25 percent farmed-cricket protein from Thailand.

Bugsolutely started the incubation with the goal to make silkworm-based foods for Chinese consumers, beginning with the snack Bella Pupa. These are the same silkworms that have fueled the Chinese silk trade for centuries and are now a plentiful by-product of the industry. Founder Massimo Reverberi believes insects are a key solution to fighting the world's meat addiction, siting Beijing's pledge to reduce domestic meat consumption by 50 percent before 2030.

Bugsolutely

"If you asked scientists to design the perfect meat, they would probably come up with something similar to the genetic make-up of an insect," Reverberi told CNBC.

"Compared to pork and chicken, silkworm has twice as many essential amino-acids and double the protein and iron found in an egg or beef."

Matilda Ho also believes China can be a catalyst for this growing entomophagy industry: "Our view is that China has a real opportunity to kick off insect food adoption in a wide scale because cooked insects can be found in many ethnic cuisines across the country," she said.

"But having a cultural linkage isn't enough; we have to make the product tasty, nutritious, convenient, and affordable."

China is no stranger to food scandals, which has driven Bits x Bites to place a high importance on supply-chain transparency. Another start-up which was chosen for incubation is the Slovenia-based OriginTrail. It offers a decentralized peer-to-peer network built on blockchain technology which protects sensitive data while ensuring it interoperates between players in a supply chain.

"We enable supply chains and businesses to speak the same language with integrity by allowing companies to exchange data in a secure, cost efficient way," OriginTrail co-founder and COO Ziga Drev told CNBC. OriginTrail was the first blockchain start-up to receive a Food Safety Innovation Spark Award by the Walmart Food Safety Collaboration Center in November 2017.

"We need to change the way the trust chain is brokered,' says OriginTrail co-founder and CEO Tomaz Levak "In five to 10 years we want to have an ecosystem where all food data is shared with decentralized protocol."

Matilda Ho told CNBC she sees a future of good food for everyone, beginning with China. "With China's talent, fast technology adoption, and risk capital, having a healthy good food innovation ecosystem can have dramatic and lasting impact on food sustainability. We're just at the beginning to shape this movement."