Foodie entrepreneurs stir innovation pot

03-Foodie entrepreneurs stir innnovation pot

Frances Mao

Sydney

(Australian Associated Press)

Ever wanted an airbnb for veggie patches? A marketplace for cheap chef-created meals?

From farm to table, technology is changing the food industry but not fast enough.

That’s why the sector is holding a hackathon this weekend, known as HackFood, to kickstart progress.

Created by industry group Food Tech Australia and sponsored by one of the country’s biggest food manufacturers, Simplot, about 100 entrepreneurs will pitch and workshop ideas around food system challenges like improving agribusiness, food waste and market access.

From the farm and the kitchen to restaurant tables and supermarket shelves, Food Tech Australia co-founder Liz Kaelin says the opportunities are out there for technology to have a huge impact on both producers and consumers.

The Sydney-based former dietician turned tech startup owner came up with her business YouChews after despairing about the meal quality offered by corporate catering services.

Instead of a soggy sandwich, YouChews users have the option to order office lunches from their local area’s trendy cafes and restaurants – be it a pulled BBQ pork roll or a cronut.

“When I first started there was a lot of support out there for startups but next to nothing when it came to food tech,” she said.

“HackFood has come about because we’re passionate about growing the startup system in Australia, particularly around food, the world’s largest market. After all everyone eats.”

Among the business ideas to be pitched at the event will be a platform delivering leftover chef-cooked meals to young professionals, and an airbnb-type marketplace for veggie patches to be grown on spare balconies.

Mentors from the tech and food scenes, including the former managing director of Menora Foods, Sam Schachna, and food blogger Helen Yee will be on hand during the weekend hackathon which will see the winning startup walk away with $30,000 in seed funding.

Ms Kaelin says there’s no shortage of ideas, with grocery shopping startups like YourGrocer and MyFoodBag taking on supermarket giants.

Her Food Tech Aus co-founder Kevin Perry, an ex-Masterchef contestant, has also started a campaign to improve stadium nosh at sport matches.

“We feel like it’s time for people to sit up and take notice of the food tech industry because within the next 12 months I guarantee you that it’s going to be a very different landscape,” Ms Kaelin said.

Simplot’s move on this area shows that big business is interested too.

The owner of Chiko Rolls and food brands Leggos, John West, Edgell and Birds Eye is due to announce the launch of its own food-tech startup accelerator, the first in the country, in the coming weeks.

The hackathon will be hosted by startup hub Fishburners in Sydney from Friday.

HACKFOOD CHALLENGES

* Food Waste

* Getting to market

* Customer retention

* Food traceability

* Improving agribusiness.

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