Note: Hasti Afsarifard is corporate innovation manager at Plug and Play Tech Center, the accelerator organization. Plug and Play runs programs across 11 different industries and was an early investor in DropBox, PayPal and Lending Club; all of which went on to become much coveted “unicorns”. In February, the organization launched its first Food & Beverage accelerator for startups innovating across Restaurants, Retailers, Distributors, Agriculture, Livestock, Manufacturing, and Food processing. Some of the technology focus areas for this program include Precision Agriculture, Ingredient Substitutes, Automation, Marketplaces, Inventory Management, Food Safety, and Water and Waste Management. Plug and Play is set to announce the first cohort in the coming days. Here Afsarifard writes about why the accelerator decided to focus on Food & Beverage and what it brings to the table.
The food value chain is confronted with major challenges around products, technology, and business models. Some of these challenges are being tackled head-on with thrilling new advancements, but these advancements present their own challenges.
Automation offers the reliability and consistency required for businesses to remain competitive in today’s globalized marketplace. There are a variety of applications for automation across the food value chain, from the farm to the factory, to the grocery store, to the kitchen. But low-skilled workers are decidedly against the concurrent rise in job loss. Robots are and will continue to replace many jobs that comprise of repetitive tasks. The management of these new tools requires specialized labor but will the trade-off be significant enough?