Not only are large agriculture companies driving innovation for the future of food and agriculture, but newer startups are taking charge in creating solutions. In 2020 the FoodBytes! Competition, hosted by Rabobank, featured a virtual pitch competition and networking opportunities. Innovative companies who participated shared more about their business models and ideas. Food and agriculture companies Agricycle Global and SWAN Systems rose to the top and were named winners after success in the virtual pitch competition.

In 2020 the FoodBytes! Competition, hosted by Rabobank, featured a virtual pitch competition and networking opportunities.

Agricycle Global’s goal is to eradicate rural poverty. They operate in three countries and have a network of 44,000 smallholders, women and youth. Agricycle organizes rural communities into their network and connects them to markets through their sustainable brands: Jali Fruit Co, Tropicoal Ignition, and Field Better Ingredients.

“Democratizing access to the agriculture value chain is fundamentally what Agricycle’s doing. The brands we create and the ingredients we sell is the market for that,” says Josh Shefner, Founder and Chief Executive Office of Agricycle Global.

The pillars of the company include using technology such as solar dehydrators, developing a network of producers, and growing their brands in global markets. Their idea that won the competition focused on changing the way the global supply chain works. Shefner shared the FoodBytes! competition judges were intrigued about the company’s business model of changing the agricultural supply chain. Through the Jali Fruit Co. brand, Agricycle Global upcycles extra fruit from harvest into dried fruit.

“We are not just one part of it. We are everything from tech to training to aggregation to final sale,” says Shefner.

Looking ahead at trends in the food and agriculture industry, Shefner says brand authenticity will be required. Shefner believes labels and claims on foods will be questioned more by consumers. Agricycle Global’s brands include not only a label with information but a QR code that can be scanned.

Shefner shared,

“Focus on why what you are doing isn’t just an incremental step forward but how you are a leap forward. If you are not, maybe see how you can become that. For us, what won for us was that we were a leap forward.”

Another winner of the FoodBytes! Competition in 2020 was SWAN Systems. This water and nutrient management software company is based in Australia. Their goals include helping manage the critical resource of water and finding the best management practices for irrigation. The company was founded by Tim Hyde, Ivor Gaylard and Rod Campbell who all bring unique experiences in agriculture and business to SWAN Systems.

With the goal of helping those who use irrigation to reach their goals, their company is focused on efficient water use and sustainability. Campbell said this is especially important in New Zealand with the water issues related to leaching fertilizers into water tables.

By helping users of their software know how much water to put on their plants, the technology aids in helping conserve and manage water more efficiently. Campbell shared that winning the FoodBytes! Competition was a positive experience in both validation of what they have created and for public relations awareness.

“One of the tricky things in ag tech is that there’s a lot of things going on and it’s a very busy space. How do you actually set yourself apart and create that awareness for the uniqueness of your name?”

says Rod Campbell, Chairman and Founder of SWAN Systems.

Campbell believes ag tech companies have the challenge of getting people to use and engage the product that they create. SWAN Systems uses their own previous farming experiences to help understand what irrigation problems to address.

“When we present, people see exactly how we have gone about it. They go, well you guys really get it because you have lived the problem. I think that is really important,” shared Campbell.

C.O.nxt Insights

Our team of subject matter experts focuses on food and agriculture with an eye on innovation—farm field to processing to entrée on a plate. We can help you build a new brand, protect an old one or target customers to foster sales. Let’s talk when the time is right to handle your next strategic marketing and communications challenge: Marcy Tessmann,