On stage! Plug and Play Japan’s Food and Beverage accelerator showcases its first cohort

Meros was thrilled to be invited to the final pitch event of Plug and Play Japan‘s Food and Beverage accelerator program, with Meros’ managing director Chisa Ogura on stage as a commentator. Plug and Play Japan is a subsidiary of Plug and Play Tech Center, the global innovation platform headquartered in Silicon Valley.

The 10 start-ups on stage on September 13th were the members of the Food and Beverage accelerator’s first cohort and included both Japanese and international start-ups.

The event was an exciting chance to see the strong interest in food tech among the Japanese industry, as well as the high level of interest in the Japan market among overseas startups.

Here are some of the highlights!

1 There is a high level of interest in sustainable packaging and bio-plastics

Of the 10 companies showcased by Plug and Play, four were related to sustainable packaging. Among the various fields related to food tech, the growing focus on sustainable packaging over the past year or two is very interesting, especially considering the interest from food-related companies in Japan.

Interesting start-ups included Phaxtec, which uses biogas powered by microorganisms to produce PHA, allowing high production efficiency and low emissions. The end product has high biodegradability but the high price remains a bottleneck for the company. The company says they are addressing this issue. From our chats with visitors at the event, we could sense a high level of interest in sustainable packaging and bioplastic technology.

2 From upcycling to precision fermentation?

There were four startups working on upcycling using fungi and bacteria, utilizing by-products of the food industry. They produced end-products ranging from bioplastics to food ingredients and alcohol.

However, the biggest challenge for these companies in scaling up is securing sufficient volumes of raw materials.

One company, Mi Terro, is looking to overcome this challenge by avoiding a focus on sourcing a specific food waste as it scales up its protein film/fiber products, and instead produces protein from microbial cultures. This is potentially a very interesting direction.

3 It all comes down to health!

Out of all the interesting companies in the Plug and Play lineup, the pitch winner was….. was Tait Labs!

Taking inspiration from the dried mandarin orange peels used in Chinese medicine, Tait Labs has developed a prebiotic supplement that reduces inflammation in the digestive tract and promotes digestion. They have a patented extraction technology and utilize mandarin peel waste from juice and canning factories. They are planning to link this with digital-based health management.

Tait Labs’ concept was easy to understand and its potential for future development as a medicine was also interesting. Importantly, this business concept seemed to resonated with the broader audience, beyond just those in food-related fields.

Meros welcomes summer research assistant, Tomo Nagai!

Meros welcomes its newest summer research assistant, Tomo Nagai. Tomo grew up in Hong Kong and will be a final year student at the University of Exeter in the UK, where he is a business management major.

Tomo discussed with us his reasons for joining Meros this summer. “I felt that Meros was a good fit for me as I am very interested in consulting and I value training and learning greatly, especially at this stage of my career. Meros is filled with workers who have rich consulting experience who can offer great mentorship for me this summer.”

“Initially I thought of possibly joining a “big name” firm but talking to both Lucia and Ayako in the interview about the benefits of working in a boutique firm, I thought our values aligned and I knew I would have a great learning experience that I would not get anywhere else.”

“I like that there is a clear sense of a team within Meros. Being a small company, it is important to have great communication and collaboration between team members and that can clearly be observed when working here. From day one I felt very welcomed and had very little difficulty integrating with the whole team which shows Meros’ friendly and team-oriented character.”

“I also really like and respect the attention to detail that Meros provide in their solutions and recommendations. Meros seems to differentiate themselves by really focusing on getting deep information which makes a huge difference for their clients. I can already tell that Meros aims to provide the best possible service to their clients which is an important skill that I want to take away.”

This summer, Tomo will be involved in a number of Meros projects related to different aspects of agtech. He will also be conducting a more in-depth project on the dynamics of the aging labor force in agriculture in Japan and how technology may be one way to address this challenge. He will be continuing Meros’ ongoing tracking of Japanese start-ups in related fields, including automation, robotics and drones.

“I am also excited about actually going to the field and doing primary research through interviews and surveys. Doing this will allow me to get quality information that I would not be able to get anywhere else, which is an exciting thought.”

“I chose the topic of labor and technology as I thought it was a relevant topic in the current climate of Japan. Agriculture has always been a big part of this country and an industry that has allowed Japan to be famous for its cuisine. I read many articles about the struggles that farmers are facing due to the aging workforce and lack of succession which made me want to find an explanation and an answer to solve this problem. Hopefully, I will be able to find a suitable solution that could potentially help reignite this famous industry.”

Tomo is also looking forward to exploring Tokyo this summer. “The main thing I’m looking forward to is the food. In the UK, food is extremely expensive and mazui. Here, pretty much every street has a restaurant that trumps anything in Exeter and I’ll be making sure that I’m eating well.” 

“Another thing I’m looking forward to is catching up with old primary school friends that live in Tokyo. I haven’t been able to meet them in 3 years and this will be a great opportunity to rekindle many relationships that have been slowly dissipating due to the lack of contact.”

Welcome, Tomo! We look forward to having you with us this summer!

Join us for the Tokyo launch event of the AgFunder SIJ Impact Fund! ( May 11, 2022 18:00-20:30)

On May 11, 2022 Agfunder co-founder Michael Dean and John Friedman, Director of AgFunder Asia, will be coming to Tokyo for the launch event of the new AgFunder SIJ Impact Fund. The Fund had its first close in March 2022 at $10 million USD, with Meiji Holdings and Asahi as the anchor investors. The launch event will include a discussion of the rapidly growing global and Japanese food and agritech investment scene, as well as a chance to meet and socialize with agrifood tech enthusiasts. The event will be held in person at CIC Tokyo with online participation also welcome. Please join us! Register at the link below.

Accelerating Sustainable Food and Agriculture Innovation for the Future

Time:  May 11, 2022, 18:00-20:30(Seminar 18:00-19:30, Networking 19:30-20:30)

Registration:  https://agritechevent.peatix.com/

Location: CIC Tokyo (Online participants will be able to join the seminar by Zoom link.)

Charge: Free

Capacity: The in-person event is limited to 50 participants but online participation is always welcome

Seminar Topics: The global agritech and food tech scene, Japan’s position in the global market, AgFunder’s activities in Asia and the role of its GROW Impact Accelerator, the development of the AgFunder SIJ Impact Fund

This event is hosted by SDG Impact Japan with the support of AgFunder and Meros Consulting.

About the AgFunder SIJ Impact Fund: The AgFunder SIJ Impact Fund is a joint vehicle of sustainable investment  company SDG Impact Japan and Singapore-based VC AgFunder Asia Pte Ltd. (AgFunder Group. The agritech and foodtech investment fund will invest globally in promising agrifood tech start-ups who are addressing the most critical sustainability challenges in the global food system. Start-ups of interest include those advancing a more sustainable food system by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating food loss, improving soil and crop monitoring and increasing efficiency and productivity through biotechnology and digitalization. The Fund also aims to connect Japanese agri-food start-ups with overseas investors and will assist overseas start-ups in expanding their businesses into Japan and throughout the Asia Pacific. The fund made its first close in March 2022 at $10 million USD, with Japanese food conglomerate Meiji Holdings and brewery major Asahi Group Holdings as the anchor investors.