20 February 2018

INNOVATE - Tyson's US$150M VC Fund Completes First Year

Tyson New Ventures LLC Invests in Sustainability and the Internet of Food

Tyson is the top producer of edible protein in North America. 
Tyson foods logo17.png
As part of Tyson’s commitment to grow bolder, the company set up Tyson New Ventures LLC in the 2016, a venture capital fund with an initial investment of US$150M. 

Tyson Ventures has a mandate to make minority stake investments in promising entrepreneurial food businesses that are pioneering breakthrough products and technologies, as well as disruptive business models. All of these investments will add sustainably to feeding a growing world population.

During first year of operation, Tyson invested in the plant-based protein business Beyond Meat with a 5% equity interest in the company and recently increased that stake in the latest financing. Tyson Ventures has also invested in Memphis Meats a producer of cultured meat products that intends to transform the way meat is made, and Tovala a company that combines an internet-connected steam oven with fresh meal deliveries.

According to company literature, Tyson Ventures quickly saw the benefit of strong connections with entrepreneurs and investors in the venture capital industry. It believes a strong integration with the core Tyson businesses could pay significant dividends.

In 2018, the second year of operation for Tyson Ventures, the firm intends to focus on building stronger bonds between Tyson Ventures’ key investment pillars and Tyson Foods’ core business units to meet the strategic long-term goals of the corporation.

Tyson Venture has focused on two core pillars: The first is those ideas and products that will add sustainability and the second is something they call the Internet of Food.

Tyson behaviors show they are committed to a holistic approach to sustainability. Activities in this pillar are focused on the environment, the animals, the communities they serve, their team members and the products they provide to consumers. Tyson Venture intends to invest in emerging companies that can enhance sustainability to expand this corporate strategy.

There are four lenses used to enhance the sustainability pillar:
  • Alternative proteins – companies that are focused on engineering innovative and sustainable methods of supplying a growing global population with delicious and nutritious protein
  • Food waste – companies that are focused on mitigating or eliminating food waste up and down the supply chain, from the farmer to the end consumer
  • Food safety – companies that are focused on ensuring food safety including pathogen testing or supply chain logistics
  • Food deserts – companies that are focused on innovative ways to sustainably feed a projected world population of 10 billion by 2050
The Internet of Food:
Tyson Ventures recognizes that technology has and will continue to impact all  industries and wishes to understand and invest in those technologies that will impact the agrifood ecosystem. Tyson already makes significant investments in technology every year to improve team member safety and drive innovation across its businesses. 

Tyson Ventures intends to augment existing strategies and tactics in seven areas:
  • Big Data – companies that facilitate the analysis of consumer and manufacturing information to better inform the food supply chain as to demand and consumer preferences
  • Sensors – companies that provide technology-enabled sensor systems to monitor the supply chain
  • Disruptive revenue models – companies that develop new methods of obtaining customers and delivering product leveraging digital channels and social marketing 
  • The connected kitchen – companies that are developing technologies to change the way food is prepared in both a commercial and residential setting
  • Precision Agriculture – companies focused on technology-enabled tools to enable growers to more efficiently develop crop plans and apply water and nutrient resources
  • Traceability –  companies that are developing software and processes to allow for deeper insights into the food supply chain, enabling tracking, tracing, recall and recapture capabilities
  • Automation – companies focused on software and hardware tools to create safer, more efficient workflows in our processing facilities
Evidence the agrifood ecosystem is being disrupted is unassailable. When a company like Tyson makes significant changes that will allow it to be at the center of disruption, it is time to ensure you have 'The Right Think' no matter where in the ecosystem you sit. One wonders if primary producer associations and those who support them are taking disruption seriously.

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