FoodBytes! returns to NYC with pioneering startups in milk quality

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

Foodbytes! dairy participants like SomaDetect and dropnostix are using AI and sensors to improve cow health and milk quality.
Foodbytes! dairy participants like SomaDetect and dropnostix are using AI and sensors to improve cow health and milk quality.

Related tags start-up Research Artificial intelligence Dairy farmers

Rabobank brings another FoodBytes! competition to New York City this month with 19 food and agriculture startups in line to pitch investors, executives and media on their innovations. AI and health monitoring dairy teams are among the group.

FoodBytes! searches for cutting-edge food and agriculture startups to participate in a competition and networking event where they receive mentorship, connections and insights to help grow their respective businesses.

Nina Meijers, platform manager at Rabobank, told DairyReporter, “It’s meant to be a jumping off point for them and for Rabobank to make different ecosystem connections within the industry.”

Companies were chosen based on their sustainability, scalability, innovation and team experience. The top nine highest ranked startups have 3.5 minutes to pitch during the show, and the next ten have 1.5 minutes.

While the FoodBytes! events aren’t specifically themed, the recent selected companies do have a similar overall interest in animal health, alternative proteins and waste reduction. Participant Ocean Hugger Foods creates vegan seafood protein from tomatoes, while RIND Snacks tackles food waste with snacks using fruit rinds.

Non-invasive milk analysis

Among the top ten brands is Buffalo, NY-based SomaDetect, a “deep learning and AI dairy company that provides real-time, automated analysis of milk quality without any addition of chemicals or consumables.”

CEO Dr Bethany Deshpande started the company based on her father’s research with medical diagnostic tests in consumer milk products. Moving beyond the popularity of covering cows and barns with sensors to track their every move, SomaDetect uses non-invasive mechanisms to monitor milk quality and herd health in real time.

Tom Bailey, senior dairy analyst at Rabobank, told DairyReporter, “There’s a lot of emphasis and focus in the dairy industry around efficiency, tracking and health. ​[SomaDetect] is really on trend with safety and tracking of supply chains.”

Because the light-scattering technology does not use any chemicals for monitoring, the analyzed milk is unaffected and can be returned to the milking line after measurement, a big step forward in the reduction of waste and operational costs.

In raw milk SomaDetect measures things like fat, protein, somatic cell counts and antibiotics. For now the technology is being used only on campus at Cornell University, but Deshpande expects it to be able to seamlessly integrate into dairy farms across the country.

Up for more downstream

Germany-based dropnostix is also participating in the upcoming FoodBytes! show. It makes a “rumen sensor health monitoring system for dairy farmers, helping them reduce the annual losses caused by diseases of dairy cows.”

A ‘next-gen FitBit for cows’, dropnostix technology provides a detailed analysis of cow health. It keeps farmers one step ahead and alleviates the stress and financial burdens of sick cows and wasted, contaminated milk, the company said.

Both SomaDetect and dropnostix represent innovations in upstream dairy products, and Meijers and Bailey think the market is ripe for new downstream developments.

“There’s a lot of innovation on alternative proteins and new product design and development. But I would say we’d love to see more downstream dairy products also that are going head-to-head with some of these alternative protein type products,”​ Bailey said.

Rabobank has held 14 FoodBytes! shows in the past four years, starting February 2015. It has 11 dairy-related alumni and 75% of its dairy applicants have come from the US.

FoodBytes! returns to NYC for the third time on October 18.

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