Since 2015, Rabobank has hosted 14 FoodBytes! competitions to bring together young startups in the food and agriculture sectors for mentorship, networking and education to grow their respective brands.
The finalists are split into two groups, with the top half granted 3.5 minutes in pitch time and the bottom half getting 1.5 minutes. The previous shows have produced about a dozen dairy-related alumni, with 75% of all dairy applicants coming from the US.
The most recent competition took place in New York City on October 18. Following the pitches, winners of the Judges’ Choice Award, People’s Choice Award and Highly Commended Award were announced. Those winners were SomaDetect, Winnow and Wasteless, respectively.
Building a ‘more sustainable tomorrow’
Buffalo, NY-based SomaDetect is a dairy company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide an automated analysis of milk quality and herd health in real time without using any chemicals or consumables.
By using light scattering technology, the analyzed milk is not contaminated with chemicals and can be returned to the milking line without waste, saving big on operation costs.
According to FoodBytes!, the judges selected SomaDetect based on product innovation, market traction, team experience and sustainability. They referred to it as “fiercely innovative technology” and applauded the startup for its “farmer-first approach and focus on quality.”
Bethany Deshpande, CEO of SomaDetect, said, “So much of our passion comes from wanting to make an impact in the food industry by helping to build a more sustainable tomorrow, and the FoodBytes! community is trying to do just that. Winning this award is exciting for us and for every single dairy farmer who has been supporting us this whole way.”
Investing in ‘game-changing technology’
It caught the attention of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), a national cooperative owned by dairy farm families across the US, who announced after the show that it would be investing in SomaDetect.
David Darr, president of farm services at DFA, said, “This is a potentially game-changing technology for our farmers and the industry as it allows dairy farmers to know the health of each cow and quality of milk in real time. With access to better data, our farmers can make more knowledgeable decisions, which is a huge value.”
SomaDetect also recently completed the 2018 Sprint Accelerator, a 90-day immersive program for startups which is sponsored by DFA.
“DFA and their members have been a great mentor and partner for us, and we’re excited to continue working with them to help bring the SomaDetect platform to dairy farmers across the country,” Deshpande said.
“Dairy farmers have been our greatest teachers and allies throughout the development of our company and technology, and our goal is to show them the same care they show their herd.”