Last year I was lucky enough to attend the Food Bytes Summit in San Francisco hosted by Rabobank. Besides the great venue of a craft brewery and distillery, the energy in the room was electric. The goal of the summit is to provide a platform for innovative food startups to showcase their product and to help facilitate connections that would hopefully lead to seed funding. Prior to the event, companies submit their application to demo their product or service at the summit for judges and attendees. From the applications, 20 finalists are selected – 10 to give 60-second demos and 10 to give five-minute demos.

After sampling some of the products, and of course some of the beer and whisky from the venue, the 60-second demos were first on stage. First of all, you must give these companies a lot of credit; the information they were able to pack into 60 seconds was amazing and not an easy thing to do. The offerings varied from chips made of crickets (Chirps) to carbon sequestering (Charborn) to help commercial agriculture. However, the winner of the short demos was Foodfully, which automatically tracks your grocery purchases and sends you a spoilage notification reminding you to eat the food before it goes bad, which in turn cuts down on food waste. This helps both your wallet and the planet. All of these companies were amazing and worthy of the longer presentation; keep an eye out for them!

Next up was the main event, the five-minute demos. I had the pleasure of talking to most of the finalists prior to their presentations, as well as either sampling their product or learning more about their service, so I was ready to hear their official sales pitch.

First up was Imperfect Produce who collect from farmers “ugly” produce that wouldn’t win any beauty pageants but is still perfectly safe and good to eat. Imperfect Produce then delivers the produce to your door. This helps cut down on food waste, which is better for the environment. Imperfect Produce ended up winning the audience choice award – well deserved.

All of the other nine innovators were amazing as well, from a cricket-based energy bar company Chapul, to Harvest Port who created a shared marketplace for seasonally used agricultural equipment. It must have been a very difficult decision, but the judges ultimately decided on Seamore as the winner. They make seaweed-based products out of rare seaweed currently found only in Ireland.

After the demos were complete, two alumni from the previous year’s event spoke, Back the Roots and Kuli Kuli. The platform provided by the Food Bytes Summit, along with hours of hard work and determination, helped accelerate their growth. The success of these companies supports the value this event provides to the startup community.

To learn more about all of the amazing and inspiring companies who presented, I encourage you to visit the event link. I also highly recommend attending the next event, which will showcase many more innovative startups that will energize you.