We are recapping CES 2023 with a series of articles highlighting the innovations we saw at the show. See our other article, CES 2023: Spotlight on Digital Health.
This is the first in a series of posts recapping and reflecting on CES 2023.
Following a quieter event in 2022 that was still ramping up from Covid, crowds returned en masse to CES this month. For the first time CES was aligned around a theme, Human Security for All, which included several areas of focus in S2G Ventures’ thesis - Food Security, Access to Healthcare and Environmental Protection. I was thrilled to see CES use its global reach to raise awareness of how technology can offer solutions to some of the most critical global issues. While some of these technologies are already in the market, a number of them were launched at CES.
For those of us who spend much of our time working on issues such as climate change and human health, it was reinvigorating to see so many solutions in one place. Instead of being an area of focus, climate smart tech was woven throughout the conference. It seemed almost every company, from tech giants to early stage startups, was touting the environmental benefits of their products. The main stage also featured a number of sustainability themed presentations on topics such as sustainable agriculture, renewable energy solutions, and how organizations are leveraging technology to deliver on environmental commitments.
Digital health was also at the forefront of CES this year, with a big showing in exhibit spaces, on the stage, and even in a pitch competition. From wearables to digital health panels, IoT healthcare applications and a panel of healthcare executives, there was a major emphasis on bringing digital health and data into the world of healthcare. The focus on food tech at CES also grew with a full day of programming and larger exhibit spaces.
In this first installment we will look at some of the exciting food and ag technologies that were on display at this year’s event.
Agriculture took the mainstage when John May, Chairman and CEO of John Deere, gave the opening keynote, a first for an agtech executive. May shared how the company is building purpose-driven technology to help farmers and contractors balance economic value, productivity and sustainability. His presentation summarized the challenges that farmers are facing today; feeding a growing population while dealing with climate events, declining farmland acreage, labor challenges and rising input costs. Through the lens of real customer stories, May showcased how John Deere is using advanced technology, from robotics, automation, machine learning and data collection to help farmers do more with less. It was inspiring to see John Deere lead the industry in raising awareness of the importance of agriculture and food production amongst the broader global technology community.
The John Deere exhibit showcased their latest technologies.
Exact Shot uses sensors and robotics to apply starter fertilizer directly on the seeds during planting, versus the common method of applying a continuous stream of fertilizer. The company estimates that the technology could save over 93 million gallons of starter fertilizer, a 60% reduction over traditional application, even at a pace of 10 miles an hour.
John Deere’s See & Spray technology was simulated on a full-scale sprayer with a 120-foot boom outfitted with 36 cameras that can scan more than 2,200 square feet of land and capture 1.2 billion pixels per second. The company cites that the technology will enable farmers to spray much more precisely, reducing the amount of herbicide farmers use by up to 66%.
The company launched a new electric excavator powered by a Kreisel battery, which aims to lower daily operating costs, reduce noise pollution, improve machine reliability and be emission free without sacrificing power and performance.
Beyond the John Deere booth, I scoured the exhibit halls for other climate smart innovations in agriculture. Lumo has developed a wireless, cloud-managed water irrigation network that can help growers optimize water usage and improve crop quality while reducing costs. Other autonomous farming solutions, such as AgXeed, which has created an ecosystem of machines along with a cloud-based portal, are enabling farmers to reduce resource use, improve yield and access traceability data. Cargill’s Digital Saathi is a mobile-first Ai-driven online service platform that can provide agriculture advisory services and enhanced market access to smallholder farmers. SentiV by Meropy is a lightweight robot that autonomously moves through fields, scanning vegetation to detect crop issues.
Controlled Environment Agriculture
At S2G, we believe that controlled environment agriculture will be an important solution to augment outdoor growing. There is a lot of innovation happening in the sector, and I was hoping to see indoor agtech on display at CES. There were a few exciting solutions for home indoor growing, include Rise Gardens, a home hydroponic garden system available in the U.S., Agwa, a produce growing appliance designed that automates the growing process (currently available in Israel), the smaller scale Vahaa Smart Garden intended for countertop growing, and GSF System, a Korea-based in-home growing company with a product called MineFarm which won a CES innovation award in 2022 and is scaling to larger operations.
Beyond the home growing products, I was thrilled to bump into the executive team of 80 Acres Farms who were showcasing their indoor farming solutions in collaboration with Siemens, a corporate investor in the startup. The most futuristic technology I saw in this category was KoreaSoft, an edible insect smart farm container platform. Let’s hope next year brings more large-scale indoor growing technologies to the show floor to raise awareness of CEA solutions that will contribute to more resilient future food systems.
I was excited to see an increase in representation of food tech at this year’s event. From sustainable foods to food waste solutions and food service technologies there were a number of companies working on improving the customer experience and the environmental outcomes of the last legs of food supply chains.
Sustainable Food & Ingredients
While still harder to find on the show floor than the sea of robotics and electric cars, I did see more sustainable food companies at CES this year. Atomo helped caffeinate crowds at The Spoon's Food Tech track with its beanless coffee, which has 93% less carbon emission per cup when compared to conventional cold brew. Pairwise debuted their new gene-edited mustard greens created via CRISPR to reduce the pungent smell and bitter taste, making a high yield leafy green more attractive to consumers. It was a hit, served on a crostini at the Food Tech happy hour. Armored Fresh also delighted taste buds this year, offering samples of their non-dairy cheese in cubes and in slices in grilled cheese sandwiches. Lypid introduced the world’s first plant-based pork belly, which according to the food scientist in our group was quite realistic. Nuldam, a Korean alternative dairy startup, showed off their vegan butter, milk and cream cheese. Grow Up LLC showcased their at-home plant-based milk brewing product. Aromyx used a beer tasting as a way to showcase their technology which uses biotechnology and data science to capture unique sensory data and understand consumer preferences. It was promising that my resulting beer choice recommendations were quite spot on.
To learn more about Food Tech at CES, be sure to read The Spoon's many articles covering the event.
Upcycling & Food Waste Solutions
According to the World Food Programme, one-third of food produced for human consumption, or about 1.3 billion tons per year, is lost or wasted globally. Innovations that help people reduce food waste are some of the most exciting and immediately actionable climate solutions and I was excited to see several on the show floor.
GreenLifeTech showcased their FreshDefendTM countertop appliance which eliminates atmospheric oxygen to extend the consumable life of fresh produce by 5x. Orbisk is using a camera positioned over a trash can to help professional kitchens gain control of their food waste by providing them with data on what kind of food is thrown away in what quantity and when. OneThird is working on the tricky issue of avocado ripeness with a scanner designed for use in supermarkets that uses optical sensing and AI to let customers know whether an avocado is firm or ready to eat. For households frustrated by food spoilage, Aurora, which won the 2023 CES Innovation Award, combines UV-C light and vacuum sealing technologies to immediately maximize the shelf-life of perishables.
Restaurant and Food Service Technologies
From robots in the kitchen to autonomous restaurant systems and last-mile delivery solutions, innovation in restaurant tech is accelerating to address continued labor challenges faced by companies across the food supply chain.
My colleague Audre Kapacinskas had the opportunity to see RoboChef technology in action at celebrity pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s bakery in Caesars Palace. The Cookie Shot Vending Machine is serving Ansel’s famous NYC cookie shot desserts through a self-serve process 24 / 7, offering an incremental opportunity for revenue growth beyond staff working hours. According to Aravind Durai, Founder and CEO of RoboChef, the technology is built on an open-source platform that can easily be configured for new applications.
Yo-Kai Express returned with their ramen noodle vending machine, a favorite for hungry CES attendees, and sampled new meals, a smaller machine designed for office or home and a remote ordering feature.
Cargill digital studio showcased their Chekt meal delivery locker aimed at helping restaurants, universities, stadiums and other large retailers optimize delivery and pickup. Ottonomy.io showed off their fully autonomous electric robot that can deliver food & beverages, groceries and packages to curbside, last mile and even indoor environments. iTapToo is a vending solution aimed at eliminating the plastic water bottle and providing a healthier alternative to soda.
It was a pleasure to connect with so many companies and explore technologies that are aimed at making our food systems better for farmers, consumers and the planet. In the next installments we will look at how the digital health and clean energy sectors were represented at CES 2023.