Tyson venture initiative to invest in sustainability tech

Dive Brief:

  • Tyson Foods’ venture capital arm is launching a new initiative to gather ideas from innovators and entrepreneurs to help the meat giant reach its sustainability goals and create a more transparent food system.
  • Tyson Ventures said it is looking for solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and food waste, and to address animal welfare, regenerative agriculture and soil health, water management and sustainable packaging. It will be holding a virtual Demo Day pitch event on July 11, and startups can apply on Tyson’s website until May 15.
  • Through its venture capital arm, Tyson is taking an accelerator approach to the complex issue of improving the sustainability of manufacturing meat products by allowing outsiders with expertise to help.

Dive Insight:

Tyson has prioritized sustainability as a key tenet of the company’s framework as the meat industry aims to combat criticism of its carbon footprint from consumers and environmental groups.

The poultry giant has set several goals as part of a wider sustainability push. According to a progress tracker at its web site, Tyson is on track to fulfill some of them, such as reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. The company ultimately aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

However, the company is performing below target on other goals. For example, Tyson aimed to reduce its water intensity 12% in 2020 from a 2015 baseline, but so far has only achieved a 7.7% decline. According to a food industry water assessment from sustainability nonprofit Ceres, Tyson has made progress in sustainable water usage, but still only earned 37 out of 100 possible points according to the group’s performance scorecard in 2021. Tyson also aimed to increase sustainable land stewardship practices on 2 million acres of row crop corn by 2020, but it has only achieved this on 408,000 acres of land by its target date.

The Tyson Ventures sustainability pitch initiative could help the company identify technologies and approaches that would help it make more progress in these areas, through water conservation and regenerative agriculture practices like carbon sequestration.

John R. Tyson, president of Tyson Ventures, said that the company sees its future tied to hitting its sustainability goals.

“Our ambition is to be the most sustainable and transparent food company in the world — and we believe long-term sustainability will be tied to innovation. We want to play our part and help foster those innovations we think will have the greatest impact to our food system,” Tyson said.

Tyson Ventures, which launched in 2016, has invested over $100 million in startups focused on new protein and food tech innovations, according to the company. These include startups focused on food and worker safety as well as sustainable food production. The company made a $10 million investment in AI-enabled robotics technology last year, and put funding toward plant-based and cell-cultured meat items. In 2019, Tyson Ventures invested in food safety testing firm Clear Labs, which uses a robotics platform to detect salmonella and E. coli.

Another meat giant has also used its venture capital arm to address sustainability concerns. Late last year, Hormel’s 199 Ventures became the anchor investor in Green Circle Foodtech Ventures, a fund committed to supporting sustainable and disruptive food technologies.

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