MUSTS Colloquium: Tanja Schneider (University St. Gallen) on “Financing FoodTech Futures: The assetization of food innovation”

Wednesday November 8th, 15:30-17:00

This event will take place on-campus

If you would like to attend as non-MUSTS member, please register by sending an email to: j{dot}bruyninckx{at}maastrichtuniversity{dot}nl

In recent years, entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond have been developing a range of novel foods – so-called FoodTech innovation – with the aim to transform the production and consumption of food. Examples of recent FoodTech innovation include plant-based milks and meat alternatives, cellular meats, produce grown in vertical farms and insect-based foods. In this talk I explore how entrepreneurs make FoodTech innovation valuable for venture capital investors who financially support FoodTech start-ups. I trace the financial logic guiding these high stakes investments, examining how it shapes which innovations receive funding and which food futures are realised. My analysis builds on previous scholarship attending to assetization (e.g., Birch 2019, Muniesa et al. 2017), valuation studies (e.g., Dussauge et al. 2015; Kornberger et al., 2015) and the political economy of novel foods (e.g., Wurgaft 2020, Sexton 2020, Fairbairn et al. 2022). I argue that an ‘assetization’ (Birch and Muniesa 2020) of FoodTech innovation is taking place: that food innovation is being turned into an asset which can be controlled, traded and capitalized as a (future) revenue stream. Using fieldwork data, I illustrate how FoodTech innovations are made valuable through sustainability framings. I also reflect on what is meant by sustainability in relation to FoodTech innovations, drawing on field notes, interviews and documentary evidence collected for my ‘valuography’ (Dussauge et al. 2015) of FoodTech innovation, to be published as the monograph Venture Food. Through this, I show how the financial logic guiding FoodTech investments and the assetization of novel food require the continuous practical accomplishment of FoodTech’s valuation as a ‘sustainable innovation’.

Tanja Schneider is assoc. prof. of Technology Studies at University of St. Gallen