With a population that is estimated to grow by an additional 2 billion in 30 years and an increase in demand for protein globally, it will take innovation in all areas of food to sustainably, affordably, and nutritiously feed the world.
What’s exciting is that food innovation is happening faster than ever before in multiple areas, from alternative proteins like plant-based proteins and cell-based meat, and better traceability/transparency in the food chain, to delivery models such as direct-to-consumer and ghost kitchens.
To ensure Tyson Foods is staying at the forefront of these innovations, Tyson Ventures, the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods, has appointed Rahul Ray as Senior Director of Ventures to lead its day-to-day operations, deal flow, pipeline, and investment due diligence for the $150M investment fund. Ray has a deep knowledge of investment strategy and management, uniquely combined with experience in corporate finance, and will report directly to Amy Tu, President of Tyson Ventures and general counsel for Tyson Foods. Portfolio management and oversight of portfolio company operations, as a board observer, will also fall under his duties.
Tyson Ventures is looking at the future of food and how we at Tyson Foods can play a role in helping advance the innovations we think are most promising and impactful to the world of food. The fund aims to be the strategic partner of disruptive innovators transforming the food industry and providing sustainable nutrition to a growing population.
Below, Ray answers questions about what makes the venture capital space unique and exciting.
Why did you join Tyson Ventures?
Ray: I joined Tyson Ventures because we’re seeing three powerful trends in food. One is the level of innovation, evident historically in the life sciences area. The second is the amount of investment dollars from traditional VCs and large corporations, like Tyson, that’s enabling this innovation. And finally, the pace of innovation in food that rivals what we have seen over the last decade in the personal computing area. There could be no more exciting time to be a venture capitalist in food tech at Tyson Foods!
In what areas does Tyson Ventures invest?
Ray: We invest across three broad areas. The first is emerging proteins, which could translate into areas of new business for Tyson. The second is technology enablers that can help Tyson operate more efficiently and safely. And the third is sustainability, which explores ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.
How is Tyson Ventures different from traditional venture capital funds?
Ray: We have a strategic alignment with our parent company, Tyson Foods, combined with a strong focus on financial returns. We are a profitable operation, and we want to keep it that way.
What is the top priority for Tyson Ventures?
Ray: Our number one priority is the safety of Tyson Foods team members. We want team members to be engaged, to receive real time feedback on what they’re doing, and to avoid actions that could lead to injury. The technologies we bring to the table are gathering data, providing real time feedback, identifying hazardous situations, and finding ways to keep our team members safer and happier, because that leads to greater productivity.