Navigating Emerging Food Business Models: A Comparison of the Price Premiums Consumers Pay for Convenience

A myriad of new business models are reshaping the way consumers select and obtain their food. As activity rises in the space, complexity heightens, and incumbents must learn to evolve or risk falling behind. To provide clarity on this evolving landscape, Lux created a framework to categorize new food business models and analyzed the price premium consumers pay across these different categories ([see full report here] client registration required). Specifically, we looked at four categories of business models providing services for food acquisition, including online grocery shopping, meal kits, prepared meals, and restaurant delivery. Across these categories, convenience is at the center of the value that these new food business models offer.

Continue reading

Bio-Based Polymers to Be a Key BBMC Opportunity in 2017

2016 marked a shift in the bio-based materials and chemicals (BBMC) industry. Because of sustained low oil prices, changing consumer demand, and emerging regulatory drivers, we saw synthetic biology advance with machine learning and robotics, performance emerge as the main driver in enabling sustainability, and bio-based become the new foundation of personal care and cosmetics. In particular, bio-based polymers have stood out as a key opportunity for performance to drive sustainability in applications such as packaging. 2016 ended with a handful of announcements related to bio-based polymers. Lux highlights three of the most noteworthy announcements as the industry continues to pivot in 2017: Continue reading

Quality Over Quantity: The Complex Case Behind Present and Future Li-Ion Battery Manufacturing

Driven by global EV adoption, Li-ion battery manufacturing is expected to expand significantly in the next three years. A Lux analysis of the larger Li-ion battery manufacturers’ capacity and expansion plans found that current Li-ion manufacturing capacity may triple by 2020, from 73 GWh to 238 GWh globally. Major growth is planned in China by BYD and notably CATL; however, it’s worth taking these projections with more than a grain of salt, as the markets of Li-ion batteries are changing significantly.

Continue reading

The BioAg Alliance Reveals First Product; How They Plan to Sell Is More Interesting Than the Product Itself

What They Said

Just last month, in December 2016, the BioAg Alliance announced it had co-developed its first product, a corn inoculant seed treatment, branded Acceleron B-300 SAT. Monsanto and Novozymes have not disclosed many details about the inoculant, other than that it contains a fungal species isolated from soil, and field trials of the inoculant in corn has demonstrated an average yield increase of 4 bu/ac in the U.S. Monsanto will apply the product to all of its 2017 corn hybrids, including its DEKALB and Channel brands. Monsanto will pre-coat seed before shipping it to retailers and farmers, calling the treatment the first “upstream” corn inoculant ever developed. Monsanto already provides downstream seed treatments through its Seed Applied Solutions division. Farmers can choose to coat corn, soy, and cotton seed with insecticide, fungicide, and nematicide (see figure).

Continue reading

Warehouse Robotics: Assistive Tools, or Replacements for Humans?

The e-commerce industry has seen a tremendous rate of growth, as is evident by the continuous increase in the volume of distribution centers around the globe. With this increase in the number of facilities, so too has the complexity and size of these installations grown. Despite this tremendous state of growth, the majority of logistics tasks are still primarily accomplished with manual labor. In order for distribution centers and other logistical operation sites to keep pace with this rate of growth, operation managers must, and indeed they have begun to, look at implementing automation products. Continue reading

3D Printed Customized Scaffolds Could Help Fabricate Complex Load-Bearing Concrete Components, but Manufacturability Concerns Exist

Last month, Gramazio Kohler Research, a Zurich-based research institute, received the Swiss Technology Award 2016 for its Mesh Mould project, which enables building load-bearing concrete components in any shape without standard formwork. Specifically, the researchers made a scaffold with a customized shape according to computer-aided design (CAD) by using a 3D printer to extrude unspecified polymer, and then the team poured concrete into the scaffold. The mesh-in-scaffold prevented concrete from running out laterally, so that the scaffold filled with concrete finally became the load-bearing concrete component the team designed.

The team is currently working on another project called Mesh Mould Metal, making a metal-based scaffold by using a robotic arm that bends or welds 3 mm steel wire, to pour concrete into this scaffold. The team’s ambition is to eliminate formwork in the construction process of load-bearing complex concrete components. Thus far, the team hasn’t published performance data on the concrete components by either Mesh Mould or Mesh Mould Metal.

The work by Gramazio Kohler Research is interesting, and it may influence the future process of making customized load-bearing concrete components due to advantages of high design flexibility and low or even zero waste. The manufacturing process behind this work is very similar to that of Branch Technology that 3D-prints acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) scaffold and then fills the scaffold with concrete or gypsum.

However, both of the above companies face competition from others developing 3D-printed concrete, such as Shanghai Winsun, as well as 3D-printed ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC), such as XtreeE. What’s more, the method by Gramazio Kohler Research and Branch Technology may present a manufacturing challenge related to the mesh-in-scaffold, which is very detailed and could hinder the poured concrete from flowing and filling in the whole scaffold space. To avoid this, one solution may be to use smaller fiber reinforcement in concrete slurry, but this solution can potentially lead to lower strength in the end product. Another solution could be to pour concrete into the scaffold from multiple points, but this approach may lead to slow throughput and a complex production process. With these concerns in mind, Lux will continue monitoring the process of Gramazio Kohler Research and its potential influence on the manufacturing of load-bearing concrete components.

By: Jerrold Wang

2016 BBMC Roundup and What You Can’t Miss Going Into 2017

2016 was a turning point for the bio-based materials and chemicals (BBMC) space as the industry realigned to sustained low oil prices, shifting consumer demand, and emerging regulatory drivers. In our latest report, we highlight the big bets investors placed in 2016 (client registration required). To emphasize these trends, we round-up some of the major announcements throughout the year and summarize them into the three key themes outlined below: Continue reading

The Five Start-Ups and Mid-Size Companies of 2016 Driving Evolution of Photovoltaics

The maturation and scale of the silicon photovoltaic industry have resulted in a decline in attention from corporate and venture funding for solar-related start-ups. Mercom Capital reports a tepid $1.7 billion in corporate funding, a year-on-year drop of 71%, and $174 million in venture funding – a quarter-on-quarter drop of 57%. The drying up of available funding has led to a fairly sparse landscape of solar start-ups with a handful of remaining companies developing innovative technologies in each area of the solar taxonomy. While the quantity of start-ups has decreased as low-cost crystalline silicon panels pour out of China, the potential impact of those that remain could still prove to be as dramatic a disruptor to the solar industry as solar is to the broader power industry. In this light, Lux Research has determined five solar start-ups we spoke with this year that have achieved the most progress: Continue reading

GE’s Failed Takeover Bid of SLM Solutions Shows That It’s a Seller’s Market for 3D Printing Companies

The month of October turned out to be a turbulent one for GE Aviation. After announcing a $1.4 billion acquisition of both Arcam and SLM Solutions (client registration required), it emerged that activist investor Elliot Advisors (which owns stakes in both companies) was challenging the terms of the deals. Elliot Advisors claimed that the acquisition bid for SLM Solutions undervalued the company, despite being at a 37% premium over SLM’s stock price at the time. GE Aviation eventually dropped its bid for SLM Solutions, and was forced to both raise the price of the Arcam deal and reduce the acceptance threshold. GE then announced that it was acquiring Concept Laser, a German manufacturer of selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printers. Continue reading

Nestle Leads in the Sugar Reduction Race With Its Hollowed Sugar, but Competitors Still Have the Chance to Catch Up

What They Said

Early in December 2016, Nestle announced that it had developed a way to optimize the sweetness of sugar by restructuring its crystals. The “hollowed sugar,” as Nestle calls it, claims to be able to reduce sugars in chocolates by up to 40%. The company has not disclosed details on its sugar processing as it pursues a patent for this technology. Its lead researcher explains that the new sugar “will be processed to have the same sugar exterior – though it may be a globe instead of a box.” The company emphasizes that it uses only natural ingredients, and the compound is still sugar, not an alternative sweetener. Nestle will roll out its chocolate products using the new sugar beginning in 2018, but will perform ingredient substitution gradually to avoid sudden taste changes perceivable by its consumers.

Continue reading