What does Natural Machines do?
Natural Machines is based in Barcelona (Spain), New York City (USA), Milano/Torino (Italy), and Beijing (China). We have already received 30+ awards and are VC backed. We want to inspire individuals to lead more sustainable lifestyles and contribute to a healthier, more sustainable planet, both for the inhabitants and the environment. Our goal is to produce a full range of innovative kitchen solutions improving the quality and enjoyment of food, making it easier to be in full control of all your foods and have a positive environmental impact by lessening food loss/waste. We further the advancement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, goal #12: responsible consumption and production. Our first released product is Foodini: a 3D food printing kitchen appliance that enables you to personalize food, eat healthier, improve kitchen efficiency and lower food waste. Print using your own real, natural, fresh ingredients – customize foods, nutrition, and presentation, printing the amount you need and nothing more. The premise of all 3D printers is the user becomes the manufacturer. The same concept applies with Foodini. Foodini works with food capsules end users can fill with their own fresh ingredients. If you eat anything from a food manufacturer – like packaged food you buy in a supermarket – then you practically are already eating 3D printed food. This packaged food has been taken by a food manufacture, pushed through machines, shaped, formed; we’ve taken that same concept and shrunk the large food manufacturing facility down to a stylish appliance for your kitchen counter. But the big difference is we allow you to use your own fresh ingredients.
How did you/the founders come up with the idea?
Natural Machines and Foodini all started with a conversation with a friend, as the idea for many other companies start. This friend owned a vegan bakery producing sweet goods and was expanding the business outside of the country of origin. But there was a problem in the costs of doing so: 80% of product costs were tied to manufacturing and distribution, while raw ingredients and labor accounted for only 20%. Rather than manufacturing in a central location and shipping out the final product, the idea surfaced that ideally a mini-manufacturing kitchen appliance could exist in many individual locations, thus slashing the costs of central manufacturing and distribution, while minimizing the complexity of making the goods.
Could you tell us a bit about you and your team?
We are unconventional explorers, chaotic creatives and crazy believers with a resilient yet realistic passion to combine food, tech and design in order to help people eat healthier. We love what we do and we always strive to “do the right thing”… one freshly printed meal and snack at a time.
When Emilio was a teenager he wanted to get a degree in cybernetics (a mix of artificial intelligence and robotics), but as that degree didn’t exist at the time he went for the second best option: a degree in engineering. Emilio loves exploring alternate applications for technology besides the original use – that partially explains why he thought 3D printing could be applied to food. Emilio has proven experience in global markets and technology innovation with over 20 years of hands-on experience in the technology space. Most recently, he was a strategy and innovation manager at Telefónica, leading multiple global startup projects with successful launches, including raising seed capital, configuring teams, and developing disruptive business models based on technology to ensure competitiveness and sustainability. Emilio always envisioned creating robots that help people have better lifestyles.
What are the other alternatives to Natural Machines?
There are some other food printers in the market, but Foodini is the only one that has been designed from scratch as a kitchen appliance, which means easy to use, able to work with multiple ingredients, easy to clean, no maintenance, certifications in place, patents, factory line in place. What we have built has always been with the goal of becoming a common kitchen appliance in the future, not an engineers’ device.
Who is your target customer?
Right now, we are working with professionals that require some sort of food personalization, which includes chefs, restaurants, hotels, retailers, food brands, schools, hospitals and elderly care centers. In the future we will be targeting end consumers as well with Foodini Pro, our device that prints and can also cook using our patented laser cooking technology that is already in production line setup phase.
How does your product make a difference to the industry?
Besides providing the option to the consumer to create the food they want at consumption time, we are also working with the food industry to reduce food waste and energy consumption, reducing the need of oil and water to cook, making the whole industry a bit more sustainable.
What are the milestones for Natural Machines?
We started in 2012 and since then we have developed the product, filed for some patents (and have some granted), setup the factory line and started sales. Right now, we are scaling up, focused on growing sales. After demo day we are targeting to break even in 2020 and launch the B2C version of Foodini (Foodini Pro).
Why did you start targeting Japan?
We already have some Japanese customers even though our product is not adapted to the local market and we haven’t done any marketing or sales effort yet. Japan is also an attractive market because its population is ageing (we are growing fast in elderly care), it is a wealthy society and is also eager to try new technologies. For us, showing we can succeed in Japan will also help boost our sales in APAC.