Food and Technology Sizzle in Ohio

Ohio is making waves as intersection of food and technology grows

Ohio is known for many things: it’s Buckeyes, it’s aviation history, it’s swallowtail-shaped flag. As one of the central Midwest states, Ohio is also a leader in agricultural products like soybeans and corn. Some might overlook this potential, but for talented entrepreneurs with big dreams, Ohio is just the place for innovating and revolutionizing the way we approach and consume food. The best part? These startups have established Ohio as the epicenter of where food and technology come to play. Here, we interview several of the state’s brightest food innovators and asked them how technology will shape the future of what we eat.


Benjamin Feltner, COO, BeeHex

BeeHex is a Columbus-based NASA spinoff company that builds 3D food printer systems that handle complex dessert designs, personalized nutrition, and on-demand food printing.

TechOhio: What excites you most about the intersection of food and technology?

BF: Knowledge about food composition and the effect certain foods have on individuals will become mainstream, allowing nearly everyone to make informed decisions about nutrition. Also, the ability to use robotics and AI to produce food will connect personalization and automation, which means cheaper, healthier food for everyone.

TO: Why is it important that we think about ways to advance technology within food or agriculture?

BF: With increasingly unpredictable weather patterns and climate, traditional agriculture will face challenges that only technology can solve. As you move down the food supply chain, technology will help detect contamination and improve efficiency. Also, technology is essential for catering to a diverse set of food preferences across a population.

TO: In your mind, what does the future of food and technology look like?

BF: I think we will see more personalization with DNA testing to determine the “best” food for each individual, and robots are a great way to produce that food. We should also see more products and restaurants for specialized diets as a result of improved raw food production methods. From BeeHex, you will see machines for personalizing shacks that check many of the daily nutrient boxes that are recommended for you.

TO: If you could choose one (and only one) food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

BF: Peanut butter.


David Ranallo, Founder and CEO, Azoti

Azoti is a Columbus-based B2B software that connects local food producers directly with businesses, suppliers and individuals interested in supporting local agriculture and leading healthier lives.

TechOhio: What excites you most about the intersection of food and technology?

Dan Ranallo: One of Azoti’s main benefits is enabling larger corporations to quickly form more efficient, win-win partnerships with smaller companies. For consumers, initiatives like these mean more transparency about where their food is coming from and offering more food choices and innovations to stores and restaurants. For farmers, this can mean more sustainable crops and growing practices, helping reduce environmental issues like land use, soil degradation, CO2 emissions and chemical use.

TO: Why is it important that we think about ways to advance technology within food or agriculture?

DR: There are serious flaws in our food and agricultural systems—not just in the United States, but around the world. We’re feeding our population an unhealthy diet filled with processed and sugary foods and creating insufficient policies that have led to a rise in diet-related chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity. Our agricultural system has become overly centralized and industrialized—which has led to enormous farms with few commodity products, dependency on pesticides that have damaging impacts on soil, air, water, human health, and rural economies—and are ultimately not sustainable. Innovation and technology help us to meet the complex needs of the food and agriculture industry by overcoming challenges such as diet-related chronic conditions, malnutrition and hunger, harmful chemicals and pesticides, and social and environmental impacts.

TO: Why do we see so much food / agriculture innovation coming out of Ohio?

DR: Food and agriculture are a big deal in Ohio, with 75,462 farms, over 300 farmers markets, and an economic impact of $10 billion per year. We know the impact they have on us economically and physically. I’ve seen a few Ohio-based companies such as Cibus Tech Corporation (advanced microwave application technology), 3Bar Biologics (activating the power of microbes to maximize performance and sustainability), and ProteoSense (on-demand biosensing for pathogens) that are pushing the limits and making their marks.

TO: If you could choose one (and only one) food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

DR: I would choose potatoes—simply for their versatility. They could be baked, roasted, mashed, scalloped—practically endless possibilities.


Nikki Ridenour, Founder and CEO, Plantalytics

Plantalytics is a Cincinnati-based web solution that helps farmers make sense of their data to make more informed decisions each growing season.

TechOhio: How has your company contributed to advances in technology within the food industry?

Nikki Ridenour: We’re making it easier for smaller, local farms to collect and use their own data, as well as leverage aggregate data and benchmarking for business decisions. We believe these types of farms (micro, very small and small farms) play an important role in our food system. They contribute to food diversity, advance sustainable practices, provide transparency of production and give personal connection to where our food comes from.

TO: What excites you most about the intersection of food and technology?

NR: Availability of information. Of course, there will be a lot of production and efficiency advancements that will come from technology in food and agriculture, but I think it’s particularly strange that we know almost nothing about what most of us consume multiple times per day. Where it’s from, how it was grown, how it impacted the environment, how it got to us or the true quality of it. And even if we decided we wanted to know that information, we couldn’t get it. Wendell Berry wrote “Eating is an agricultural act.” My hope for our food future is that passive eaters become engaged through information unlocked by technology and turn into active participants of our agriculture and food system.

TO: In your mind, what does the future of food and technology look like?

NR: I hope that technology will make the future of food more sustainable, more accessible and more diverse. More sustainable for both the environment and farm businesses, more accessible for those with forced food choice based on time availability, location or income, and more diverse in many ways. I’d love to see biodiversity and diversity of background help build the food system we want to exist.

TO: Why do we see so much food / agriculture innovation coming out of Ohio?

NR: I think you’re most energized to solve the problems that are close to home. We see farms, a lot of us know a farmer. We have resources like university talent, food advocates, startups and big companies like Kroger, and people who want to see change.

TO: If you could choose one (and only one) food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

NR: Artisan bread. Dark crisp crust, break the bread knife, the longer you have to chew the better.


Michael Robinson, Co-Founder, Rust Belt Riders

Rust Belt Riders is a Cleveland-based company that works with grocery stores, universities, hospitals and other producers of food waste to provide an alternative to landfills that is clean, timely and benefits the community.

TechOhio: How has your company explicitly contributed to advances in technology within the food industry?

Michael Robinson: Our application tracks the weight and volume of food scraps that we compost in order to inform internal operations and also to generate environmental impact reports for our partners. We take the amount of material composted and translate it into how much compost is made, the greenhouse gas emissions avoided by composting, and how these offset emissions are equivalent to emissions generated by a car driving “X” number of miles, “X” barrels of oil burned, “X” pounds of coal burned. This also allows our partners to inform purchasing, dial in inventory, and reduce waste.

TO: What excites you most about the intersection of food and technology?

MR: The improvement of data capture to inform supply chain management decisions and understanding environmental impact.

TO: Why is it important that we think about ways to advance technology within food and agriculture?

MR: Developing technology will increase efficiency and reduce waste. I believe the important thing here is the logic that is being used to develop the technology. How does it work towards ensuring that everyone has access to nutritious local food?

TO: In your mind, what does the future of food and technology look like?

MR: The future of food and technology looks like a combination of increased data to improve

supply chain management efficiency and stable simple technologies. Automation is great, but these technologies will need to recognize the interconnected nature of our species and our ecologies. These technologies cannot be developed assuming a certain fossil fuel will be around forever, or that a certain metal will be available at a certain price point because the labor involved in extracting it will always be cheap and plentiful.

TO: If you could choose one (and only one) food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

MR: Goat Cheese


As technology continues to evolve and impact our food, the future of everything from farming to fresh produce has the potential to change — and like always, Ohio is at the center of the revolution.

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