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Chef on Tour: A big thank you to the local food heroes across Europe making the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted

06 Nov 2019
5 min reading time

Roundup Edition - To conclude his Chef On Tour series for EIT Food, Josh gives us the highlights of his travels across Europe meeting inspiring agrifood entrepreneurs.

What was the most interesting place you visited on your tour and why?

The most interesting place for me was Reykjavik. I loved the remoteness of this place and how quickly you can escape the city and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. All of the guests in Iceland were connected to the country’s natural landscape which translated into their passion for protecting the local environment. For example, Oskar, the founder of Himbrini Gin is committed to donating 5% of all revenue from their Old Tom gin to nature conservation.

I met 5 startups and popstar Zara Larsson in Iceland, while learning how Oskar (right) donates 5% of Himbrini Gin’s revenue to nature conservation.

Which entrepreneur stood out for you the most and why?

It’s so hard to choose between so many amazing food heroes! Bogdan, the founder of Apiary Book who I met during my time in Bucharest, was certainly a really inspiring guy. His passion for connecting people through his beekeeping app really encompassed the spirit that is needed to overcome the challenges facing our food system, such as working together to protect the declining bee population. Bogdan also travels around Romania educating children in schools on the importance of bee health and to encourage these children to take an interest in helping bees. Apiary Book has also recently launched online courses for beekeepers, emphasising the dedication Bogdan has to save the bees!

I was truly inspired by Bogdan’s dedication to helping the declining bee population

I was really impressed with Aquaponics Iberia. I hadn’t really heard much about aquaponics before meeting with Joao Cotter for the Lisbon edition of my tour. The possibilities for urban agriculture and vertical farming with this technology are really exciting - as shown by their innovative project Fish n Greens. This is an aquaponics project for urban cities across Europe, integrating aquaponics farming, a restaurant, an education centre and topical workshops. This really stood out for me as a venue which can increase the visibility of aquaponics as a sustainable and low impact farming method to help with food production in urban centres.

Joao Cotter (left) was excited to talk about Aquaponics during our dinner in Lisbon

What are the main challenges for agrifood startups when trying to progress in their chosen industry?

Many startups in the food industry have to convince the market that their (often) niche product is worthy of investment. Competing against larger food corporations with vastly larger resources while trying to change public opinion on the food system is a battle which almost everyone I met was facing. However, all entrepreneurs I met with had the ambition and the drive to face these challenges head on.

What solutions are available for these agrifood startups?

There is lots of support from organisations like EIT Food, startup incubators and governmental support for innovation and technology which is geared towards helping the food system. These solutions enable startups to get off the ground and begin having meaningful impacts on the general population’s approach to food. Startups can look to organisations like EIT Food for advice, funding and guidance to help propel their ideas into commercially viable businesses.

What is the one thing food entrepreneurs need the most to improve the food system?

I don’t think I can name only one thing, but food entrepreneurs need confidence in their ideas, a willingness to collaborate with others and knowing where to go for help and guidance. To be able to improve the food system we need to believe that we can make a difference and have confidence in the upcoming solutions making these changes. That’s why it’s been so great to represent EIT Food during my Chef on Tour series as they are helping food entrepreneurs to collaborate with one another by bringing together players from across the food system to work together on impactful projects. EIT Food also helps entrepreneurs accelerate their ideas and businesses, whether this is developing their initial ideas into something tangible or scaling an already developed business.

I explored the amazing food market in Riga where my guest, Martins Sirmais (right), jumped behind this meat stall to slice us all some pork!

After meeting with local food heroes across Europe, what is the one thing you most want changed in the food system?

Again, I cannot name one thing, because lots needs changing! For me, food waste, a movement to more organic foods, increased support for startups, and more education in schools regarding how we need to change our food system are the things I most want to see changed going forward. In fact, many of the entrepreneurs I met with are already educating children on the importance of improving the food system, which is a brilliant step forward. For example, Aquaponics Iberia have a project which aims to introduce the theme and practice of aquaponics in schools. EIT Food is also helping to educate the general public on the food system through their free online courses.

What will you take away from this Chef on Tour experience?

I will take away so much, including a renewed excitement for a career in the food industry - which seems much larger and wider than I could have imagined! I am excited to stay involved in this great food innovation community and to make even more connections with those people who are on a mission to improve the food system. I also really enjoyed the many delicious foods I was lucky enough to try across the series!

The most surprising meal of the series was certainly the lamb’s head in Iceland!

What’s coming next for you? What are you hoping to do now and in the future?

I hope to continue this project of connecting with agrifood startups throughout Europe and the world. I am heading to the Idanha Food Lab Annual Event in Portugal in November where I will speak alongside some really inspiring members of the sustainable food community. From there I will be flying to South America to do some cycling with a friend in Patagonia, where a much-needed break from writing and touring is needed!

If you missed out on the Chef on Tour series, go back to the beginning with our exclusive interview with Josh.

There are many activities at EIT Food helping us build a better food system. Find out how you can get involved here.

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