Looking for inspiration to apply to the Seedbed programme? We spoke to programme manager, Kerri Crossey, about some of the brilliant ideas she’s encountered over the past year
Why Seedbed, and why now?
The 2020s have to be the decade of delivery on sustainability and at EIT Food we want all of our work with the entrepreneurial world to be a key part of that. We do that by helping bring novel and system changing ideas to the fore and helping them grow to have their maximum impact.
The Seedbed programme in particular helps those who are at that crucial moment where they have an idea and a potential market but need some help with testing it before launching it to the world.
We have a very well-tested process that we take teams through to help them refine and develop their ideas, plus a rich network of experts across all sorts of topics in the agriculture, food and technology worlds.
By taking part in Seedbed, startups can give themselves the best shot not only at business success, but – more importantly - creating a real positive impact on the way we currently produce and consume our food.
Tell us about the kind of ideas that come through the Seedbed programme
As with any entrepreneurship programme, there are a huge range of ideas that come through Seedbed and a real variety of skillsets that individuals and teams bring to the table. At the pitching day in November, fifteen teams from across Europe shared the ideas that they had developed through our customer discovery process in the hope that they would win one of three pots of funding.
We saw everything from a location-based app which made use of many data sets and best practice recommendations for farmers to be able to adapt to the effects of climate change and maximise their productivity in an ecologically-friendly way (FarmBetter) to a robotic device with the ability to move through bulks of grains and detect sub-optimal conditions to massively reduce losses and maintain optimum storage conditions (Crover).
Other ideas included a novel technology which looked to massively reduce mastitis levels in cows (and thus reduce milk wastage and increase animal welfare), a smart nutrition platform and a new kind of hydroponic technology which increases productivity by 30%. It was very tricky to pick a winner!
Tell us about the 2019 Seedbed winning ideas
We had some fantastic ideas and really strong teams last year – and both of these are essential factors to winning a Seedbed prize.
One was 2BNanoFood, who have created a novel, safe and healthy replacement to a food industry ingredient which is commonly used in many foods including chewing gum – something that children consume every day. Behind 2BNanoFood is a team of scientists whose mission is to produce and commercialise custom-made solutions based on bio-based and biodegradable materials, aiming to replace synthetic materials in foods while maintaining their quality and safety.
Then we had something completely different – an all-female team called FeJuice who are developing new ‘functional food’ products ‒ juices, smoothies, ice creams, etc ‒ which increase iron levels in the blood if consumed regularly. This is obviously great for those suffering from iron deficiency anaemia - including women at reproductive age, pregnant women and vegans. Recipes for their products are made according to a unique algorithm based on scientific results, and, importantly – they taste delicious!
Last but not least, Windagrotech have produced a wind energy mechanism that can be used as a new renewable energy source for the dairy industry and the greenhouses of the future. Windagrotech can be used even with a low-velocity wind, in contrast to standard wind turbines. It should be able to hugely increase the amount of renewable energy that farmers can produce and access, ultimately bringing their costs down.
What were the winning factors for you last year?
This obviously differed from team to team, but the one thing our winning teams all had in common was that they identified and actively engaged with their potential customers, and most importantly used the feedback to truly understand their unique selling point and competition. Similarly, all of our winning teams were passionate, presented well, articulated their idea clearly and had the right set of skills across the team to execute the business idea well. We also wanted to be confident that the people in the teams could work together and really make the most of the funding.
Working with us on the customer discovery journey helped teams to gain a lot of practice in articulating and testing their ideas with a wide range of audiences, so in general the standard was really high.
This year, we do want to focus more on deep-tech solutions as opposed to platforms and apps. Not to say that these won’t be considered, but we know there is a need for new technological and biological applications in the food system of the future and this is something we really want to explore with the Seedbed teams.
What advice would you give to those looking to apply?
I would say to make sure that you understand how your idea supports EIT Food’s strategic objectives – to help make the food system healthier, more sustainable and trusted – and be prepared to communicate that or build that in from the outset.
We’ve also shared more guidance on what we are looking for, which innovation areas we are particularly interested in (although we are very open on this!) and what we think makes a good team here.
If you think you’re a good fit, then apply! We’re looking forward to a bumper crop of amazing ideas this year.
Applications for Seedbed 2020 must be completed and submitted by Sunday 15th March 2020 at 5pm.