The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Future Leaders Networking Reception celebrated the talents and achievements of the food industry’s future leaders. As sponsors of the event, EIT Food invited several of its RisingFoodStars to attend, to honour the role that agtech and foodtech scaleups play in food systems transformation.
On behalf of EIT Food, founder of Mimica, Solveiga Pakštaitė gave an inspiring speech about her journey from industrial designer to entrepreneur to startup CEO. Although she never intended to become an agrifood entrepreneur, Solveiga encouraged attendees to consider the prospect, especially as the food industry needs the up-and-coming generation to help to solve the trials that the industry is facing. This includes economic, societal and sustainability challenges.
For example, Mimica has developed a temperature-sensitive indicator cap ‘Mimica Touch’ for food freshness. It reduces food waste by changing its texture when food actually spoils, rather than relying on the worst-case scenario expiry date. This label could become a globally-recognised mark of freshness, helping the consumer to save more and waste less.
Celebrating agrifood startups that innovate the food industry
EIT Food RisingFoodStars is our association of successful, game-changing early agrifood scaleups that fix our current food systems. They address challenges within areas such as sustainable agriculture, targeted nutrition, circular food systems, sustainable aquaculture, digital traceability and alternative proteins.
Several scaleups from EIT Food’s North-West region attended the Future Leaders event, including:
- Better Origin – closes the food waste loop by transforming organic waste into sustainable agricultural inputs, using an insect called the Black Soldier Fly as a conversion catalyst.
- Deep Planet – catalogues, tracks and forecasts the world's agricultural production using their predictive crop analytics platform.
- DryGo – an agriculture technology company, produces a sustainable, whole-plant protein ingredient called "water lentils" as an alternative to soy or pea protein.
- Enough – is a biotechnology company that addresses the global need for sustainable high-quality food protein.
- EnvoPAP – makes better use of abundant agricultural waste to create, environmentally friendly and ecologically viable printing and packaging products.
- Mimica – is creating the next generation of food expiry labelling that reduces food waste and improves food safety.
- SafetyNet Technologies – designs and builds trusted and valued solutions that enable precision fishing in the fishing industry.
- Terra NutriTECH - specialises in the area of precision nutrition of all species of livestock through the water system or sprayed on to feed on farm.
The sustainable beverage company HumaniTea (Mighty Drinks Ltd), also attended the event.
According to Tina Chen, Founder of HumaniTea, “It was great to hear personal stories, such as Solveiga’s journey about how she started Mimica”.
HumaniTea is the UK’s first ready-to-drink plant-based tea latte that is low sugar and low calorie.
Learn more about EIT Food’s motivation to sponsor the Future Leaders event in the FDF podcast. Listen here
What did EIT Food RisingFoodStars enjoy about the event?
For many EIT Food staff and startups that attended the Food and Drink Federation Future Leaders event, it was the first event attended in-person since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. For Ghida Elkazzi, product owner at EnvoPAP, the event facilitated a “sense of normality”, where she could share her experiences of working in the food industry among others with the same vision and ethos to improve the sustainability of the sector.
According to Ghida, “It’s harder to network during online events…In-person events that prioritise startups give us an opportunity to meet like-minded people and to get in front of investors and make new contacts”.
For Dan Watson, Founder of SafetyNet Technologies, the event was a great opportunity to connect with the EIT Food community. “I was able to meet EIT Food staff in-person for the first time and also meet some of the other RisingFoodStars that I had and hadn’t met before”.
Director of EIT Food’s North-West regional office Jayne Brookman, welcomed attendees to the event and underlined the importance of supporting the next generation of food industry leaders.
Overall, the event was a great opportunity for the food industry’s future leaders and current leaders to come together and share their ambitions for driving the industry forward. Students, graduates and young professionals were able to connect with established businesses as well as exciting new businesses. According to Solveiga Pakštaitė, it was a great event for “talent-scouting” and speaking to individuals that were passionate about making the food industry healthier and more sustainable.
Why do we need entrepreneurs and startups to fix our food systems?
Our food systems are inundated with multiple challenges from unsustainable production methods to unhealthy eating habits, that require impressive solutions.
“Innovation is needed to address big issues such as climate change and food security”, says Sean Peters, CEO of DryGo. “Innovation often comes from small companies that have new ideas. We want to disrupt the market to make both people and planet better off”.
According to several of EIT Food’s RisingFoodStars, different actors from across our food systems must come together to develop and implement solutions that address the challenges we face.
“Startups are willing to make the changes that are needed to improve our food systems. For example, at EnvoPAP, we can help the big companies to reach their net zero goals”, Ghida ElKazzi, EnvoPAP.
“Smaller companies are often willing to take risks…however everyone needs to be onboard to make the changes that are needed to transform the food system for the better”, Sean Peters, DryGo.
Why is supporting future leaders of the food system important?
According to research by the European Startup Monitor, only 3.4% of all EU startups are in the food industry (1). Not only that, but 9 out of 10 startups fail due to a lack of a market need for their products (2). Therefore, supporting agrifood startups is vital, so that they have every chance to survive and thrive in an industry that is difficult to compete in.
Entrepreneurs and businesses play a critical role in transforming our food systems by developing and scaling solutions for radical change. However, turning a brilliant idea into a successful business is not easy. At EIT Food, we offer agrifood entrepreneurs the support they need at every stage of their journey, from commercialisation to growing internationally.
According to Tina Chen, “It’s important that EIT Food is supporting startups to incubate or accelerate their product or service through their different programmes”.
Therefore, support should be given to the businesses that are developing solutions for the food industry. We believe that building an innovative and inclusive community of entrepreneurs with the passion to achieve real impact, is crucial to our work in creating a food system that works both for people and the planet.
Discover EIT Food’s business creation programmes here.
Learn more about our startups here.
- European Startup Monitor: European Startup Monitor Report
- Munich Business School Insights: 9 out of 10 Start-ups Fail – How can the Lean Startup Method Help to Found Businesses More Successfully?