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Estonia's Innovation Highlight: EWA Programme 2023 Winners Revealed at Tartu Finale

The final event of the Empowering Women in Agrifood (EWA) programme took place in Tartu on November 18th. This open event brought together representatives from the investor and public sectors, entrepreneurs, and other individuals interested in food innovation.

06 Dec 2023
EIT Food North & East

The EWA programme aims to support female entrepreneurs in the development of their business ideas and reduce gender inequality in the agriculture and food sector. The EWA programme was implemented in Estonia for the first time with the support of Tartu Biotechnology Park. The main organizer of the initiative is EIT Food, supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.

Out of 27 applications, 10 women were invited to take part in this amazing adventure. Each participant had a unique opportunity to develop her business idea under the guidance of a professional female or male mentor for almost 6 months and to attend various trainings related to the implementation of the programme.

The goal of the Pitching event was to identify two business ideas with the highest final score, that received grants from EIT Food, in the amounts of €10,000 and €5,000, for further development.

The final event programme also featured three inspirational speakers who shared their entrepreneurial experiences and invited the audience to contemplate and discuss a sustainable and circular food system. First, attendees had the opportunity to enjoy a presentation by Tea Nõmmann, who shared the success story of KODAS with the audience. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the company's founding, and today KODAS is a globally recognized small company that develops fermentation technologies in organic production throughout the entire food chain. This includes the valorization of by-products from production into functional food.

Annemari Polikarpus shared her extensive entrepreneurial experience as the founder and landlady of Viinamärdi farm, where unique sheep's milk products are crafted, including cheeses and yoghurts. Kadri Kalle, a renowned sustainable development expert and coach, encouraged participants to contemplate the sources of environmental impact in food and the implications of a circular food system.

Following that, 10 women who participated in the EWA programme pitched their business ideas to the jury and the audience on-site. Business ideas developed during the EWA programme included both innovative food products and services:

  1. Alina Rätsep operates Vassa Hebin, a natural cosmetics brand that utilizes by-products from local farms' food production to create pure, natural products.
  2. Juta Lipmeister manages a production garden at Metsalinnu farm, following permaculture principles. The farm offers a weekly selection of vegetables through a fixed-order system.
  3. Jaana Hansman focuses on producing fermented kimchi with various flavors.
  4. Kaire Rajaver's startup, Nordtempeh, specializes in crafting tempeh from yellow peas—a nutrient-rich, easily digestible, fermented alternative to meat consumption.
  5. Kristi Kuusmik-Orav and her team have developed Supernacs, a unique superfood. It is a healthy, nutrient-rich, and salty finger food made from sprouts, seeds, vegetables, and spices, designed for a quick and healthy snack.
  6. Liis Tuur's startup, Kosknatural, produces alcohol-free bitters aimed at reducing alcohol consumption. The product utilizes natural ingredients, contributing to healthcare cost savings and valuing Nordic nature.
  7. Maarja Mathias's startup, Foodinspect OÜ, primarily focuses on raising awareness about food safety issues in small and medium-sized enterprises. They address ESG directives, develop food safety systems, design products to meet standards, and facilitate international import and export to enter new markets.
  8. Mariliis Mia Topp's startup, RawEdge, has developed a fermentation technology resulting in ultra-low-calorie products with a unique taste and nutritional value, containing lactic acid bacteria.
  9. Marianne Kosenkranius developed an online web platform as part of a programme, enabling school cooks to access healthy and sustainable recipes.
  10. Sirli Rosenvald's startup, Funki, aims to introduce filamentous fungi-based foods to the market. These products are tasty, healthy, and environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional meat products.

Kaire Rajaver (Nordtempeh)

The winners of the EWA programme in Estonia were selected after summarizing the points received from the jury and the personal progress score assessed by their mentors. In a highly competitive environment, the two winners were determined:

  1. Kaire Rajaver (Nordtempeh) –winner of the EWA programme and recipient of €10,000 in financial support for the further development of her business idea.
  2. Kristi Kuusmik-Orav (Supernacs) – winner of €5,000 in financial support for the further development of her business idea.

We are also very proud of Sirli Rosenvald (Funki), who represented Estonia at the EWA final event, the "Women in Agrifood Summit 2023," held in Vilnius on December 1 (https://womeninagrifoodsummit2...).

Kristi Kuusmik-Orav (Supernacs)

All ten women who participated in the 1st edition of the EWA programme in Estonia will undoubtedly continue on their paths as entrepreneurs. As the implementers of the EWA programme, we firmly believe that the knowledge and contacts acquired from this program will provide added momentum for advancing towards new goals. In our capacity as the local Hub of EIT Food, we will maintain ongoing communication with all participants to keep them informed about various programs and funding opportunities specifically developed for startups. Additionally, we will present the prospects of joining the Business Incubator program administered by Tartu Biotechnology Park. This program is designed to establish new businesses and expedite their success through a customized incubation program, creating a conducive environment for startups to enhance their growth and competitiveness.

About Tartu Biotechnology Park

Tartu Biotechnology Park (TBP) provides physical infrastructure, business development and consultancy services to public and private sector and R&D institutions. It supports companies in finding cooperation partners and is active in the establishment process of new companies. TBP aims to create a favourable and supportive environment for the promotion of biotechnological entrepreneurship in Estonia. Starting from September 2005 TBP runs the BioMed incubator for biotechnology (including foodtech).

Learn more about Tartu Biotechnology Park on their web page.

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