On 6 March 2019, EIT Food South organized the round table "FoodTech Movement: transforming ideas into successful agri-food startups" within the 'Techstars Start-up Week’ in Bilbao. Local stakeholders and entrepreneurs benefitted from listening to the success stories from the Portuguese startup, Agri MarketPlace, the Basque startup, Insekt Label Biotech, and the spin-off, Paturpat.
On this occasion, Koldo López de Robles, director of Paturpat, Filipe Nuncio, cofounder of Agri Marketplace and Iskander Alkate, cofounder of Insekt Label Biotech, presented the challenges they encountered while trying to innovate in the agrifood sector and analysed the way forward to foster entrepreneurship within the food ecosystem.
After the introduction by the CLC South Director, Begoña Pérez Villareal, the speakers presented their own projects. Agri MarketPlace, winner of the EIT FAN in 2018, promotes direct transactions between farmers and the agrifood industry, which allows a redistribution of value in the supply chain and reduces costs to sellers. Insekt Label Biotech, based in Bilbao (Spain), integrates insects in the agrifood chain and responds to the global need to double the amount of protein in both humans and animals by 2050. Paturpat, a spin-off created four years ago by the agricultural cooperative, Udapa, in Alava (Spain), markets the different cuts of potato, peeled, vacuum-packed and steamed, ready for consumption.
Boosting Success in the Agrifood Sector
During the debate, the speakers were aligned on the fact that the agrifood sector is yearning for innovation, although there are still many challenges to overcome. Traditional companies may consider new ways of being creative, such as intrapreneurship, as an intermediate step towards open innovation.
As stated by López de Robles, "Startup founders are the hippies of today", but three key points are essential in order to create an innovative project: "having a clear idea and strategy, having funds and taking the risk". Likewise, Alkate explained that "disruption is not compulsory; what an entrepreneur needs is to focus on what society will demand in the future". Therefore, "we need very strong accelerators that help companies to be ready for the market quickly; accelerators that provide access to good mentors, proper training and valuable networking", explained Nuncio. Thus, Pérez Villarreal announced that the EIT Food accelerator in Bilbao will be opened in July 2019. This programme will support high impact agrifood startups to maximise their success. On March 15 the deadline for submissions to the European program expires.
Before finishing the session, Nuncio highlighted the importance of hard work, because “if startups have loads of money, they just burn it; they need to sweat, what they actually have is the ‘sweat finance’”. “There are no billionaire ideas; there are millionaire executions!”, he added. Finally, the event ended with a round of questions, during which the attendees interacted with the speakers and shared their own vision of the agrifood sector in Spain.