A total of 60 young businesses from the whole of Europe will be competing against each other for a prize valued at 100,000 euros and, more importantly, direct entry in the agrifood sector with access to some of the main market players.
The European consortium EIT Food has started the 2020 edition of the EIT Food Accelerator Network (FAN). The only programme of its kind, looking to accelerate the business growth and impact of innovative agrifood startups. Once the 60 businesses were selected from the 414 applications from 51 European countries, they were distributed in six cities: Bilbao (Spain), Munich (Germany), Lausanne (Switzerland), Cambridge (England), Haifa (Israel) and also this year Helsinki (Finland).
For four months, in each of those headquarters, the entrepreneurs will be subjected to an intense training programme with expert mentors from the agrifood sector; they will have access to clients and investors, as well as being able to collaborate with each other. For now, due the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the activities will be online, but hopefully they will be able to continue in person later on.
This year there has been a 30% increase in the number of applications received, compared to last year. From the 414 applications received, Bilbao has been the destination with the highest demand, 92 applications. After having made the selection, the Basque headquarters brings together 10 startups from six countries: three in Spain, two in Portugal and the Netherlands, and one each in Germany, Turkey and Scotland.
For the second consecutive year, the Basque city has been selected for its attractiveness as a technological and industrial hub, as well as its international connections. The location for this business accelerator is the EIT Food headquarters for south Europe, in the Basque Scientific and Technological centre.
The programme is supported by, not only the European Commission, but also the Basque Government, as well as other international companies such as Danone, John Deere, PepsiCo or Nestlé and universities like Cambridge, UNITO, Technion or Reading.
Additionally, three partners, Neiker, Azti and the Basque Culinary Centre, will provide each startup with access to their facilities and the possibility to test and develop their products there. Moreover, PeakBridge will organise a forum in Madrid in order to connect the startups with the investors, and the University of Turin (UNITO) will organise another ´roadshow’ with Italian investors.
The plan covers four months, from this week to October, with guided training by international experts, where the startups enter in order to be part of an exclusive network of businesses that are already established in the sector, which includes access to a strong customer base. As well as that, each entrepreneur receives 15,000 euros to cover the cost of participating in the programme. Upon completion of the programme, three of the businesses will be awarded direct financial support of up to 100,000€ each.
Innovative businesses with a high impact
The selected startups come from the whole food value chain. They stand out due to their innovative character and potential for having a high impact on the market. The Catalans from Alacarte have developed the first machine that reduces the alcohol in wines and liquors. The procedure is performed in minutes, maintaining the flavour, so that, according to their promoters “the consumer is able to choose the percentage of alcohol in the beverage, up to a maximum of 80%”
In the group there is also a company from Tudela (Navarra), AgroPestAlert, that monitors pests and environmental variables, in real-time, in order to prevent the deterioration of the crops. From Murcia, Naturbec develops germ-based products that increase soil and crop fertility. They help to regenerate the soils that have suffered from excessive use of fertilizers, in order to advance towards more ecological methods.
Portugal provides two companies. Open Grow is dedicated to intelligent agricultural automation, creating automation standards for all kinds of crops. FooD’Nassay has developed an innovative method for detecting food-borne pathogens. While the traditional methods need a week, this device does it in less than a working day.
The Netherlands has two representatives in the Bilbao accelerator. Odd.Bot has developed a robot that removes weeds, which saves manual labour and reduces or even cancels the use of weed killers such as glyphosate. Serket has developed advanced technology for monitoring pig farms. With the use of security cameras and artificial intelligence, they can identify health, reproduction and environmental changes.
Germany presents Tsenso, a company that indicates the real freshness of food. It calculates the exact useful life in relation to the temperatures in which the product was stocked and transported during the whole supply chain.
The Turks from Nanomik have developed a natural preservative in order to prevent the loss of fresh fruits and vegetables before being harvested. The preservative replaces chemical preservatives that are harmful to humans, insects and the environment.
Crover, from Scotland, has developed a small robotic device that can swim through bulk solids like cereals and grains, constantly monitoring their condition without leaving any grain unchecked.