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Supporting disruptive agrifood startups with the EIT Food Innovation Prize Competition 2019

We speak to 3 winners of the 2018 EIT Food Innovation Prize Competition to learn how access to startup funding, mentors and pitch training has helped them grow their businesses and their impact.

25 Jun 2019

Identifying and supporting the agrifood startups of the future

EIT Food’s Innovation Prize Competition is a pan-European startup competition with a €15,000 prize fund that supports early-stage agrifood startups disrupting the agrifood system to make it healthier, more sustainable and more trusted.

We caught up with three winners of the 2018 Innovation Prize Competition, Bio-F Solutions, Biokind, and ORBEM, to find out how each of their businesses have grown 6 months on from receiving the awards.

Improving food together with our 2018 startup competition winners

Laura de Arroyo Garcia and Marine Valton from Bio-F Solutions are developing sustainable biofertilisers based on algae for agriculture. Max Swinscow-Hall is a microbiologist and Director of BioKind, a startup that turns crop waste into a natural and sustainable protein for aquaculture, livestock and pets. Pedro Gómez is the Co-Founder of ORBEM, an AI-powered business whose non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology is aiming to prevent the unnecessary killing of billions of 1-day-old male chicks in the poultry industry.

The three reasons to get involved with EIT Food’s startup and entrepreneurship activities

  1. Being part of a community with a shared mission – each of the startups we interviewed were clear that winning a food startup competition within a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and companies was very important. Max from BioKind commented: “We wanted to apply as our aim to create sustainable proteins was also fully aligned with EIT Food’s mission to transform the food system”.
  2. Exposure and connections to an influential food network: Marine from Bio-F Solutions said that the strength of the network was immediately valuable to them: “The EIT Food team is very knowledgeable in the food entrepreneurship space, so being part of the Innovation Prize event gave us ‘insider’ knowledge as well as connected us to key industry players. This has really helped us to focus our efforts as a business.”
  3. Valuable early-stage funding: Pedro found that winning the Innovation Prize provided ORBEM the flexibility to grow in the way they wanted to: “ORBEM is still self-financed so winning the competition was a great way to keep developing our technology and moving forward without having to resort to Venture Capital (VC) funding, which we weren’t looking for at that stage of our development.”

How to invest startup funding to accelerate business growth

Whilst our 2018 winners have invested their cash prizes differently, each of our startups have seen rapid change since winning the Innovation Prize Competition.

For Max at BioKind this has been about employing the services of a patent attorney to confirm that they were not infringing on any global copyrights, as well as “investing in R&D in order to get more data and unlock private investment.” They are currently looking to attract seed-funding to allow them to scale-up their technology to a pilot production plant and bring them closer to providing sustainable sources of protein for aquaculture feed.

Watch BioKind pitch their natural and sustainable protein for aquaculture


Bio-F Solutions had immediately ear-marked their prize money for a specific period of growth. Laura explained: “We haven’t used our money yet as we plan to invest it very carefully during our product trials.” Since the EIT Food Prize competition, Bio-F Solutions have gone on to win runners-up position at WE Innovate, Imperial College London’s flagship female entrepreneurship competition and have started to scale-up production for in-house trials. They are currently looking for funding to build a pilot plant and unlock field trials in partnership with farmers.

Marine Valton explains how Bio-F Solutions are developing sustainable biofertilisers

Taking a radical approach, Pedro had set a truly audacious goal for ORBEM’s prize fund:

“We wanted to turn €10,000 into €1million! By investing the money from EIT Food we were able to conduct a larger-scale study, which led to us being selected to compete in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE and finally to us receiving a 7-digit grant from the EXIST Transfer of Research fund! This money has allowed us to make great progress towards building our first prototype, so with EIT Food’s support our dream to create a sustainable future is one step closer to becoming a reality.”
(Pedro Gómez, Co-Founder of ORBEM)

Watch Pedro Gómez pitch the ORBEM AI-powered technology to the EIT Food judges

ORBEM and BioKind have also graduated to EIT Food’s Accelerator Network (FAN), a pan-European programme to help develop high-impact agrifood startups and maximise both their societal and financial success. The EIT FAN is just one of many ways that we are helping entrepreneurs and startups on their journey to transforming the future of food.

5 reasons to join the EIT Food Startup Community

  1. Access to an unparalleled network: access to, and collaboration with, our expert network of industrial and academic Partners, as well as potential customers and distribution channels
  2. Enhanced European reach: we have a presence in every country in Europe and beyond, helping your business reach new markets and develop internationally
  3. Backing from a powerful brand: as the designated EU body to transform Europe’s food system, you will benefit from our powerful brand making your business more attractive to investors and customers
  4. Increased visibility – access to best-in-class agrifood and entrepreneurship events, both in Europe and globally
  5. Long term support - support and training in innovation, investments and business development for as long as you need it.

Meet ‘The Future Ones to Watch’ at the EIT Food Innovation Prize Competition 2019

If you’d like to meet our next cohort of startup hopefuls and discover the latest startup agrifood innovations then come along to our next Innovation Prize pitch days on the 26th June at the Wizemann-Space in Stuttgart, Germany; and on 6th September in Aarhus, Denmark, during the Aarhus Food festival (DK Food Week), with more details to follow closer to the event date.

The EIT Food 2018 Innovation Prize Competition winners

For more information on EIT Food’s startup programme and to find out how you can become a member of our startup community please see our Entrepreneurship pages of our website and the latest updates on our social media channels.


About the author: Matt Eastland is the Writer and Content Manager for EIT Food. He holds a degree in Politics and Masters in Renewables. He is passionate about the connections between food, sustainability and innovation.

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