Six ‘critical’ innovation areas identified by European agri-food initiative
A new seed fund for European agrifood-tech startups has been unveiled by PeakBridge, the agrifood-tech venture capital fund manager investing globally, and EIT Food, the world's largest Agrifood Innovation Ecosystem supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).
The FoodSparks fund will invest in pan-European seed and early-stage startups to offer access to strategic capital and support with scaling up, thereby working towards innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems in food production, supply and sustainability.
The fund will offer up to €30 million of investment over a span of up to four years, with an aim to invest in approximately 10 start-ups per year. The companies to receive investment will all be domiciled in Europe/EFTA and Israel, have protectable and scalable technology, and align with EIT Food’s mission of making the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.
In addition to capital, the start-ups and entrepreneurs included in the fund will be given access to advice and mentoring from the wider EIT Food community, allowing them to benefit from decades of food experience and knowledge.
‘Working towards making the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted’
Benoit Buntinx, Director of Business Creation at EIT Food, identified the problems that it is hoped European agri-food-tech start-ups will be able to solve.
“Some of the world’s most pressing problems lie in food production, supply, and sustainability. As the global population is set to grow to an estimated 10 billion people by 2050, we will need to significantly increase our production of healthy and nutritious food in a sustainable and accessible way,” he told us.
“Achieving this will require rapid change to traditional markets such as the food and agriculture sectors, while growing awareness amongst consumers of how their food is produced will likely accelerate demand for supply chain transparency. The FoodSparks fund will invest in companies that offer high-impact solutions to these challenges, and work towards making the food system more sustainable, healthy and trusted.”
What new innovation areas excite EIT Food the most and why?
EIT Food has identified six critical areas where solutions for improved environmental and health outcomes can be developed, he explained: alternative proteins; circular food systems; digital traceability; sustainable agriculture; sustainable aquaculture; and targeted nutrition.
“There is increasing global demand for protein, resulting in more and more pressure on traditional animal sources,” said Buntinx. “Because of that, there is an urgent need for new, sustainable protein alternatives that are of high nutritional quality, safe, and that satisfy consumer expectations.”
EIT Food aims to create a sustainable and future-proof food sector. It is one of eight Innovation Communities established by the European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT), an independent EU body set up in 2008 to drive innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.
One notable EIT Food alumni is Redefine Meat, which uses plant-based ingredients, proprietary meat modelling and industrial-scale 3D food printers to produce animal-free meat and which to date has raised a total of $35 million in venture capital funding.
Circular food systems are another area where innovative solutions are being used to tackle major challenges such as food waste, noted Buntinx. “Feltwood, a start-up that we supported through the pandemic with our EIT Food COVID-19 Bridge Fund, is one example of this. Feltwood produces low-cost, biodegradable, mouldable, recyclable and compostable alternatives to plastic materials and products, developed from 100% vegetal waste.
“We’re also seeing real innovation happening in the field of traceability. SwissDeCode, another EIT Food RisingFoodStar, helps certify food products as they travel through the food chain by allowing farmers, food manufacturers and other agents in the food value chain to quickly detect soil, animal and plant diseases, as well as food contamination or adulteration.”
FoodSparks will be headed up by Managing Partner Yoni Glickman, working closely with its investors, among them Ordway Selections, CPT Capital, Givaudan, Puratos, and Gullspång Re:food, allowing the portfolio companies to benefit from a wide range of potential co-investment and follow-on investment opportunities such as access to deal-flow, due diligence and business development.
Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food, said: “Funding the next generation of agrifood innovations is one of the most important steps we can take in ensuring a sustainable future for the global food system. That is why we are so excited to announce the launch of the FoodSparks fund. By working with PeakBridge and its venture capital resources, we can offer entrepreneurs and start-ups across Europe the chance to realise their ambitions and scale up their ideas – whether that’s finding the next big meat alternative or reducing food waste.”