SHIFT Invest is an impact investment fund that invests in disruptive innovations within the field of agri, food, health and clean/biobased technologies. SHIFT Invest will share its knowledge, its investors Menzis, Rabobank, WUR, TU Delft, WWF and Topfonds Gelderland and the extensive network created by SHIFT’s team.
What makes SHIFT Invest unique is their focus on sustainability. The fund only invests in companies that have a positive impact on either the environment or on health. Florentine Fockema, investment partner at SHIFT Invest says “Our impact committee assesses each investment opportunity, to guarantee the importance of the company’s innovation in terms of sustainability”. SHIFT invests in both early phase as well as later phase companies and looks for companies that can make a significant change in their value chain.
“Our impact committee assesses each investment opportunity, to guarantee the importance of the company’s innovation in terms of sustainability”
Florentine: “our partnership with StartLife is of dual benefit. It enables us to connect to StartLife’s agri-food ecosystem and it provides us with a good starting point to invest in seed and early stage innovative companies. StartLife is an excellent incubator for agri-food startups.”
The fund management of SHIFT is New Balance Impact Investors (NBI-Investors). They also manage Dutch Greentech Fund and Mainport Innovation Fund I & II.
SHIFT Invest aims to be present at the StartLife partner room on Thursdays every two weeks. Please, contact SHIFT if you would like drop by for questions.
On 6 March StartLife signed a partner agreement with METRO in order to develop innovative FoodTech solutions. The company is represented in the Netherlands by its wholesale sales line Makro. Until 1st of March 2020 StartLife and METRO will cooperate on supporting startups.
The METRO Wholesale & Food Specialist Company (W&FS Co.) is an internationally leading specialist in wholesale and food retail. With its sales lines METRO Cash & Carry and Real as well as its other associated companies, METRO W&FS Co. operates in 35 countries and employs more than 150,000 people around the world. In 2015/16, METRO W&FS Co. achieved sales of around €37 billion. The company provides custom solutions to meet the regional and international needs of its wholesale and retail customers. More information is available at www.metroag.de/en.
Jan Meiling, Managing Director of StartLife, on the importance of this partnership for both parties: “Food wholesale and retail companies have been selling their food products in the same way for thirty years or more, but this is about to change. Companies try to anticipate this change, but to do so they need insight into new technology and new, often shorter, logistics lines. The cooperation enables access to the disruptive innovations our startups are working on, from new food products to new ways of delivering or presenting products.” According to Fabio Ziemssen, Head of Food Innovation, the partnership benefits both parties. “It gives startups linked to StartLife access to the stores of wholesale and retail sales lines of METRO, providing them with the opportunity to test their products in a real environment. Whilst our professional customers will gain new business ideas and opportunities through enlarged and innovative assortment”.
With the partnership, METRO is also officially partnering with F&A Next, the match & deal-making event for Food & Agri startups held at the Wageningen Campus every May. From the METRO side the cooperation will be executed by the team of HoReCa.digital, as FoodTech innovation is one of the major areas of work of the newly created subsidiary.
Smart production of food with less ecological impact and its connection between nutrition and health are the two topics that will be taking centre stage at F&A Next on the 17th and 18th of May 2017. Interested companies, startups and investors in the field of food and agri(culture) can register to attend the event.
‘The food and agri sectors faces a tremendous challenge. We must create smarter production in order to achieve higher yields, meet changing consumer patterns and, at the same time, reduce the ecological impact,’ says Jeroen Leffelaar, Managing Director, Large Corporates Food & Agri at Rabobank. ‘There is, however, not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are differences between crops, geography and what we can do depending on the company’s level. But we are already noticing the effects of climate change and the decreasing amount of agricultural land per capita.’
‘That’s why we will focus at F&A Next, on the gradual transition to smart farming, which entails the sector applying high-tech systems and data technology. We will explore this topic from different perspectives. This will provide farmers with a platform for sharing their challenges and potential solutions’, says Jeroen Leffelaar.
Health and vitality
In addition to the need for smarter production of food, the food and agri sector must also rise to challenges in the field of prevention and health. Increasing buying power, urbanisation and the ‘westernisation’ of food consumption, impacts consumer behaviour and consequently the health and vitality of people. Leffelaar: ‘Today around two billion people worldwide are overweight and 30% of these are obese. This has a huge impact on healthcare costs, productivity and general well-being. The food industry can play a key role by providing healthy and tailor-made products. There are numerous innovations at the interface of food and prevention and food and medical treatment. At F&A Next we will provide an insight into the current situation, discuss innovations and take a more in-depth look at the legal challenges.’
F&A Next is an international platform that brings together investors, startups and scale-ups in the field of food and agri. The event is organised by Rabobank, Startlife and Wageningen University & Research to stimulate disruptive innovation and entrepreneurship. Jan Meiling, Innovation Manager at Wageningen University & Research: ‘Multinationals and startups need each other. Multinationals want to stay up to date on innovations and are looking for ways to involve startups in their innovation strategies. Startups in turn need a corporate partner, such as a multinational, at a certain point in their development. This interdependence is a strong stimulus for innovation in food and agri.’
More than 100 international investment funds, as well as representatives from some of the largest international food & agri companies, will attend F&A Next 2017. F&A startups and investors will meet each other during pitch sessions, company presentations, networking opportunities and one-on-one conversations. Meiling: ‘Our program will shed light on the most relevant social and economic themes. We’re also bringing the FoodBytes! pitch concept to the Netherlands. This will provide startups with a strong international platform to pitch their innovations.’
Startups that wish to pitch their innovations can register at www.fanext.com. Food and agri companies and investors that would like to develop a partnership with F&A Next or attend the event are invited to register on the same website.
StartLife has a large network of startups. These startups have inspiring founders who are willing to share their tips & tricks with other entrepreneurs. This Founder Story is about VitalFluid, one of the few companies in the world who brought plasma activated water (PAW) to market.
When the idea was born, VitalFluid had a long way to go. StartLife helped them to find the right market segment. Now, VitalFluid’s product seems to be a possible solution the sustainable production of crops.
Paul Leenders, one of VitalFluid’s founders, began his career in the aerospace industry. He was responsible for air treatment filters upon the International Space Station. In 2006, Paul performed a feasibility study, commissioned by TNO Space/ESA, on the decontamination and sterilization of air. One of the promising techniques that arose from this study was the “plasma activation technique”. Plasma activated air is produced by treating the air by electrical current. This yields oxygen and nitrogen with unique disinfecting properties. Back then Paul had no idea about other uses for this technique.
In 2009, Paul launched a new project on plasma activated air. In collaboration with TNO, Radboud University Nijmegen, Filtex Air Filtration and Bactimm, they had to develop an alternative for alcohol-based hand sanitizers. For the development of a device based on plasma activated air, they received 1,2 million Euro PIDON subsidy. The project team found out that the technique itself was safe. Unfortunately, due to the risk of inhaling gasses, developing a safe disinfection device wasn’t possible.
A breakthrough came in 2011, when Paul lead a project with students from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and the University of Technology in Eindhoven (TU/e). In Eindhoven he met Polo van Ooij, a TU/e electrical engineer who later became a cofounder of Vital Fluid. The WUR students performed some small experiments with PAW produced at TU/e. They performed a simple study whereby roses that were put into normal water and into PAW. The results were stunning; the PAW kept the roses fresher for 2 to 3 days longer. That was the moment when Polo and Paul realized that this technology would be of value to the agricultural sector.
In 2014, Paul and Polo were finally able to test PAW technology on a larger scale in a joint subsidized EFRO project in collaboration with WUR, TU/e, Radboud University Nijmegen, FloraHolland, Alewijnse, Bactimm and Filtex. The results were, again, very promising and in July 2014 VitalFluid was officially established. A tip Paul has for other startups is to focus on one specific market, stick to your business plan and never give up. “StartLife offered great support”, Paul says, “our coach Linze was an excellent coach. He helped us to define the right market“. Linze Rijswijk, business coach at StartLife: “VitalFluid has developed a frontier technology that is applicable in many sectors. It is a disruptive technology with a positive impact on the environment”.
Paul Leenders: “Focus on one specific market, stick to your business plan and never give up”
Now VitalFluid is one of the few companies in the world offering solutions and equipment using PAW. In a specialized plasma reactor, ambient air is split into reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen by an electrical current. These elements can be easily dissolved in water, creating the unique properties of plasma activated water. At the moment, the focus is on the treatment of seeds for the agricultural sector. Several companies have already shown interest. In the future, many pre- and post-harvest applications, like fertilizers, sustainable crop growth and hygiene, will also be available. And off course you can also wash your hands with VitalFluid!
On the 23rd of January, the 6th anniversary of the “NL Valoriseert” program was celebrated by more than 400 people. Thanks to this initiative aiming to increase valorisation, StartLife was established.
“Valorisation, or knowledge transfer, should be encouraged”, said Henk Kamp, the Minister of Economic Affairs. At the event he emphasized the importance of value creation by knowledge institutions. According to the Minister, The Netherlands is the “Innovative-leader in Europe”. Therefore, it is important to continue supporting startups. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science have decided to increase the existing financing for young startups from 63M to 73M in 2017. The program will end in December 2017.
At the event, the twelve finalists of the Young Startup Award presented themselves in a three-minute pitch. These startups were selected from several Dutch regions. The finalists were: LUMICKS, Slim Opgewekt, Delft Hyperloop, ZTRDG, BitSensor, TrusttheSource, Emosys, Pearltect, Rural Spark, Clear Flight Solutions, TMI and Plant-e. LUMICKS, a spin-off of VU Amsterdam, was the winner. They developed a frontier technique to look at molecules, which probably will change the way we look at pathogens. Congratulations LUMICKS!
StartLife has a large network of startups. These startups have inspiring founders who are willing to share their tips & tricks with other entrepreneurs. This Founder Story is an interview with Thérèse van Vinken, one of the co-founders of Cerescon.
It all started in the province of Brabant, 17 years ago. Thérèse and Ad van Vinken and Marc Vermeer decided to do something about the issues with foreign workers in the asparagus sector. Marc was an asparagus farmer and Ad, Thérèse’s husband, had over 30 years’ of experience in machine development and was a co-founder of SoleyTec, another successful high tech startup. Thérèse had studied maths, chemistry, marketing and marketing communications. Ad and Thérèse had always dreamed of starting a business together. Building an automatic selective asparagus harvesting machine with this team was the opportunity they were looking for. It turned out to be a difficult quest but they received a lot of help, in prime part thanks to StartLife.
Several companies had already tried to develop an automatic selective asparagus harvesting machine but they were all unsuccessful and therefore, until recently, asparagus was always harvested manually. Cerescon tried harvesting using different techniques such as radio frequency and radar but they weren’t successful. Finally, in 2014, they had a breakthrough with a capacitive sensor which could measure moisture. Asparagus contains 97% moisture in comparison to soil which only contains 8-12% moisture. This technique enabled the harvesting machine to detect the asparagus’ subsurface and subsequently harvest them before they appeared above ground. Therefore increasing both yield and quality of the asparagus, thus resulting in a higher turnover for the farmer.
Even with the idea, that is just the start of building a business. The team then had to make the technique applicable for farmers by building a reliable machine. They participated in several programmes in an attempt to raise money and subsequently found a private investor. By the end of 2014, when the team had almost given rise to the last sub company, something terrible happened: Marc Vermeer fell severely ill and sadly passed away.
The loss of Marc had a huge impact on Thérèse and Ad. After they had gone through a very difficult period, they decided to fulfil the Marc’s dream and make Cerescon a successful company. Thérèse and Ad realized that with Marc’s death their business has lost their connection to the farming network. Thérèse decided to contact the most innovative and open-minded farmer she could find and pitched their business-proposition like she had never pitched before. Ron Martens, the farmer in question, had seen the failures of other automatic asparagus machines. When asked if he would like to test the Cerescon machine and become the first member of a Cerescon User Group he said: “Mwah” (which meant “yes” in this case). After Ron’s cautious commitment, Cerescon started to expand their User Group. This was of the utmost importance, as they needed a continuous source of user-information.
In the spring of 2015, Cerescon contacted StartLife and joined the Stage Gate Incubation Program. Their coach, Frans Kampers, did entice them with many critical but necessary questions. The “StartLife Personal And Team Assessment (PATA) module” was useful, since it confirmed the balanced composition or their team. “Success within the program was essential for our startup”, Thérèse says, “because it convinced investors”. A tip Thérèse has for startups, is to focus earlier on developing a solid financial plan. “There is even subsidies available for advice on building a financial plan”, she adds. Next to that Cerescon thinks it is important not to give shares away too easily in the beginning as you need the shares in a later stage of your establishment to acquire interest of large investors.
“Cerescon is a professional startup, that finished the Stage Gate Program in a record time”, adds Frans Kampers.
More and more asparagus growers have joined the Cerescon User Group. Now, even the biggest German growers are showing commitment. Cerescon expects to bring the first commercial machine on the market in 2018. Soon, asparagus will be harvested automatically!
Encouraged by the EOI EUROPEAN COWORKINGS, StartLife and RSC Talent have agreed to, in December 2016, explore the potential of a soft landing exchange project for agri-food centric tech-starters. Agri-food startups in Andalusia, Spain, can be further developed by collaborating with the existing network of technostarters from StartLife and Wageningen University and Research as well as through Dutch national innovation initiatives and through a collaboration with the Food Valley.
The project was created with the aim to advance agri-food activities in Andalusia as well as to improve the current agri-food practices through emerging technologies, and innovation
The agri-food sector is becoming increasingly competitive with export trade becoming especially challenging. There is a need to innovate and provide tools for players in the sector to combat such challenges. Concurrently creating more jobs and improving wealth in rural and urban communities. Moreover, sector related problems could be solved by building upon activities and introducing new instruments towards the acceleration of innovation on an international scale.
The project will end in December 2018. More information can be found on the EOI-website.
Every year, the most promising and innovative Dutch startup receives The Young Startup Award. Twelve startups from several Dutch regions were selected as finalists: LUMICKS, Slim Opgewekt, Delft Hyperloop, ZTRDG, BitSensor, TrusttheSource, Emosys, Pearltect, Rural Spark, Clear Flight Solutions, TMI and Plant-e.
The finalists will present themselves at the NL Valoriseert event on the 23rd of January, 2017. Finalists pitch their business plan during a 3-minute pitch. The Award winner receives 5000 Euro. Innovative startups and companies are welcome to attend this event. Also, investors, corporates and politicians like Minister Kamp of Economic Affairs and Constantijn van Oranje, special envoy Startup Delta, will be present.
Subscription and more information can be found at the website.
Date and time: 14.30-19.30, 23 January 2017. Location: De Grolsch Veste, Enschede. Language program: Dutch Costs: free
StartLife has a large network of start-ups. All of these startups have powerful inspiring founders who are willing to share their tips & tricks with other entrepreneurs. In order to give these founders a platform to share on, we started the StartLife Founder Stories. This story is an interview with Fokke Buwalda, founder of B-Mex.
“Greenhouse growers don’t want to experiment with their crop. They are looking for answers. The products we make are similar to the development from road maps to navigation systems”, says Fokke, “local data were already present, but now the effect of changes in growing conditions can be predicted accurately.” Via the web service which is provided by B-Mex, growers can gain insight into their crop performance.
Fokke Buwalda started his career as an Eco-physiologist (the study of the interactions between plants and their environment). Over time, he gained considerable knowledge about the influence of environmental factors on plants. Together with Gerrit van Straten and Ido Seginer, he set up a large European research project aimed at applying crop science into mathematical models. The project resulted in applicable models and many highly cited papers. However, the models never reached the market. It became a pattern: at the end of each project, the next step, i.e. a company investing in commercialization of the model, never eventuated. Gradually, Fokke became frustrated: valuable knowledge was not finding its way into practice, but disappeared in scientific reports. As a hobby, he started to develop mathematical models for himself.
In 2011, Fokke met Jan Meiling. Jan organized a business challenge and invited him to participate. Like many academics, Fokke knew very little about entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, together with two fellow researchers, he submitted a plan to commercialize a simulation model designed to predict pepper yields. Although Fokke and his team didn’t win the award, they were invited by Jan for a workshop by Wietze van der Aa on setting up service-oriented startups. That training was a real eye-opener: suddenly Fokke realized that he could start a business himself, rather than waiting for others to invest in his ideas.
At the same time, Wageningen University and Research announced a reorganization. Fokke seized the opportunity and resigned from his permanent position by the end of 2013. His employer had become aware the importance of knowledge valorization. As a result, a comprehensive licensing agreement was reached, granting Fokke’s company B-Mex access to the latest advancements in horticultural science and exclusive rights to commercialize simulation models.
In October 2015, Peter van Beveren joined B-Mex. He is an expert on simulation models for energy management in greenhouses. Expanding the team was of utmost importance: “even though I am a jack of all trades, time is always limited”, says Fokke. At the moment, B-Mex’s team consists of four employees. Another lesson learned was that it is crucial to focus on the planned trajectory when starting a company. Sometimes it is wise to outsource work or to seek partnerships with other companies rather than try it yourself and stagnate. StartLife provided him with the right network. Now, B-Mex is able to make valuable knowledge practically available in the greenhouse industry.
“B-Mex is an example of a true university spin-out. They showed that cooperation between spin-out and university is needed to commercialize scientific insights” – Gitte Schober, Centre of Entrepreneurship Wageningen & StartLife.
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially approved the “Smart Agri-Food Innovation Hub”-project in Lebanon. “Innovative ideas seem to need a boost”, says Jan Meiling, “many young enterprises in Lebanon present a high potential for job creation. We will connect them for applications and networks in Food & Agro, creating business opportunities in both Europe and the Middle East region.
”The coming two years StartLife, FoodValleyNL and Berytech will jointly develop an active agro food cluster and a start-up acceleration program. The project demonstrates a high commitment of both Dutch and Lebanese partners. Jan Meiling: “The project will be launched at the Dutch embassy in Beirut in January 2017”.
More information about Berytech can be found on their website.
On the 14th of December Martijn van Dam, State Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, announced that not one, but two funds will be available for agro-food start-ups.
As previously announced the Ministry of Economic Affairs will support young enterprises with the SEED Capital fund. This fund of 6 million Euro will be doubled by the Ministry. Both the Future Food Fund and the Shift Seed Fund were in the race to be doubled.
Unexpectedly, Martijn van Dam made public that the Ministry didn’t approve one of the funds but both of them. This means that two SEED Capital funds of 12 million Euro each are available for start-ups in the agrifood-sector. This news was revealed at the AgriFoodTech exhibition in Den Bosch at which many innovative entrepreneurs were present. The overall aim of the event was to find solutions for the global environmental challenges of the future. But what these bright entrepreneurs often lack is capital to grow.
StartLife will actively enable start-ups to make use of the fund. Please, let us know if you’re interested.
In November StartLife strengthened its international ties. StartLife visited Greece, Vietnam and welcomed guests from all over the world.
3rd of November – Delegates of Dutch embassies
Delegates of Economic Affairs from 22 Dutch embassies worldwide visited StartLife to get inspired by our startups, the Stage Gate Program and the way we support entrepreneurs. These delegates are responsible for the coordination of international business relations all over the world. Therefore, StartLife set up a captivating program. Incubation Manager Jannet de Jong kicked-off the event with an introduction. Eagleview took over with some brilliant examples of their airborne mapping & crop analysis. Hacklent continued, a startup who has created one of the first natural meal replacers. Last but not least, Livestock Robotics pitched its CollEGGtor: a machine which removes wrongly laid eggs in poultry stables. Startlife left the delegates with great ideas and new international contacts.
11th of November – Thessaloniki, Greece
Greek entrepreneurs in the field of agriculture and food were trained by StartLife team members Jannet de Jong and Gitte Schober. The 4th Agri-Food Masterclass took place at the OK!Thess co-working space from the 11th to the 14th of November. The Masterclass was organized by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Greece, Orange Grove, Dutch experts from Wageningen University & Research, StartLife and AgriEnt. The event brought together young entrepreneurs from the flourishing Greek startup scene and Dutch excellence in the field of agriculture and business development. Caspar Veldkamp, Ambassador of the Netherlands in Greece: “we believe there is exceptional talent available in Greece. We need to nurture it to make the economy grow again and create business partners for Europe’s future.” For more information about the masterclass you can visit the website.
14th of November – Vietnam
StartLife participated in the NutriSEA project in Vietnam. NutriSEA is a consortium of 14 partner institutions from Europe and Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar). The aim is to build HR capacity to ensure a sustainable food value chain model, based on entrepreneurship and creating added value. It focussed on a food-related curriculum development, cooperation with enterprises via Technology Transfer Offices and strengthening regional and (inter)national networking. The long-term goal is to set up a regional food network with stakeholders from academia, business and authorities. Jan Meiling, represented StartLife as the entrepreneurial branch of Wageningen University & Research.
21st of November – Berytech, Lebanon
From the 21st to the 24th of November StartLife welcomed a Lebanese delegation from the Dutch Embassy in Lebanon and Berytech. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands has granted a two year program on supporting entrepreneurs in agro-food in Lebanon. An acceleration program, an active agro food cluster and startup support will be developed by Berytech together with FoodValleyNL and StartLife. By visiting FoodValleyNL and StartLife, the delegation gained insight into the programs, support tools and network activities of our network. They met the FoodValleyNL and StartLife team, StartUpDelta and several startups at the StartHub. Starting in January 2017, FoodValleyNL, StartLife and Berytech will collaborate innovation a two year acceleration program for Lebanese agrotech and food tech startup’s and an innovative industry cluster. More information about Berytech can be found on the website.
StartLife has a large network of startups. All of these startups have powerful inspiring founders who are willing to share their tips & tricks with other entrepreneurs. In order to give these founders a platform to share on, we started the StartLife Founder Stories. This story is an interview with Wilbert de Louw, co-founder of Foodcase.
A patent for a self-heating system for cans, that is what it all started with. Together Wilbert de Louw, entrepreneur, and Oscar Huizing, chef, decided to develop a product with this technology. In 2011 they got in touch with StartLife. The technology needed improvement. StartLife connected them with the right experts from Wageningen University & Research. The experts helped them with texture and preservability issues. Beginning 2012, Foodcase created their first products: chocolate milk and soup, in a self-heating can. The food could be heated anywhere & anytime. A product with many opportunities you would think.
Unfortunately, it was more difficult to find a good market segment than initially thought. When a large party showed interest, the product had to be changed a lot. This party was a Dutch airline company. To fit this market, Foodcase had to improve the product in terms of hygiene guidelines, taste, packaging, air pressure resistance, nutritional content, production method and scale. They even carried out market research in collaboration with StartLife, in order to investigate this drastic change of course.
In 2013 Foodcase made the leap and signed the global contract with an airline caterer. Unfortunately this global contract did not give Foodcase enough market awareness. It seemed that the caterer wanted to have an agreement to protect their own business rather than to accelerate Foodcase’s business. Therefore Foodcase decided to focus on its own sales force. With that, their beachhead market increased to 27 airline industries. To create the best meals Foodcase recruited a full power team of nutritionists, food technologists, market & consumer experts above all culinary experience.
When they began selling their first products in 2013, a factory in the province of Brabant took care of production. Unfortunately this manufacturer was not able to guarantee the specs of the products and Foodcase received many complaints. They were forced to find a new manufacturer, which they found in the province of Limburg.
At the end of 2014 something unexpected happened: the manufacturer almost went bankrupt. Foodcase had made itself reliant on them. Again they had to make a hard decision: either invest all their capital into production or lose the market with the risk that they wouldn’t survive. They choose the first option. Foodcase had to stop all development activities, reduce its staff and invest a lot in production. But they survived. After a few hard years and a lot of learnings (production is now again outsourced and factory has been sold to a production partner) Foodcase is market leader in ambient meal supply for airlines in Europe.
Last week, Foodcase joined the Dutch Trade Mission of Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Indonesia. Foodcase found a great partner in Indonesia to meet the demand of the growing market in Asia.
Looking back, Wilbert is proud of what the company has achieved. Decisions, like the commitment with the airline industry and switching from development to sales, and above all the operational excellence and relying on solid production partners were crucial for the success of Foodcase. In the future, Foodcase will focus on perishable foods in closed market segments like healthcare and army catering. The goal is to become the experts.
Thomas van den Boezem, Program Manager at StartLife: ‘’Foodcase is a perfect example of a radical innovation that adds value to suppliers, end-users, as well as the environment. The highly experienced and passionate team is able to overcome the obstacles that they face. We need more Foodcases to shake up the Food and Hospitality sector.”
During the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) from the 14th to the 18th of November, entrepreneurship was celebrated in more than 160 countries. More than 100 events in the Netherlands inspired entrepreneurs, students, policymakers and academics to engage in entrepreneurship and connect them to mentors, new talent or investors.
Kick off Deventer – 14 November
The Global Entrepreneurship Week in the province of Gelderland and Overijssel was officially launched with an event at De Gasfabriek in Deventer. This event was organized in cooperation with Hogeschool Arnhem Nijmegen, Universiteit Twente, Saxion Hogeschool and the local Centers of Entrepreneurship. Enterprising students, local entrepreneurs, officials and deputies were part of the network.
Iris de Winter, Incubation Manager StartLife: “StartLife was represented with a part of the team at this event. During the opening there were interesting speakers and we could contribute to the speed dates. We talked to students and young entrepreneurs about their business ideas, growth ambitions and potential financial partners”.
Celebration student incubator StartHub
In the Global Entrepreneurship Week StartHub Wageningen also celebrated its 2-year anniversary with an official toast.
Launch of the Young Hero Award nomination – 16 November
At the Entrepreneurial Drinks, at StartHub, the nomination for the Wageningen Entrepreneur of the Year was officially opened. For this business competition, entrepreneurs can be nominated for the Rabobank Startup of the Year Award, MKB & Grootzakelijk Award, Detailhandel & Horeca Award and the Young Hero Award, which is a special category for StartHub startups.
The Award Ceremony will be at Theater Junushoff in Wageningen on 27th March 2017. More information can be found on the website.
Would you like to be nominated? Send an email to Gitte Schober. You can register until the 13th of December 2016.
How To Get There Summit – 17 November 2016
3000 startups, corporates and innovation hubs joined for the How To Get There (HTGT) Summit in the Hague to innovate faster together. The HTGT Summit was initiated by minister Kamp of Economic Affairs and was organized by the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Applied Sciences in The Hague.
Constantijn van Oranje, Special Envoy with StartupDelta opened the HTGT Summit together with Martin Luxemburg (director of Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship) and Jan Lintsen (The Hague University of Applied Sciences). Corporates such as EY, KPN, Port of Rotterdam, PwC, Vopak and APM Terminals joined the HTGT Summit to actively seek collaboration with startups. The innovation hubs of the Netherlands displayed their knowledge, services and expertise in ecosystem cafes.
StartLife Food Cafe
StartLife organized a Food Cafe at the HTGT Summit. Entrepreneurs and innovators who were looking for a network to fasten their innovation processes in the Food sector visited our cafe. Our guests were startups GreenFood50, Seamore and No Fairytales, and Jeroen Leffelaar (Rabobank), Peter Navarro (FrieslandCampina), Henri Hekman (Dutch Sprouts), Gitte Schober (StartLife) and Simon Vink (Wageningen University & Research).
Pitch battles at Get in the Ring
Over 350 startups joined the Get in the Ring pitch battle at the HTGT Summit. Through the Get in the Ring Matchups, startups joined in pre-planned 10-minute pitch session to explore possible collaborations with corporates. The jury consisting of successful Dutch tech entrepreneurs Heleen Dura – Van Oord, Steven Schuurman and Han de Groot, chose FreshStrips, Flex-Appeal and Mellon Medical as the winners. They will represent the Netherlands during the Global Startup Conference in Singapore in May 2017.
Get in the Ring Challenges offer finance
Three prominent Dutch corporates ASML, KPN and APM Terminals announced that together with Get in the Ring, they will be challenging startups worldwide. The most relevant startups will secure a pilot contract to implement their solutions, with the goal of scaling up in the future. Each of the companies is looking for startups with their own special focus.
Pictures of the HTGT Summit can be found here (by Wouter Went).
Two years ago Bernadette Kooijman started her own company with the aim to contribute to the worldwide fight against obesity. Bernadette: “After a long day at the office I sat on the couch watching a commercial about the “pizzaburger”. That was the moment I woke up and decided to do something.
Healthy has to be a habit
Bernadette studied Food Technology in Wageningen. “My ambition is to increase the vegetable intake by making products more appealing and tasty as well”. Healthy eating shouldn’t be a difficult choice, it has to be a habit. If that would be the case, people would automatically eat less fat and sugar, and more vegetables and fibers”, Bernadette says.
No Fairytales started with a carrot and beetroot tortilla, the first worldwide. 45% of the tortilla exists of vegetables, and it is a source of fibers. By eating two tortillas you already consume about 36 grams of vegetables. Not only that, the veggies also make these tortillas delicious. Bernadette tested many products by tastings in shopping malls. “The first one was too dry. The next one didn’t taste like veggies. Finally, when 71% liked my product, I decided to go on with the recipe” After a long development process, No Fairytales can produce on a large scale. At the moment, the tortillas are available at the Cool shelf of the Albert Heijn (next to the fresh pastas) and the first sales figures are above expectations.
Another product line consists of fermented vegetables. The team working on these products are: Christian Weij (the fermentation specialist and writer of the book “Verrot lekker”), Kramer’s zuurkool (the largest Sauerkraut producer in The Netherlands) and professor Eddy Smid of Wageningen University & Research. These products are expected to be available for consumers in 2017.
No Fairytales is being discovered by bloggers and consumers. Recently, Janny van der Heijden, culinary publicist and presenter of the popular television program “Heel Holland Bakt”, published a recipe in which she used the No Fairytales tortillas.
The support of StartLife
No Fairytales received a loan via the state-gate program of StartLife. Bernadette: “The loan was really welcome for me as a starter. I had to spend a lot of money, for instance to select a good packaging and design of the brand. My account manager at StartLife, Jans Hoekman, helped me to connect with the right people, like a website developer and a social media expert.” Jans Hoekman: “I really belief in the success of No Fairytales. Not only because it provides the market its demand for healthy alternatives, but also because it is very tasteful. Only healthy doesn’t work.”
Where the name No Fairytales comes from? “I don’t sell fairytales, my products are fair and transparent. What you see, is what you get”, says Bernadette.
Jora will support StartLife with communication and office work at StartLife headquarters. ’With my experience in scientific journalism I would like to spread the stories of young entrepreneurs and by that enthuse others’.
StartLife has a big network of startups. All these startups have powerful, inspiring founders who would like to share their tips & tricks with beginning entrepreneurs. To give these founders a stage, we’ve started the series StartLife Founder Stories in which they give others tips regarding how to begin a startup. In this second part an interview with Ruud Albers, founder of Nutrileads. The startup focuses on ingrediënts for health improving food and has recently settled in the new breeding place, Plus Ultra, on the campus of Wageningen University & Research.
Patents at the kitchen table
To tell the truth, Ruud Albers was doing just fine at Unilever. He had studied medical biology in Utrecht after which he got promoted and started working as immunologist at Unilever R&D. ‘Goal was to develop foods which support the effect of the immune system and have a positive effect on the health because of that. At first I did it alone but it grew into an expertise group throughout the years of which a part was in Vlaardingen and a part in Asia’. But when Unilever chose for a strategic change of course in 2011, where the focus was more on home and personal care and less on food, Albers chose for this passion: food & health. He went into discussion with Unilever about the technologies that were developed and the patents that were filed. Unilever might not have been planning on doing anything with it, but Albers wanted to continue with it.
Eventually he was able to take over a few of the patents. That formed the beginning of Nutrileads. ‘At that moment it means that you’ve left such a big multinational. And all context which you have because of that. That you can sit at home at the kitchen table with a moment like: Ok? And now? I have patents. I have a few kilo materials. I have the knowledge. But I’m not going to get any further here at home. How am I going to do this?’
Passion & stubbornness
‘I’m fairly stubborn. Some would even say extremely stubborn. Aside from that, I am convinced that food can have a huge positive effect on our health and I feel a strong drive to do something with that. And when I’m convinced that something is worth it, then I will continue for a long time. I think that’s also been the base for Nutrileads.’ Albers first step was making and expanding his network. That’s how he ended up at Startlife. ‘What Startlife has meant for me is the uncovering of a relevant network in the Netherlands. I was especially in an international network at Unilever, and I clearly needed a Dutch network for this. I needed to know where I could go. What the financing options would be for this kind of initiatives. What are the networks. Where can I station the company in the long-term. To tell the truth, from one thing came another.’
After a successful venture challenge, Albers is finally able to put together a strong team and they succeed in finding four investors who want to invest in Nutrileads together. ‘In October 2015 we managed to fulfill all the finances and since then it’s always gone quite hard. For example, we were able to intensify the cooperation with NIZO and with the University of Wageningen. And we have started working towards a first proof of concept. This study has just been finished successfully in such a way that the clinical phase is done and we are now waiting for the results of that. And that’s how we started out as an out of hand move from one man to a startup in which four people are now directly involved and around that a rind of people who we work closely with.’
Cherish the objection
After leading a startup for five years, Albers has quite some tips for beginning entrepreneurs. ‘Get away from that kitchen table as soon as possible and talk to people. Test your ideas. Test them on critical people who don’t only give the polite answer, but also the unpleasant answers. Cherish those people. Organize your own objection with that. And also, just do it and make sure you enjoy the ride. Especially enjoy the ride. I sometimes have to say it to myself as well but it’s a fantastic adventure when you manage to put down a startup. And then you’ll see what becomes of it. It always turns out different than you expected. Or like I heard recently: above all, stay stubborn in following your dream, but also be flexible when it comes to altering your plans.’
Jan Meiling, directeur StartLife: ‘Wij zijn enorm trots onze eerste twee premium partners te mogen verwelkomen’. Deze partnerships zullen zorgen voor een intensieve samenwerking met StartLife Startups én met StartHub Wageningen bij het ondersteunen van de startup gemeenschap binnen de sector Food en Agri’.
Ben Smeenk, Rabobank Vallei & Rijn: ‘Wij willen in de Food Valley innovatief ondernemerschap een boost geven. Juist omdat in deze regio veel vernieuwende ideeën ontstaan. Om daaraan invulling te geven heeft de Rabobank het platform ‘Teckle’ gelanceerd. Adviseurs van het Teckle-team helpen innovatieve ondernemers bij het realiseren van hun plannen. Daarnaast zorgt het partnership met StartLife ervoor dat we met een Teckle-adviseur op de incubator ruimtes op de campus aanwezig zijn om ondernemers (in spé) met raad en daad bij te staan.
“BDO vindt het belangrijk een actieve rol te spelen bij maatschappelijk relevante ontwikkelingen binnen de Foodsector. Binnen deze samenwerking zal BDO concreet bijdragen aan de ontwikkeling en coaching van innovatieve startups in de Food Valley”, zegt Dick den Braber CEO van BDO. “Wij zien er naar uit samen met StartLife verder te investeren in de toekomst van Food Valley”.
StartLife, Rabobank and BDO accountants sign a three year partnership deal
Op 22 september ondertekenen StartLife, Rabobank en BDO accountants een driejarige samenwerkingsovereenkomst ingaande per 1 oktober 2016.
Jan Meiling, directeur StartLife: ‘Wij zijn enorm trots onze eerste twee premium partners te mogen verwelkomen. Deze partnerships zullen zorgen voor een intensieve samenwerking met StartLife Startups én met StartHub Wageningen bij het ondersteunen van de startup gemeenschap binnen de sector Food en Agri’.
Samenwerking Rabobank en BDO accountants
Ben Smeenk, Rabobank Vallei & Rijn: ‘Wij willen in de Food Valley innovatief ondernemerschap een boost geven. Juist omdat in deze regio veel vernieuwende ideeën ontstaan.
Om daaraan invulling te geven heeft de Rabobank het platform ‘Teckle’ gelanceerd. Adviseurs van het Teckle-team helpen innovatieve ondernemers bij het realiseren van hun plannen.
Daarnaast zorgt het partnership met StartLife ervoor dat we met een Teckle-adviseur op de incubator ruimtes op de campus aanwezig zijn om ondernemers (in spé) met raad en daad bij te staan.
“BDO vindt het belangrijk een actieve rol te spelen bij maatschappelijk relevante ontwikkelingen binnen de Foodsector. Binnen deze samenwerking zal BDO concreet bijdragen aan de ontwikkeling en coaching van innovatieve startups in de Food Valley”, zegt Dick den Braber CEO van BDO. “Wij zien er naar uit samen met StartLife verder te investeren in de toekomst van Food Valley”.
Opening nieuw kantoor Wageningen 22 september
Naast het ondertekenen van de contracten vindt op donderdag 22 september om 16.00 uur ook de feestelijke opening van het nieuwe StartLife kantoor plaats door de heer dr. IJ.J.H. (Tijs) Breukink, lid raad van bestuur van Wageningen University & Research.
StartLife nodigt u hiervoor van harte uit.
Voor programma en aanmelding, kijk op www.start-life.nl/events
Locatie nieuw kantoor StartLife
Gebouw Plus Ultra
6708 WH Wageningen
Plus Ultra is het nieuwe incubator en bedrijfsverzamelgebouw (7.000 m2) op de campus waar startende, en kennisintensieve technologische bedrijven in de agro- en food-industrie een plek krijgen voor onderzoek en innovatie. Het prachtige centrale atrium is het kloppend hart van het gebouw van vijf bouwlagen met diverse ontmoetingsruimten, vergaderplekken, pantry’s, flexwerkplekken en een aantal bedrijfsloketten om de startende bedrijven te ondersteunen. ‘StartLife heeft twee kantoren op de vierde verdieping, waarvan een flexruimte waar straks onder andere inloopspreekuren plaats vinden tussen startups en onze nieuwe partners’, aldus Meiling.
Over StartLife en StartHub Wageningen
StartLife stimuleert ondernemerschap en ondersteunt startende ondernemers in de sector Food en Agri. StartLife bouwt continu aan haar relatienetwerk en samenwerkingsverbanden en biedt een compleet aanbod van onderwijsactiviteiten, netwerken en actieve ondersteuning en coaching van starters en jonge innovatieve bedrijven.
StartHub Wageningen is dé broedplaats voor (PhD) studenten op de campus van Wageningen University & Research, die een eigen onderneming willen starten. StartHub Wageningen biedt studenten ondersteuning bij de ontwikkeling van hun idee tot en met kantoor- en experimenteerruimte voor hun eigen bedrijf.
Noot voor de redactie
Voor meer informatie neemt u contact op met de heer Jan Meiling, directeur StartLife te Wageningen, telefoonnummer 0317-486103, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Take-off programme makes funds available to finance the early stages of your startup. This is thanks to a collection of Dutch universities and research centres, recognised by NWO, who are searching for innovative and entrepreneurial initiatives to support.
Take-off is open to applications from all scientific disciplines, so now is your chance!
Open call: Round 5 – Autumn 2016 Application Period: from the 15th August to the 4th of October 2016, 14:00 Interviews: from the 17th of November to the 2nd of December 2016 Results: The 12th of December 2016 (subject to change)
In July, we moved to a new office in the Plus Ultra building at Wageningen Campus. An inspiring place with flex spots for our startups and parnters and many meeting areas to a catch up. You are all more than welcome to visit our new office and to work here.
Opening drinks On the 22nd of September we will open our new office. We hope you will join the opening and drinks afterwards at 4 pm. Before the opening we will also organise workshops for our startups. Click here for more information about the opening.
By public transport -Travel to the bus stop called ‘Forum’ at Wageningen Campus and walk in 1 minute to the Plus Ultra building. The building is easy to recognize by the wooden exterior. By car – Drive to Wageningen Campus. From the roundabout take the first exit left. Follow the road and go left just in front of the black “Campus Plaza” building. Follow the road again and park next to the Plus Ultra building. The building is easy to recognize by the wooden exterior.
We hope to meet you soon at our new office!
Cheers the StartLife team,
Jan, Gitte, Jannet, Jans, Linze, Frans, Fred & Hans.
StartLife has a large network of startups. All of these startups have powerful, inspiring founders who are willing to share their tips & tricks with other entrepreneurs. In order to give these founders a platform, we started the StartLife Founder Stories. In this first story, an interview with Paul van Ham, founder of Multi Tool Trac. This startup developed the first electric tractor. A development that will have a major impact on the current farming techniques.
Paul sees the foundation of Multi Tool Trac as a special story. ‘I graduated in Wageningen as an agricultural engineer. My major was about tillage combined with organic farming. Organic farming was so different from the conventional agriculture that I learned about at that time, which really fascinated me.’ Despite the great interest in organic farming, Paul did not immediately get to work on this by himself. ‘It wasn’t until 2009, when I was at work at a farm in Noordoostpolder, when I saw a real solution to soil compaction in practice. At that farm, they were driving around with tractors and machines across the same path with the wheels, very consistently. Truly a difference of day and night. At the spots where a machine never goes, all kinds of things come to life. Plant roots, fungi, earthworms: it’s alive! The farmers were obviously proud of their working method. But what they were less satisfied about was the machine that they used for their controlled traffic farming. They built it themselves and it was completely worn out because simply nothing else was available. When I was talking with the farmers, it was clear that they were frustrated about this, and I thought: this is my old major. I need to work with this!’
Dabbling in the mud
‘The first year, after I decided to help the farmers, we were truly fuelled by enthusiasm. At a certain moment, something else was added. It became a project and it had to be finished. Then it starts to become harder. Subjects and prototypes need to be created, which brings about the discussions. With two great partners, Eelco Osse and Henk Wissels, we eventually started building. We agreed that the farmers, who were going to buy the two machines, were to have the final say. So it would become their machine. Next, we were running out of both time and money and we simply had to dabble around in the mud. But then you enter into conversation again with your customers; this helps me realize what we’re doing it for. It keeps us going.’ In the same way, Paul got into conversation with Frans Kampers of StartLife. ‘I think he liked the project. And then things start to work out!’ StartLife visited the Multi Tool trac factory, tasted the enthusiasm and decided that it was time to help Multi Tool Trac on its way. ‘Initially I thought it was only about borrowing money so that we could start building our two prototypes. However, I soon found out that StartLife has so much more to offer. A workshop Marketing & Communication. A talk with investors. This really helps you in your way!’
‘All obstacles on the road? Yes, it’s true!’
After six years, Multi Tool Trac is now ready to finalize the building of the prototypes and at the same time, steps can be taken to start building the factory. Despite this being something completely different, Paul indicates that this is really something they have to do themselves. ‘It’s really our thing. You don’t put your child on the street when he’s only four or five years old.’ A development, which helps Multi Tool Trac, transform into a scale-up. When asked whether he has any tips for budding entrepreneurs, Paul does not hesitate for a second: ‘Start as early as possible! Don’t hesitate and realize that you would otherwise have to look at this twenty years down the road and explain to yourself why you didn’t do it.’
Together with Green Office Wageningen we organised the evening programme Entrepreneurship for Sustainability for Wageningen University students who want to set up a sustainable business or initiative. After 12 weeks, 5 newly formed startups presented their business in front of the jury. Konsultan won the competition.
Konsultan will focus on sharing plant and seed knowledge with local farmers in Indonesia via an app. Micha Micha Gracianna Devi, founder of the company, presented her idea very clearly and convinced the jury of her expertise and the extended relevant network she has. The company received a StartLife microcredit of 1000 euro to boost the first steps in realising this business.
Sunbarter, runner up
Sunbarter received the second price and received a free workshop on prototyping. The runner up wants to sell fruit and vegetable drying machines that can be used in Africa. This will help farmers deal with the peaks in yield. She proved the jury that there is already a local demand and sales opportunities.
Entrepreneurship for sustainability
With organising this programme together with Green Office we aim to inspire and support students to set up their own sustainability initiative that will have direct positive impact on the campus and beyond.
Incubation Manager Jannet de Jong, one of the jury members: “All of the startups had propositions that were really close related to their network and their own experience. This is a powerful start for these companies”.
Jumbo supermarkets introduced last week the Algae Burger. These meat substitute burgers are made from spirulina, an algae species that already exists for 3.5 billion years. The algae are supplied by StartLife startup Duplaco based in Hengelo.
The algae veggie burger is a beautiful addition to the landscape of vegetarian products, according to Ed van de Weerd, Director of Commerce at Jumbo: “Jumbo wants to offer its customers a maximum of choice including the largest range. The offer in our supermarkets will not be extended only if the customer asks for it, but we also want to inspire customers with special and innovative products like this new algae burger. ”
According to ‘Damhert’ producer of the Jumbo burgers algae offer the possibility to create a more sustainable food chain, using only sunlight and salt water as an energy source for growth.
The Belgian producer writes on her website that since the sixties, extensive research has been conducted on the nutritional benefits of spirulina. There are now more than 100,000 studies and articles published on the health benefits. The algae contribute to a healthy immune system, are a provider of energy and contribute to healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The Algae Burger at Jumbo exists for 60 to 70% of protein. The spirulina algae is rich in antioxidants and contains vitamins, minerals, and several unsaturated fatty acids.
Increasing the production of algae at Duplaco
Marcel Oogink of Duplaco is excited about the launch of the algae burger: “We are pleased with the success of the algae burger and proud that we can contribute with our Spirulina algae. The development of this product started in early 2015, the pleasant cooperation with chain partners has encouraged us to put more energy on product introductions in both the food and feed.
For human applications, we do this via the EFRO project ‘De Groene Eiwitversneller’. To meet the growing demand, we will significantly increase our production in the coming years. This is possible with help of CQ Green Protein Fund, our new external investor. ”
25-26 May we launched with four other partners F&A Next. F&A Next is the first European Platform for startups and investors active in Food and Agriculture, that aims to support startups with funding capital. In total over 150 startups, 100 investors and 200 other visitors joined the 2-day event.
The first day started with a pitching competition of 20 featured startups. N-Chroma, a Wageningen startup and Phenospex won the F&A Next competition.
N-CHROMA Wageningen startup
N-Chroma‘s Constantinos Patinios team won the early-stage startup pitching competition. His company uses biotechnological methods to develop and produce natural colors for usage in food, textile and cosmetics. N-Chroma participated in the competition to attract attention from food companies as they identified this sector as their main target market. Aside from this, an investment of 500.000€ is needed.
Contantinos Patinios, PhD student at Wageningen University: “We don’t have very specific plans yet, but we have spoken to 3 or 4 people and we are curious what these investors can do for us!”
Phenospex, represented by Gregoire Hummel, won the later-stage part of the competition. His startup develops and markets sensors and analysis software to assess and analyze plant performance for agriculture. They aim to be a world leader in plant analysis and automate processes related to plant screening and agriculture. They hope to close an investment deal within the next 4-6 months.
Gregoire Hummel: “We came to present our idea and to meet investors, but now that we won, we are surprised and super happy for the guys at home, they will be happy that people like our ideas and our products.”
N-Chroma and Phenospex will pitch again today, among several later stage scale-ups who will present their pitches. Additionally they will get a chance to pitch at FoodBytes! in Boulder, USA in October. Their trip is sponsored by Rabobank, co-organiser and sponsor of FoodBytes!
About the F&A Next pitching competition
20 promising, pre-selected F&A Startups took the stage to convince a jury of investors. Their innovative ideas in food and agriculture technology ranged from technology to isolate soluble leaf protein to vertical farms and tractor navigation apps. They had to make a strong first impression in only 1 minute, after which 8 of them were selected to extend their pitch to a 5-minute pitch and 5-minute Q&A with the Jury.
F&A next initiators
We initiated F&A Next together with Food Valley NL, Rabobank, Anterra Capital, StartLife and Wageningen UR.
The PoultryBot developed by Bastiaan Vroegindeweij, founder of LiveStock Robotics is nominated for the Innovation Price of the laying hen business. The startup is founded by Bastiaan after his PhD research at Wageningen University.
Replacing paraffin in South Africa with a biofuel made from waste cooking oil
In the beginning of 2016 Jacob, Max, Nico and Roy founded Sesolo Mello. The 4 founders, who met during the Climate KIC summer school in 2015, worked on a business plan to produce the biofuel ‘Sesolo Mello’ from waste cooking oil in South Africa. After presenting their plan to the StartLife review board the startup entered stage 1 of the StartLife Incubation Program.
Co-founder Roy Hendriks: “In the townships of South Africa people mainly cook on paraffin oil. This creates unhealthy living conditions due to released toxins for families and the environment. We believe that something can be done about this. In the coming years we want to set-up local production units to produce environmentally friendly biofuels for households”.
Up and running At this moment two team members are present in South Africa. They are testing the first ranges of their fuel in the Kayamandi township to develop the product based on user experience, while writing their MSc. thesis for Wageningen University about it.
In the next years the team will set up their first production facility and spread their concept in South Africa, before going to other countries as well.
Hendriks: “With the loan of StartLife we are able to develop our product while validating some key assumptions. We also aim to generate traction in the next months to show that people really want to switch to our alternative.”
StartLife Incubation Program With the StartLife Incubation Program StartLife offers startups pre-seed loans (up to 85.000 euro), workshops, active support by a personal coach, a connection with Wageningen UR, and an international network needed to accelerate their business.
Cerescon, developer of an automatic asparagus harvester, is the first startup which successfully completed the entire StartLife Incubation Program. StartLife launched the incubation program for agriculture and food startups in the summer of 2015.
Since the beginning of 2014, the team of Cerescon is busy with the development of an asparagus harvesting machine which makes it possible to harvest without manual stabbing asparagus.
In the coming asparagus season, the startup will test their alpha-testing machine throughout the season at an experimental farm of Wageningen UR (University & Research center) in Vredepeel. Starting at the last weeks of the season, the alpha-machine is also tested at three large growers in the Netherlands and Germany.
First prototype in 2018
Thérèse van Vinken, co-founder of Cerescon: “After testing the alpha-machine, we proceeded directly with the development of the beta-version. The beta-version will be extensively tested in the asparagus season of 2017. In 2018, we will bring the first prototypes on the market. After the launch of the prototype we will increase our production and will export the machine worldwide”.
StartLife Incubation Program
After the start of the program in the summer of 2015, a total of 12 startups entered the program. The program consists of three rounds and offers startups access to financing via a pre-seed loan for each round and personal coaching. Van Vinken: “Following the program was for us very valuable. StartLife has challenged us within the program to be critical towards our current ideas and future growth plans.”
Jan Meiling, director StartLife: “We are very excited about the team of Cerescon. They have lots of contact with prospective customers through a self-created user group and are a complementary team. They have the potential to become a market leader. ”
Last Friday the final of the first Startup Week Wageningen took place. For 7 days the 33 participating students and recent graduates had been working on their idea for their own startups. During the finals a total of 5 groups presented their plans to the jury. This jury announced ‘Dutch Coral’ as the winner. As a reward the team obtained the possibility to request a micro-loan from StartLife.
The participants first came together at student incubator StartHub Wageningen one week in advance of the finale. During this program of 7 days, the students and recent graduates became acquainted with different business models, they learned how to uncover the needs of their customers in a proper way, and they went to the market in Wageningen to do customer research.
‘Dutch Coral – Coral up your life’
To work with dead coral from Dutch aquaria and to support the coral reefs in Bonaire. That was the goal of Erik. In collaboration with Chantal, Anne-Johan and Chris he further developed this idea into a business plan to sell dead coral remains as house decoration or as ornaments. In addition they created the concept ‘Coral for Coral’: supporting a coral restoring foundation in Bonaire by buying Dutch cultivated Coral.
Kick-off by Ento Pow(d)er
The kick-off of the finale was done by the Ento Pow(d)er team. Tom and Bart, brothers, were drawn to the weekend with the initial idea of doing something with insects. Together with Borja, Thierry and Bjorn they elaborated on their plans and decided to write their business plan about protein shakes, based on proteins from insects for athletes with a lactose intolerance.
After Ento Pow(d)er’s story Patricia tried to convince the jury of her plan: making consumers aware about healthy food by selling burgers and providing workshops. This year her focus will especially lays on beans, the FAO’s annual theme for 2016.
Subsequently Laura presented her business plan on alternACTivities. This recently launched company aims at making consumers more aware about their consumer patterns. The jury was impressed by her enthusiasm and they encouraged Laura to remain focused, in order to make her company more efficient and more profitable.
The finale ended with Circle Smart’s presentation. They presented a plan that should benefit the local circular economy by connecting the waste streams of companies to other people that are looking for residual waste, such as the use of coffee pulp to grow mushrooms.
Jannet de Jong, Incubation Manager StartHub Wageningen: “I am pleasantly surprised about the level and the quality of the propositions. Within one week all participants had visibly learned and developed a great set of skills.”
Hans de Haan, Startup coach and jury member: “The Dutch Coral team has got a lot of passion, they have got access to a very large network of suppliers and they have taken an open perspective regarding possibilities with new techniques such as 3D printing. Dutch Coral was also aware of potential competitors.”
On the photo Erik shows the coral to the jury. Photo by Sven Menschel.
The startups Algreen and Sesolo Mello, partly founded by Wageningen University students, received a StartLife microcredit this week. They will use the loan to further explore the algae market and the opportunities to replace paraffin oil with a biofuel based on local waste in South Africa.
On the photo the Algreen team: Hendrik Staarink and Stefano Canziani.
Spirulina production – Algreen
Hendrik Staarink, graduate of Wageningen University and master student Stefano Canziani both share a passion for algae and founded Algreen in April 2015. This summer they set up a production facility for the eatable microalgae Spirulina on Wageningen campus and got an office at student incubator StartHub. Hendrik: “This year we improved the microalgae production, worked on the needed certifications for human consumption, and found several small customers. We can now produce a significant amount of Spirulina. Our next goal is scaling up our sales network. We see the micro credit as a spinning wheel to get publicity and to invest in our international sales activities.”
Cooking on biofuels – Sesolo Mello
Sesolo Mello is founded by four ‘guys’, and has a clear mission: making social and environmental impact by replacing paraffin oil used in low income communities for cooking, with biofuels from local waste. Co-founder Jacob Bussmann: “By cooking on paraffin oil many toxic compounds are released, with a negative impact on human health and the environment. In the coming year we will start a pilot project in South Africa to develop a production unit for biofuel in a township close to Cape Town. Prior to this pilot project we will use our time to get to know our customers and to adopt our product to their needs. The plan is to start with upscaling the amount of production units to let other township benefit from our idea as well by the end of 2016.”
Every year several students and recent graduates receive the microcredits of StartLife to further explore their idea for a startup. “It is great to see that there are more and more students, like the founders of Algreen and Sesolo Mello, who work out their business ideas into a concrete business plan. With our loan they can start the first business activities”, Jan Meiling, managing director StartLife says.