Tag Archives: Alumni

B-Mex New Startup Tenant at Plus Ultra II

B-Mex PlusUltra2

StartLife warmly welcomes B-Mex, a StartLife startup and WUR spin-off, into the startup offices at Plus Ultra II. The company is specialized in making crop models that provide growers and farmers with valuable insights and help optimize their crop yield. The company moved to Wageningen Campus to be closely to connected to its ecosystem and be close to talents of Wageningen University & Research.

After an academic career of 23 years in research and modelling at Wageningen University & Research, crop physiologist dr. Fokke Buwalda decided to turn his many and highly cited papers about crop models into practical tools for growers and farmers. At the end of 2013 he started B-Mex, a service provider aimed at enabling greenhouse growers to apply scientific simulation models to maximize yields, lower spoilage and reduce costs.

As a spin-out of Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture, Fokke had, and still has, access to cutting edge scientific knowledge and models. In 2015, Biosystems Engineer Peter van Beveren joined the team, whereas Plant Scientist and modeler Jeroen Boonekamp joined forces with B-Mex in 2019.

Today, B-Mex serves growers of cut flowers, pot plants and greenhouse vegetables. And recently, simulation models for potato, onion and soil conditions were added to the B-Mex portfolio.

A Chrystal ball for growers and farmersPotatoes-and-Gerberas

For many growers it’s very difficult to predict their yields as they still rely on gut feeling and best practices. But mathematical models can in fact predict the effect of changes in growing conditions really accurately, Fokke explains. With a laugh Fokke says, “We are pretty much offering a Chrystal ball to growers and farmers. But one that utilizes cutting-edge science and mathematics.”

“Mathematical models can accurately predict the effect of changes in growing conditions.“

“Take Gerbera daisies, for example. It’s one of the five most popular plants in the world. If a grower wants to have as many Gerberas as possible, let’s say for Valentine’s day or Mother’s day, he needs to know three months in advance what needs to be done today to optimize future yields. Our mathematical and computational methods provide the grower the with the insight needed to achieve the best results.”

Another example are potatoes. They don’t need to reach full maturation before harvest. On the contrary, potatoes are often grown for a specific size. “A potato farmer needs to know when it’s time to kill the foliage to stop the further growth of its potatoes. With our models and tools we can accurately predict when it’s time for the farmer to start killing the foliage of his potato plants.”

Scaling up the business

Fokke says, “In all fairness, as a seasoned academic it took me some time to develop my entrepreneurial skills. I feel confident now that the B-Mex team will take the company to the next level though. And I am as much grateful for the valuable support StartLife has provided me in the past as for the opportunity they have provided us now to move into the startup offices at Plus Ultra 2 and become an integral part of the innovation community here at Wageningen Campus.”

“Our business is going well and also the future is looking bright. In the coming months, we expect to recruit several new employees. And in the next few years, we also expect a considerate increase in the number of clients. Which will eventually lead to the recruitment of more talents.” It’s for this very reason that the B-Mex team moved their company to Wageningen Campus.

Agrifood innovation powerhouse

“I strongly believe that having our business situated in the heart of the agrifood innovation community will allow us to connect easier with stakeholders and also have better access to the many talented students of Wageningen University. Even though we’ve just moved in the Plus Ultra 2 building, and it’s relatively quiet at the moment due to the Corona pandemic, we already notice positive network effects. We’ve definitely made the right decision to move here and look forward to expanding our business here in the years ahead.”

 

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Verdify Raises €1.3M To Scale Its Swapmeals Platform For Personalized Recipes

verdify-swapmeals

Startlife alumnus Verdify has raised €1.3 million financing from Brightlands Venture Partners, Joles and the company’s founders. The investment will be used by Verdify to scale up its Swapmeals recipe platform that enables consumers to get tailored meal inspiration based on personal nutrition profiles.

This round follows last year’s capital injection of €750,000 for developing and launching the platform in the UK and The Netherlands. Jochem Bossenbroek, CEO at Verdify said: “In our endeavor to create lasting impact on people’s lives through healthy and sustainable eating we have found a strong companion in Brightlands Venture Partners. With the new investment and access to this innovative ecosystem we can not only scale up, but also build a bridge between the food sector and healthcare domain”.

Recipes adapted to individual nutrition needs

Consumers are increasingly on the lookout for a healthy and sustainable diet but struggle with the complexity of food choices. Verdify aims to tackle this issue by providing truly personalized recipe inspiration. This is accomplished on Swapmeals.com where recipes automatically adapt to consumers’ individual nutrition profiles. Personal parameters such as health conditions, food allergies, activity levels, lifestyle, location and taste preferences can be factored in.

Swapmeals® offers an enabling environment where the healthy and sustainable food choice becomes the default. The personal nutrition profiles can be easily created by consumers on the Verdify website and activated on Swapmeals.com to find fully personalized and shoppable recipes.

Algorithm automatically rewrites recipe instructions

Under the hood of the platform is Verdify’s recipe personalization engine that can map the composition of virtually all recipes on the internet and tailor them according to consumer nutrition profiles. A proprietary swapping algorithm replaces non-matching ingredients with suitable alternatives whilst another algorithm ‘rewrites’ the recipe instructions according to the new composition. The software makes sure the result is still tasty and nutritious.

Verdify can enable personalization on any other recipe platform with its engine, as well as link recipes to the digital shopping basket of local retailers.

Scaling up to healthcare domain

The investment will be used for scaling up the Swapmeals® platform, including introduction of the concept into the healthcare domain. This will enable consumers to receive nutritional advice from dietitians and medical professionals directly in their Verdify nutrition profile. Furthermore, it will be possible to enrich the profile with data from wearables and biomarker tests. Besides that, Verdify can support companies in the food industry by promoting their brands in personalized recipes on Swapmeals® – creating a podium for products that Verdify endorses.

Founder Story of Verdify: Better Health Through AI And Personalized Nutrition

“Verdify is a forerunner”

Kim de Boer, Partner at Brightlands Venture Partners believes Verdify responds to a clear and logical market need in personalized nutrition. “This is a fast scalable business in which Verdify is a forerunner. Brightlands Venture Partners is an ecosystem investor and we believe that the interaction of the company with the Brightlands ecosystem in the field of personalized nutrition and available AI knowledge will be beneficial for the company’s time to market and chances of success”.

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Hudson River Biotechnology Partners Up To Optimize Plant Breeding With CRISPR

Hudson-River-Biotechology-Computomics-Partnership

Hudson River Biotechnology (HRB), a Wageningen-based agricultural biotechnology company, and Computomics, a Tübingen-based bioinformatics company, announced to start offering an end-to-end solution using CRISPR-based gene editing for novel plant trait development.

This partnership combines Computomics’ expertise in accurate and precise machine learning-based identification of novel gene editing targets without off-target effects, and Hudson River Biotechnology’s CRISPR gene editing workflow, which is foreign-DNA-free. The collaboration between Computomics and Hudson River Biotechnology allows for a smooth handover from identification of disruptive gene editing targets to a precision gene editing workflow to deliver new plants to market rapidly.

Develering new crop varieties with desired traits

The joint solution, AccelATrait™, uses tailormade machine learning and CRISPR gene editing technologies to deliver new crop varieties with desired traits. Accel-A-Trait™ covers the entire workflow from experimental design to plant regeneration. It helps plant breeders develop new business based on novel traits and decreases time to market by 3-4 times.

In this partnership, Computomics is responsible for detecting, locating, and identifying novel causal targets using the latest machine learning technology. Hudson River Biotechnology performs the targeted editing using their rapid and validated CRISPR workflow. This workflow allows HRB to address recalcitrant species and offers benefits through transgene-free editing and single cell regeneration.

Crop CRISPR Startup Hudson River Biotechnology Raises €5M Series A Funding

Perfect symbiosis

Computomics and Hudson River Biotechnology complement each other perfectly in this partnership,” says Dr. Sebastian J Schultheiss, Managing Director of Computomics. “We are working together to help plant breeders develop new varieties with improved characteristics in a shorter time and with less costs.”

Rudi Ariaans, CEO of Hudson River Biotechnology, adds: “We see a clear benefit to this partnership, as many of our clients would like to access both the best in class bioinformatics capabilities and the best in transgene free CRISPR protocols to decrease the time to market for new crop varieties. AccelATrait brings these two together, allowing us to really accelerate molecular breeding for our clients. We look forward to being challenged to apply AccelATrait to previously unfeasible breeding projects, such as targeting polyploids and disruptive traits that can make a real difference.”

 

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Bioventure Sundew Acquires MicroSynbiotiX And Completes €1.4M Funding

Bioventure-Sundew-Aquaculture-Shrimp

Sundew, a Dutch-Danish biotech startup focused on combating aquatic pests, diseases and invasive species, announced today the acquisition of MicroSynbiotiX in an all-share transaction. The addition of the algal RNA platform and pipeline accelerates Sundew’s commercialization. In parallel, Sundew raised 1.4 million euro in equity and convertible loan funding from The Yield Lab Europe and The Danish Growth Fund (Vaekstfonden).

In 2019, Sundew licensed technology from the Dutch Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW, Wageningen) and the University of Copenhagen to provide safe alternatives to treat waterborne pests and diseases, especially those that affect aquaculture. In the fall of 2020, Sundew took part in the StartLife Accelerate program and raised 1.4 million euro seed funding. Together with The Yield Lab Europe, one of StartLife’s investor partners, and Danish Growth Fund, the biotech company now takes a big step forward in commercialization with the acquisition of the Irish biotech startup MicroSynbiotiX.

Microalgae as a natural drug delivery platform

One of the greatest challenges for the growing aquaculture industry is managing disease. As one example, the viral white-spot disease is devastating for shrimp farms as it causes more than USD$1 billion in annual losses. Currently, one of the most commonly used method for combating fish disease is vaccination by hand-held injection, which is labor intensive, expensive and often also very impractical. MicroSynbiotiX (MSX) genetically engineers microalgae, a natural part of fish diet, to transport or vaccines to animals as needed to safely achieve the desired therapeutic effect.

The microalgal oral vaccines can be mixed with fishmeal and fed to the fish, mimicking the natural feeding process. The natural digestion process of the fish unlocks the vaccine and triggers an immune response. In addition, because the vaccine is inside the microalgae chloroplast, it is protected by a rigid cell wall and is stable in harsh environmental conditions, extending the product’s shelf life. Such an approach is sustainable, user-friendly for fish farmers, and cost-effective.

Complementary technologies

MSX’s products complement Sundew’s current product pipeline which includes Biokos, a natural and environmentally friendly product for parasitic white-spot disease, a major disease of freshwater fish (a completely different disease from viral white-spot).

The two technology platforms have multiple synergies, including development (e.g. strain improvement), production (fermentation and DSP), regulatory frameworks and marketing. The acquisition also brings MicroSynbiotiX’s intellectual property portfolio into the Sundew pipeline. This IP includes a granted patent for producing and delivering therapeutic silencing RNAs to shrimp using micro-algal fermentation and chloroplast engineering.

Giovanni Salerno, Sundew’s CEO, said, ‘we are delighted to bring MicroSynbiotiX on board. This exciting technology and the additional funding strengthen Sundew’s long-term strategy. Sundew is building a portfolio of effective, affordable and environmentally benign biological products, delivering innovative solutions that meet major needs in important aquatic markets.’

Founder Story Sundew | targeting ‘huge unmet need’ for aquaculture

Driving sustainability in aquaculture

MSX co-founders Simon Porphy and Antonio Lamb will continue to support Sundew as scientific and technical advisors. ‘We are very excited to be part of Sundew,’ Simon said. ‘The team’s strong track record in building ventures will allow us to fully realize the potential of our technology.’ Antonio added: ‘Sundew has a great scientific team and a solid pipeline for new therapeutic products. We are very happy to be part of their vision to create environmentally benign products for the aquatic animal health industry.’

Nicky Deasy, Managing Partner at The Yield Lab Europe, said, ‘We see a unique opportunity to drive sustainability in the aquaculture industry by the combination of these two biotech companies. We look forward to the journey ahead.’

Though Sundew now raised €1.4M, we understand that there is still some room for additional funding to that. Please contact the company directly if you’re interested.

 

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Biotech startup Scope Biosciences Attracts €1M Funding For CRISPR-diagnostic Platform

Biotech startup Scope Biosciences Partners Up With GenDx

Scope Biosciences, a Wageningen University & Research spin-off and a StartLife portfolio company, announced to have raised an investment of €1M. The funding is provided by GenDx,  a global leader in molecular diagnostic laboratory solutions. The proceeds will be used to speed up the development of its proprietary ScopeDx CRISPR-diagnostic platform and expand its partnerships.

Niek Savelkoul, CEO of Scope Biosciences, commented: “Our proprietary ScopeDx CRISPR-diagnostic platform has shown its incredible potential in various applications in the last three years of its development. With this investment we can bring the first ScopeDx products to the market.

Building on groundbreaking science

Scope Biosciences builds on the research of John van der Oost, professor of Microbiology at Wageningen University & Research (WUR), who is internationally regarded as one of the founders of the pioneering CRISPR-Cas technique, and assistant professor dr. Raymond Staals.

CRISPR-Cas is considered to be one of the most revolutionizing discoveries in the biotech sector. It’s most valuable characteristic is its native ability to precisely detect and cut specific sequences of genetic material for use in genetic engineering.

Fundamental discoveries made by Van der Oost’s research group have revealed how the CRISPR-Cas system contributes to the bacterial anti-viral defense mechanism. He identified various enzymes and molecular signaling pathways that make this defense possible. These discoveries play a fundamental role in the extensive application of CRISPR-Cas today.

Revolutionizing diagnostics with CRISPR-Cas

Developments in recent years have also shown the merits of CRISPR-Cas technology in the use of molecular diagnostics. Scope Biosciences applies CRISPR-Cas’ inherent specificity and ease of use to actually develop such a molecular diagnostic platform. This will revolutionize the field of diagnostics as the simplicity of the assay promises to bring highly accurate molecular diagnostics outside the research laboratory like clinical bedside applications.

Scope Biosciences was founded in 2020 by Jurre Steens, Niek Savelkoul, Bart Scholten and Stijn Prinsen. The idea to set up Scope Biosciences originated in close collaboration with the Laboratory of Microbiology, at the department of Agrotechnology and Food Sciences at WUR. The ScopeDx technology was co-developed with WUR, which is exclusively licensed to Scope Biosciences.

The founders received support from seasoned entrepreneurs Math Kohnen and Wil Hazenberg and StartLife. Van der Oost and Staals both act as co-founders and will continue as Scientific advisors to support Scope Biosciences.

Smart Money

The investment capital is provided by GenDx, which specializes in Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) products for transplant diagnostics and in molecular diagnostics. The Dutch company focuses on the development, production and sales of assays and analysis software for transplantation and companion diagnostics. The collaboration with GenDx is mutually beneficial, as it will entail a co-development trajectory to develop ScopeDx applications for transplant diagnostics.

Scope Biosciences will benefit from GenDx’ experience to speed up developing and marketing the ScopeDx platform. Furthermore, Scope Biosciences plans to use the funding to grow its research and development team, and expand on the running partnerships in the development of rapid diagnostics for infectious diseases in healthcare, veterinary and agrifood applications.

Dr. Wietse Mulder, CEO of GenDx, commented: “We are excited to collaborate with such a motivated and energetic team of Scope Biosciences that is supported by WUR, renowned scientists and seasoned businessmen. We truly believe that together with them, both Scope Biosciences and GenDx will be able to deliver meaningful products to the field of diagnostics based on CRISPR-Cas technology.”

 

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

These Foodtech Startups Successfully Recruited Their Seasoned Mentors

GreenCovery-And-Cano-ela-Recruiting-Their-Startup-Mentors

It’s widely known that startups benefit from advice and guidance by experienced entrepreneurs and professionals. Sometimes the spark between a mentor and his mentee light up to such extent that the mentor ends up being recruited by the startup. It happened to foodtech startups Cano-ela and Greencovery. When interviewing them about the change of roles, we noticed an interesting overlap.

Cano-ela spurs growth with Benjamin Maclean as Chief Commercial Officer

Cano-ela-Benjamin-Maclean-and-Juliana-Romero-Guzman

In the Spring of 2021, StartLife welcomed dr. Juliana Romero Guzmán and dr. Alberto Masetti Niccolai into the sixth edition of StartLife Accelerate with their one-year old startup Cano-ela; a Wageningen-based foodtech startup that developed a patented tailor-made process to extract innovative food ingredients from oil-rich seeds, focusing on Canola.

Though Canola, a variant of rapeseed, is a relatively new crop (1978), it has already become one of the world’s most important oilseed crops. In fact, with a market size of 69 million metric tonnes rapeseed in 2020, it’s the third biggest seed in the world, after palm and soy! But canola is so far only used for its oil. The full-usage of these crops represents a huge market that offers great opportunities for ambitious and sustainable entrepreneurs.

And as it happens to be, Juliana and Alberto are ambitious and sustainable entrepreneurs. By disrupting the traditional oil seed industry, they have set sail to become a game changer worldwide and remove refined ingredients from the food supply chain entirely. With such high ambitions, Juliana and Alberto welcome all the support they can get.

StartLife connected the founders of Cano-ela with two startup mentors. One of them is Benjamin Maclean, a strategic business development specialist within the food science sector (FrieslandCampina) with a proven track record of launching new products and building new dairy ingredients factories.

Before connecting with Cano-ela, Benjamin had mentored various startups already. “I really love startups. The entrepreneurial spirit and drive of startup founders is very energizing and ‘contagious’. And the vibes between Juliana, Alberto and myself have been exceptional good from the get go,” said Benjamin.

“Last summer we had a BBQ at my house, with self made plant-based burgers. This was a final confirmation of our joint passion for food innovation. It also was the moment that Juliana and Alberto asked me to join the team to accelerate Cano-ela’s growth.”

Benjamin MacleanJuliana: “As our startup mentor, Benjamin has provided us valuable strategic advice in combination with a big doses of enthusiasm for Cano-ela. He is a very enthusiastic person who is prepared to go the extra mile. After conversations about actions we should undertake, he immediately picks up his phone and starts organizing and getting things done.”

“Any business, but in particular startups, need people which such entrepreneurial aptitude. And, in addition to his professional input, we also have lots of fun together. It feels like the perfect basis to execute all our ideas.”

“Benjamin has all the expertise and connections to help make this dream come true!”

In the coming two years, Cano-ela is focused on upscaling its technology. In the meantime they will explore the possibility of building their own factory.

Juliana: “We understand this is a huge undertaking, which will also takes it time. But Benjamin has all the expertise and connections to help make this dream come true. And also his business development skills and ability to connect with people are very valuable to us. So it’s my greatest pleasure to announce here and now that Benjamin has accepted to becoming our Chief Commercial Officer!

Benjamin commented: “Finally, the word is out and I can start sharing this wonderful news with everybody. I am so proud and excited to join the Cano-ela team. Soon will also finish my Global Executive MBA at Copenhagen Business School, which will give me a lot more time on my hands.”

“I look forward to helping Cano-ela grow and fulfilling our shared ambitions to remove refined ingredients from the food supply chain! It feels great to be working on sustainable food solutions and contribute to the plant based protein transition!”


Greencovery powers up with Petra Vossenberg as Market Innovation Lead

Greencovery-Team-2021-edited

In 2018, dr. Carlos Cabrera was following a postdoctoral study at Wageningen University & Research when he decided to start his own foodtech company: Greencovery. With this company he helps food manufacturers to upcycle their food side-streams to new high quality ingredients with the use of proprietary technology.

“Our technology allows food producers to unlock new value from their food side-streams whilst diminishing food waste, carbon dioxide and water consumption at the same time,” Carlos explains. How great is that!

In the fall of 2018, Carlos joined the first edition of StartLife Accelerate, which helped him get his company on track. Fast forward, in October 2020, StartLife introduced Carlos to one of its new startup mentors: Petra Vossenberg, a Wageningen University alumna and former Global Open Innovation Manager at FrieslandCampina who had just become a freelance innovation consultant. It turned out to be a match made in heaven, sort of speak.

Greencovery Team in Laboratory

Carlos was really happy to connect with Petra as his startup mentor. “Petra has been active in the food industry for quite some time already. She knows the industry really well and also how players in the market operate. She has a keen sense on finding new business opportunities and with her excellent people skills building partnerships is pretty much second nature to her. Thanks to her technical background she fully understands all the important processes and requirements involved in our upcycling business. That is so much more than I had bargained for.”

“We appreciated all the advice Petra gave us as startup mentor, but we also needed more hands-on support.”

After the three month initial startup mentorship ended, Carlos did not ask Petra to continue as his mentor but to truly join the Greencovery team and to take on the the role of Market Innovation Lead.

“We appreciated all the advice Petra gave us as startup mentor, but we also needed more hands-on support. Thanks to the mentorship, I knew that Petra had all the competencies needed to find food producers that are interested in upcycling their side-streams and also to find new applications to the upcycled ingredients. And, also, that she is a great person to work with. I would have been crazy not to try and get her become more involved,” said Carlos.

Rather than hiring Petra as an external consultant, Carlos wanted Petra to really become part of the team. “If Petra would be a hired consultant, our working relationship would have been project oriented and, as such, more detached. I want her to be involved for the long term and also create a setting in which we are more flexible further developing her role of market innovation lead.”

It’s not the first time that Carlos attracts corporate talent into his startup. Two years earlier, Carlos convinced Juan Cajiao, former Head of Growth at Twill-Maersk, to become co-founder and Commercial Director of Greencovery.

Petra VossenbergPetra is not surprised. “Carlos is an ambitious entrepreneur with a clear drive to make things happen. He has a lot of technical knowledge and his ability to generate new ideas is truly inspiring. Carlos is also pleasant to work with. He is open to thoughts and ideas, shares responsibility and gives a true sense of co-ownership.”

What does the future have in store for Greencovery? Carlos: “Thanks to Petra, we are now in advanced stages of conversation with a good pool of potential customers that are interested in our latest project which involves natural umami extracts. We have also set a clear dot on the horizon, which involves bringing our own first on-site implementations.”

And what about Petra? “It’s really rewarding to actively contribute to the valuation of side-streams and building a more sustainable food system. And I really like being part of the Greencovery team. We are in fact already talking about doubling my involvement,” Petra admits. Carlos shows a big, happy smile.


Magical formula?

It doesn’t happen every day that startup mentors become a staff member at the company of their previous mentees. It’s not something that StartLife strives for. Neither do we discourage it. What happens, happens. And if it helps accelerate the business of the startups, why not?

When writing this article, we did notice some rather interesting overlap between the two stories however. Two Latin-American entrepreneurs (Juliana and Carlos), who both studied at Wageningen University and have a Phd degree, successfully recruited their startup mentors, who both worked at FrieslandCampina, which has it’s R&D centre on Wageningen Campus. A coincidence or a magical formula? Who knows.

Want to know more about startup mentoring by StartLife? Check StartLife’s mentor program.

Note: Photos of Greencovery by Nils van Houts, edits by StartLife. Photos of Cano-ela by Mohammed Gharyeb.

 

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Muddy Machines Demonstrates Green Asparagus Harvesting Robot

Muddy Machines - Green Asparagus Harvesting Robot

Today, Muddy Machines, a UK agtech startup, announced that they have successfully developed a prototype robotic harvester for green asparagus, which they’ve named “Sprout”. Working closely with Cobrey Farms, the largest asparagus grower in the UK, Muddy Machines company has spent the last year developing and testing their machine on-farm.

Farms require a high volume of seasonal workers for a variety of tasks, primarily for weeding and harvesting. Asparagus is one of the most labor intensive crops as the harvesting occurs daily throughout the 12 week season. Picking asparagus is among the hardest and most backache-causing activities in farming, make it also hard to find workers to do the harvesting. Although green asparagus is a relatively small volume crop, Muddy Machines believes that it is most suited for robotic harvesting and is an excellent starting point before developing harvesters for more challenging crops.

Intelligent harvesting robot

That Sprout is a smart robot shows from the moment it leaves the farmer’s shed. The robot finds its way to the asparagus fields fully autonomously. Once arrived at the harvest field, it uses the latest in deep learning technology to detect and delicately pick asparagus spears according to grower’s specifications. The robot only picks mature spears, works in weeds and can even detect and harvest spears that are crooked, curved or malformed. The robot is lightweight and fully electric, avoiding damaging soil compaction and enabling a green, sustainable and resilient future for agriculture. To top it all off, the robot doesn’t experience any back pains.

Seeking additional funding

Founders-Muddy-Machines-Florian-and-Chris

Muddy Machines was founded by Florian Richter (left) and Christopher Chavasse (right) amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and the urgent request from growers to find a solution to their labor supply challenges. The company is backed by various venture funds, business angels and has won several Innovate UK grants. The startup is now seeking additional funding to bring an initial batch of robots to market in 2022.

Florian and Christopher currently take part in the fall 2021 edition of StartLife Accelerate. If you like to view Muddy Machines’ live pitch, you can register for StartLife’s (virtual) Graduation Day, on 9 December 2022.

powered by Crowdcast

 

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

 

 

Plant-E Receives €2.5M EU Grant for Development of Plant-powered Sensors

plant-e-plant-based-energy

Wageningen-based company Plant-e was awarded a €2.5 million grant from the European Innovation Council (EIC). The grant was awarded for the further development of sensor applications that are powered by living plants. The EIC grant is the last push towards commercialization and scalability of its sensor applications.

The Plant-e team reacts enthusiastically. Marjolein Helder, CEO of Plant-e: “The grant enables us to speed up the development of the products and the team at the same time. Development of innovative technology in a changing market is challenging and it’s really helpful if someone tells you once in a while that you’re doing a good job. The competition for an EIC grant is high, less then 1 in 10 applications is granted. So receiving one is very rewarding, especially when the feedback you get is as positive as this.”

Plant-e Team 2021

 

Living plants as a sustainable power source

Plant-e was founded in 2009 as a spin-off company of the department of Environmental Technology of Wageningen University & Research and received early support from StartLife. Plant-e develops technology in which living plants generate electricity.  Plant-e delivered several ambient lighting systems powered by plants since 2014. Since 2019 focus has shifted towards powering IoT solutions.

In 2019 Plant-e started developing sensor applications that are powered by living plants. This method enables monitoring of both urban and remote greenery. First focus is on soil-moisture and ground water level monitoring. By using living plants as a power source the use of batteries can be avoided, which improves sustainability as well as reliability of the sensor system. Batteries need (bi-)annual replacement and contribute highly to a growing amount of waste. Moreover, regular replacement of batteries is both capital and labor intensive. Plant-e can provide a sustainable and low-maintenance alternative through plant power.

Advanced technology of the future

Plant-e-Plant-based energy

The EIC jury praises Plant-e in their evaluation report: “The jury was impressed with the tenacity, durability and innovation of the company and its management team.” Plant-e’s technology was regarded highly as well. One of the evaluators of the proposal mentioned: “The generation of energy from plants is an advanced technology of the future. At the same time this method/product is even able to save CO2 while working, that’s a real novelty.”

The EIC-grant enables Plant-e to further integrate the supply chain and fully dedicate the plant-power source to sensor-applications. Next to that Plant-e will work on atomization and scale-up of production to reduce delivery time and production costs.

 

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

InsectSense Wins Topsector Horticulture Innovation Prize 2021

INSECTSENSE_winner_Topsector_T&U_Innovation_Prize_2021

Last week, Aria Samimi and his InsectSense team won the Topsector Horticulture Innovation Prize 2021. InsectSense received the award for its biosensor that integrates the smelling abilities of bees to detect plant diseases. 

The jury said:  “InsectSense harnesses the incredible sense of smell by real bees for the early detection of plant diseases. The method is fast, accurate, cost-effective and non-invasive. It can really help prevent significant economic losses in the agricultural and horticultural sector. Their solution is truly game changing and also very sustainable. It uses nature’s power to grow food optimally and sustainably: the help of nature to improve nature. For all those reasons, we like to support the further development of Beesense.”

€25.000 and a wild card

InsectSense received the award from Marije Beens, director-general Agro at the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.  In addition to the prestige of the award, the company receives a knowledge voucher of €25,000. The voucher allows the company to further develop the concept and solve bottlenecks with the support of professors and students of Wageningen University & Research. InsectSense also receives personal support from a T&U innovation broker and is given a wild card to StartLife’s acceleration program.

Public vote winner: Thermeleon

With a record number of votes from the public, Startup Thermeleon received the audience award. This startup makes greenhouses more energy efficient by strategically re-using the excess heat during the day-and-night cycle, reducing CO2 emissions and energy costs for growers.  Thermeleon won a cash prize of €1,500 and a 6-month HortiTech Startup Membership with access to the network, knowledge and facilities of HortiHeroes and World Horti Center.

 

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

StartLife Welcomes FUMI Ingredients To Startup Office

Founding Team of FUMI Ingredients

StartLife, Kadans Science Partner and Wageningen Campus are excited to welcome FUMI Ingredients to the startup community located in Plus Ultra II, the newest multi-tenant building on Wageningen Campus. FUMI Ingredient is moving into one of the  office spaces dedicated to agrifoodtech startups.

Established in 2019, with the support of StartLife, FUMI Ingredients is an innovative foodtech start-up that focuses on alternative proteins that can replace proteins coming from chicken eggs. Their vegan proteins have a low CO2 footprint and are easy to produce without any expensive machines or chemicals. This makes the cost of production competitive with egg proteins. FUMI Ingredients protein also contains similar properties to egg proteins and contain a balanced, essential amino acid profile.

Agrifood ecosystem

FUMI Ingredients chose Plus Ultra II for their new office because of its dynamic ecosystem, which allows the company to connect with other startups, scale-ups as well as nearby located corporates and research institutes. According to its co-founders, Corjan van den Berg (left on photo) and Edgar Suarez Garcia (right on photo), the ability to rent a small office on campus, close to their laboratory, is also a huge advantage.

“Wageningen Campus is just in many ways the most logical place for us to be situated.”

Plus Ultra II

Plus Ultra II offers office and lab spaces to startups, scale-ups and established companies and organizations that want to contribute to a vibrant community concerning agri & food and a healthy living environment. Dedicated offices can also be rented on the first floor for tech startups in their next phase of development.

On Wageningen Campus, knowledge institutions, the business sector and startups connect and exchange experiences. Additionally, any member of the community of Plus Ultra II can also benefit from the international network of science parks and campuses of Kadans.

 

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Food Waste Monitor Orbisk Raises €1.05M Seed Funding

StartLife alumnus Orbisk has successfully raised  €1.05M seed funding for its fully automated food waste monitor for hospitality organizations.  Orbisk will use the funding to further its R&D and go-to-market efforts and advance towards scale.

Using artificial intelligence, Orbisk’s waste monitors automatically identify what food and how much of it is thrown away by food service companies. By monitoring what food gets thrown out, restaurants and cafeterias not only reduce the amount of good food going into the garbage, they also save money by not spending it on food that customers don’t want. Orbisk’s solution is currently used by 50 restaurants, which are now benefiting from an average food waste reduction of 40 – 50%.

2.1 billion tons food waste

Food waste is big problem. Each year over 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted. This equals 4.4 billion tons in C02 emissions, which accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions. Orbisk’s waste monitors are used in the hospitality industry, which accounts for 15% of all food waste globally. That is over 150 million tons food waste annually wordwide and 10 million tons annually in the EU alone.  Without impactful interventions, food waste is expected to grow to 2.1 billion tons by 2030, representing a major economic burden of €1.1 trillion on the hospitality sector and environmental burden on society.*

Investors double down their stakes

With so much potential impact, it is no wonder that this proven solution receives support from investors. The funding round was led by FoodSparks by PeakBridge VC (one of StartLife’s investor partners), with participation from EIT Food, and existing investors DOEN Participaties B.V. and Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (BOM) of which the latter have doubled down on their prior investments in the company.

*Source: Catalyze Group

 

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Crop CRISPR Startup Hudson River Biotechnology Raises €5M Series A Funding

The Dutch agricultural biotech company Hudson River Biotechnology (HRB), a StartLife alumnus, has  raised 5 million euro in Series A funding. The company focuses on CRISPR-based genome editing in plants. The raised investment – which consists 50% of non-dilutive funding- will be used to further develop HBR’s nanotech offering and explore market opportunities, as well as scaling up its core crop-breeding business.

Hudson River Biotechnology was launched in 2015 by two founders who meet each other at the Hudson River in New York City, hence the company name. In 2017 they decided to work specifically on the application of CRISPR in plant breeding, which lead to a seed round in 2018. Since then, they have been successful in addressing the two main bottlenecks in applying CRISPR to plants: knowing where to make edits, delivering the CRISPR ‘machinery’ inside the plant, and plant regeneration – getting it from the lab in an in vitro situation back to a real plant that can go in a field or greenhouse,” as co-founder and chief scientific officer Ferdinand Los mentioned in an interview with Agfundernews about the founding round.

Highly scalable nanotechnology

It’s that “delivery” element which has led HRB into exploring its latest new business case. The company has been working on nanoparticles that allow it to bypass plant cell walls in order to introduce CRISPR enzymes – but now it’s eyeing potential alternative uses for this teeny-tiny technology. Though nanotechnology is very expensive, HBR has found a way to make it highly scalable.

Unique delivery

“The uniqueness is in the delivery, and there are two directions we can take this in. One is that we can encapsulate existing compounds or molecules to improve bioavailability and reduce the amounts [of agrochemicals] you need to spray on fields. The other is that we enable the delivery of new types [of inputs] – for example, biological agents”,  says co-founder Ferdinand Los.

HBR takes a non-transgenic approach to CRISPR. They do not add any DNA from other species into the plants it is working on. This allows the company to operate within EU regulatory guidelines with regards to genetically modified organisms, explains Ferdinand in an interview with Agfundernews.

Founder Story: Hudson River Biotechnology

 

Founder Story Hudson River Biotechnology | CRISPR-Cas9 to boost natural ingredients

 

PHYSEE (Par+) Closes Series A With €8M Total

PHYSEE concluded its Series A investment round by raising another 4 million euro. The company has now raised in total 8 million euro in growth capital to fund the European roll-out of its smart and sustainable building platform SENSE and to accelerate the industrialization of its light-converting coatings, PAR+.

PHYSEE, a spin-off from the Technical University of Delft, is an expert in the development of light-converting coatings. By adding PHYSEE’s proprietary POWER+ coating, which has recently seen great progress, windows will be able to generate power, making buildings energy neutral. Within this coating domain PHYSEE is also close to commercializing its agricultural PAR+ coating, which converts UV light into PAR light, allowing crops to grow 7% faster in greenhouses. Once successful, the coating will significantly contribute to meeting the world’s growing food demand in a sustainable manner.

Coen van Oostrom, CEO of EDGE, which has participated again in this investment round after an initial investment in 2019, states: “The biggest challenge facing the real industry today is making our built environment healthier, sustainable and more inspiring. I am certain that innovation is and will remain the one true enabler for a much-needed revolution and PHYSEE is one of those companies that perfectly embodies this. I have been a huge fan of PHYSEE from day one and I am very excited to continue our support for the coming years.”

CEO and co-founder Ferdinand Grapperhaus jr.: “The fact that we have been able to quickly close the second half of our Series A investment round by attracting capital from new and existing investors, is a testament to PHYSEE’s potential and the focus from leading real estate developers to invest in sustainable and comfort increasing technology. We look forward to deploying this new capital to accelerate the roll-out of our smart and sustainable building platform and to speed up the commercialization of our light-converting coatings.”

The growth capital was raised from new investors Phase2. Earth and Adunare and existing investors Job Dura and EDGE. The first half of the investment was closed last January.

 

p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Cricket and Grasshopper Meat Producer Burgs Foods Is Served Funding

Burgs Foods, a young Dutch insect-based food producer, has raised funding from early-stage venture capitalist Unknown Group. The funding is to aid Burgs Foods in its goal for every European to eat at least one meal per week made of insect meat by 2030.

Under the established brand, De Krekerij, Burgs Foods, a StartLife startup alumnus, has rapidly grown to the role of pioneer of the Dutch market in the domain of cricket and grasshopper-made alternative meat products. Last summer their mini sausage rolls filled with crickets were shining on the shelves in all Lidl stores in the Netherlands,
and co-founder Sander Peltenburg was named into the prestigious Dutch Food100 list of entrepreneurs changing the food landscape.

Cricket to Ride

The products of Burgs Foods, which include traditional burgers, meatballs and sausage rolls, along with new classics like pulled grasshopper are characterized by three core features:

  1. a unique umami flavor,
  2. nutrient-rich in nature, and
  3. sustainable.

With these product features Burgs Foods is riding the wave called ‘alternative protein foods’, or should we say, playing the food game ‘cricket to ride’, a movement in line with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, aimed at feeding the world with improved nutrition that are sustainably produced. Indeed, Burgs Foods’ products lead to significantly less environmental impact and greater resource efficiency in consuming insects as compared to livestock.

The Unknown

Edward de Jager, Chairman of Unknown Group said: ”We have known Sander Peltenburg and George Brandenburg, the co-founders of Burgs Foods, for a long time already and consider them strong and dynamic founders. Furthermore, their changemaking contribution to the future of the food industry is driven by sustainable motivation. We see enormous potential in this industry and these founders, and that’s why we welcome them to venture into the Unknown and beyond.”

Sanders mentions that the investment from Unknown Group will be used to strategically and sustainably grow their business by increasing their processing capacity, building partnerships to bring their products to market and marketing their products. On immediate goals, he adds: “We want to raise the level of our production facility to the highest possible safety standards – FSSC 22000. When we reach this, we are able to produce our products under white label for the professional food market throughout Europe. This brings our products to shelves and menus around the continent!”

Big & Hairy

Burgs Foods goals can be called Big and Hairy, which does not refer to the size and skin of their food ingredients, but to their big hairy audacious goal of having every European eat, or should we say try, at least one insect-based meat meal per week by 2030. With their unique insect processing technologies they intend to become the food factory of the future for everything related to processing insects into food. We look forward to Burgs Foods making its ‘big whopper’ up next.

 

p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Rival Foods Partners Up to Develop Juicy Whole-cut Plant-based Chicken

Rival Foods - Whole-cut Plant-based Chicken

Rival Foods, a Dutch gastronomy startup that produces whole-cuts of plant-based meat, announced a partnership with LIVEKINDLY Collective that aims to fasten the development of a perfect plant-based chicken, bringing a tasty and sustainable alternative for mindful consumers. 

Rival Foods, a StartLife startup alumnus, has developed and commercialized a production process to transform plant-based ingredients into high-quality textured protein foods with an unparalleled fibrous texture, rich mouthfeel and juiciness, using very few clean-label ingredients. They have now partnered up with LIVEKINDLY Collective, a collection of heritage and startup brands on track to become one of the world’s largest plant-based food companies. The partnership is to leverage their complementary knowledge and resources, providing a new model for rapid product innovation.

Compelling in taste and texture

“The key to convincing consumers to change their eating habits is to create delicious plant-based options that are compelling in taste and texture and can truly replace animal products,” said Birgit Dekkers, co-founder of Rival Foods. “One challenge is the fibrous texture of whole plant-based meats and we are able to optimize this requirement and ensure sensory superiority within the plant-based product category.”

Rapid scaling

“Our plant-based food platform is uniquely positioned to scale rapidly and transform the current global food system,” said Kees Kruythoff, CEO and Chairman of LIVEKINDLY Collective. “Through this open innovation model with Rival Foods, we will be able to develop a new generation of innovative, delicious, and nutritious plant-based products that meet the growing global demand for animal-free food.”

StartLife Alumni Updates – October 2020

Brief updates from StartLife Alumni and Community members.

Major Breakthrough For Malaria-fighter In2care

A malaria-free world? The chances of pulling off this immense mission have taken a great leap forward. The Wageningen-based company InCare Trading company has developed and tested a solution that reduces the chances of malaria infections with an unprecedented result of more than 40% on top of new bednets! With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation In2Care ran a 5 year long trial project in the Ivory Coast.

“The UN World Health Organization (WHO) is full of praise for our solution”, says Marius de Waard, CEO of In2care, proudly. “To obtain a much desired formal prequalification by the WHO we now need to conduct a second study that supports our first findings. For this repeat study we need $3 million, for which we hope to find funding soon.”

The 3D animation above shows how In2Care EaveTubes lure, block and kill resistant malaria mosquitoes and prevent disease transmission.

Read more about the Ivory Coast Trial by In2Care


CE-Line Wins GreenTech Innovation Concept Award 2020

On 20 October, during the opening of GreenTech Live & Online, the top quality international exhibition for horticulture technologies, CE-Line was named the winner in the Concept category of the GreenTech Innovation Awards. CE-Line develops measuring systems for the water quality of greenhouse horticulture. The innovation award is for the CELINE technology, which adjusts the nutrient solution as desired or to the plant needs.

The jury sees the technology as “a good idea that has not yet been resolved and is a big step forward in very accurate fertilization.”


Corvus Drones Obtains €150k From Rabobank Innovation Fund

Corvus Drones

Corvus Drones is specialized in smart crop monitoring and scouting by a fully automated drone. By partnering with Artificial Intelligence companies’ the company provides solutions for seed germination, crop development, plant stress and disease & pest detection. The loan, which is an initiative of the Innovation Fund Rabobank, provides Dutch early-stage entrepreneurs with a good innovative idea that contributes to the digitization, sustainability and/or vitalization of society, and the opportunity to further develop their plans.


Sigrow Wins Dutch Innovation Prize 2020

Last week Sigrow has won the Topsector T&U* Innovation Prize 2020 (*Dutch Horticulture and Starting Materials Top Sector). Jury chairman Harrij Schmeitz: “Sigrow’s solution measures the status of the plant using a thermal camera. This innovation is the missing link for the Unmanned Growing Concept. This makes it possible to directly control the climate etc. based on “plant value” instead of just “grower input”. Team Sigrow has the potential to make this development a success and to grow into the Fitbit of Horticulture. ” Sigrow wins, among others , a knowledge voucher worth €25,000.


Sponsh Elected As Europe’s Best Social Entrepreneurs 2020

Sponsh won the first prize of the Social Innovation Tournament’s (SIT) ninth edition in the Special Category,  which is dedicated to projects that focus on environment and have a strong focus on biodiversity and ecosystem conservation. In addition to the title ‘Europe’s Best Social Entrepreneurs 2020’, the company won €50k prize money.

Sponsh, developed a temperature-sensitive smart material that produces water from air, using the natural cycles of day and night. Launched in 2018, their first products are water-producing tree guards for reforestation projects, to help young trees survive their first harsh summers. After 10 years, Sponsh will have planted 80 million trees, turned 174 000 ha of degraded land into forests and absorbed 68 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.


Vegger Recognized As Exemplarily Green Deal Sustainable Health Care Initiative

Vertical Farming meets Health Care! Wageningen-based Vegger, a StartHub Wageningen resident, is officially recognized by the RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment as an example of Green Deal Sustainable Health Care.

Vegger makes healthcare facilities ‘green’ by means of high-tech indoor vegetable gardens with edible plants. For more than eighteen months, Vegger has been supplying the healthcare facilities of the Innoforte Foundation with fresh vegetables and herbs. Vegger’s mission, in addition to promoting healthy and local food, is to create a healing environment to promote the well-being of residents in a positive way.

Learn more about Vegger on the RIVM website (in Dutch)


p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Viroteq Attracts Funding To Build Smart Stacking and Packaging Robot Software

Virtual_deal_closing_Virtoteq_HorizonFlevoland

Efficiently stack packages and objects of different sizes? With the intelligent on-the-fly mixed palletizer software that can make robots deal with flexible situations in a smarter way, this becomes a breeze. Viroteq makes grateful and efficient use of the latest machine vision and deep-learning techniques. Thanks to a fund managed by Horizon Flevoland, the company can now develop a prototype.

“Many stacking and packaging processes within the logistics industry are still performed by people, while this is physically very demanding and monotonous work. By using robots with our software in a smarter and more flexible way, we can automate these processes while at the same time improving the efficiency of the stack, “explains Evert van Galen, co-founder and CEO of Viroteq.

StartLife and Horizon Flevoland

“We are delighted to be able to fund this promising initiative and provide the company with the money for a working prototype. The target? Conquer the market, “said Inge Verschuur, investment manager at regional development company Horizon Flevoland.  The fund is committed to enabling entrepreneurs to grow and at the same time to realize social challenges.

Horizon Flevoland is not the only investor. StartLife also believes in the company. Within the StartLife Accelerate Fall 2020 program , Viroteq developed a “proof of principle”; an experiment aimed at determining whether the invented technology actually works and is feasible. In this program Food & Agritech startups learn what is crucial in validating their business, how to attract financiers and grow their business. In addition, the program provides seed capital, business support and access to leading companies and investors.

Efficient packing

Viroteq wants to sell their software as a licensing model, but also focuses (in collaboration with partners) on the sale of total systems. In the future, the company will not only focus on stacking crates and packages, but also on efficient packaging of the food products in these crates and packages.

Flevoland has a strong logistics sector. For example, the logistics hotspot Almere-Lelystad-Zeewolde finished third this year on the list of top logistics locations in the Netherlands. ‘The logistics sector in Flevoland offers us many opportunities and growth opportunities’, says Evert van Galen of Viroteq.

TMI Proof of Concept Fund Flevoland

Viroteq receives funding from the TMI Proof of Concept Fund Flevoland (POC Fund). This fund is managed by Horizon Flevoland and provides financing to innovative SMEs with growth ambitions that wish to invest in the development of new products or services and are in the so-called proof-of-concept phase. € 13.3 million has been made available for this by a program from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of the European Union, the province of Flevoland and the national government.

 

p.s. You can  also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifoodtech startups, scale-ups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Verdify Raises €750k To Create First AI-powered Platform For Personalized Nutrition

Screenshot website Verdify 13-10-2020

The Dutch Foodtech company Verdify, a StartLife alumni, has raised a seed investment of €750.000. Two private investors and AI-investment company Genzai enable the development of the world’s first AI-powered platform for fully personalized and guideline-based nutrition.

Verdify will use the funding to create the first international recipe platform with fully adaptive recipes. The company develops innovative software for assisting consumers online in healthy decision making. Verdify will enable consumers to set up their nutrition passport with detailed information about personal nutrition and health needs, fully adjustable to food and taste preferences. A wealth of matching recipe inspiration is generated on the basis of the nutrition passport, both on the Verdify platform and on the recipe websites of partnering companies.

Improving quality of life

Verdify operates from the vision that nutrition can play a fundamental role in the maintenance of health and the treatment of chronic conditions. Increased attention for nutritional intake in healthcare and -prevention settings can have a profound impact on the quality of life of many people and contribute to lowering medical expenditures. “Our aim is to provide a trusted digital environment for making food choices that are supportive of personal health. We are excited to welcome the new investors and together take key steps towards making a durable impact on health and social wellbeing” said the CEO of Verdify, Jochem Bossenbroek.

Investors

Together with AI-investment company Genzai, Verdify develops the software to power the personalized nutrition platform. Roy Lenders, CEO of Genzai: “Food is the biggest market in the world and personalized nutrition is one of the key themes in this market. We are excited to build artificial intelligent models with Verdify that can really enable personalized nutrition for consumers around the globe.” Theo Cuppen, Director of Joles B.V. and one of the private investors said: “Verdify is fully aligned with our motivation to invest in creative startups in the food industry that develop socially responsible concepts on the route from production to consumption.”

Platform integration

The recipe platform will be connected to the order & delivery systems of food retailers and meal delivery platforms to present a new level of convenience in planning and ordering personalized healthy meals. The company’s focus reaches beyond convenience in healthy eating: Verdify operates fully in harmony with national nutrition guidelines that are applied in the medical domain and dietary practice.

Verdify will also construct a software interface that can be used by companies in the food sector for personalizing their recipe content on their websites. This allows the companies to tailor meal inspiration content to the exact needs and preferences of consumers. Besides that, Verdify will offer the possibility to automatically create nutritious recipes around specific (novel) food products through application of its AI Chef.

 

p.s. Follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifoodtech startups, scale-ups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Bioventure Sundew Raises €1.4M In Seed Financing

White Spot Disease - Ich_by James_Pickett
Photo by James Pickett

Sundew, an innovative bioventure targeting aquatic pests and diseases, has received €1.34 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s BioInnovation Institute, bringing its total funding raised to date to €1.4M. This funding will allow Sundew to bring its first product, for the treatment of the fish disease ‘Ich’, to market.

Aquatic pests and diseases are a major and growing global problem. Humanity becomes more and more reliant on the oceans for food and natural resources. We have an ever-increasing impact on aquatic ecosystems, ranging from the open seas to groundwater. More than ever preventing, treating and managing water transmitted pests, parasites, diseases and invasive species is vital.

Huge unmet need for aquaculture

In particular there is an urgent need for effective, affordable and environmentally-benign products that can replace the often toxic and non-degradable chemicals that are currently used, as co-founder Andy Gardiner also explains in his founder story: huge unmet need for aquaculture. Chemicals that often cause as many problems as they solve. Sundew, a Danish-Dutch startup biological technology, is developing a range of biological technology platforms to enable the creation, optimization and delivery of cost-effective, robust products with a small environmental footprint.

Sundew’s most advanced technology was initially developed under the EU Horizon 2020 ParaFishControl project by scientists at the Dutch Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) in Wageningen and the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Sundew has a world-wide, exclusive license to the technology and to sell products based on it.

Well ‘spotted’ business

Sundew’s first product addresses outbreaks of lchthyophthirius multifiliis, also known as just ‘Ich’ or fish white spot disease. Ich is a parasite that affects freshwater fish, including seven of the eleven most important finfish aquaculture species, such as carp, tilapia and catfish. (Freshwater fish account for nearly 90% of all farmed fish (by volume) and more than 40% of all aquaculture.) It also affects many well-known ‘ornamental’ species that are found in major display and research aquariums or in ornamental ponds or are kept as pets.

Earlier this year Sundew was awarded €0.8M from the Danish government’s green fund, GUDP, to develop this same product for use by trout farmers, where ‘Ich’ is a major seasonal problem.  The company also obtained €85.000 through the StartLife Accelerate program. The funding announced today will allow Sundew to bring this product to market for the ornamental sector.

Building a company of lasting value

Neil Goldsmith, chairman of Sundew, welcomed the investment saying, ‘this funding will enable Sundew to develop our lead product all the way to market. It is an excellent opportunity to work with two organizations, each outstanding in its area, to build a company of lasting value’.

Christian Brix Tillegreen, Senior Business Developer at BioInnovation Institute, who will be working with the company, said: ‘Sundew uses biology to tackle pests and diseases that live in water and addresses a huge unmet need in the fast-growing agriculture market as well as human health and ecological problems. Sundew’s products could help the transformation towards more sustainable industries. I am excited to work with the experienced start-up team of founders and experts and look forward to supporting their development towards the market’.

Jan Meiling, Managing Director of StartLife, said, ‘It’s really pleasing to see one of our 2019 graduate companies making such excellent progress, especially given the technology link to Wageningen. We always felt that Sundew’s approach was compelling. All of us here at StartLife are very glad to have played a part in supporting their early development.’

 

p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifoodtech startups, scale-ups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

 

StartLife Alumni Updates – September 2020

Brief updates from StartLife Alumni and Community members.

Orbisk launches international consortium co-funded by €1.2M Eurostars grant

Orbisk launches international Eurostars consortium

On a global scale, a mind-boggling amount of 1.3 billion tons (1.300.000.000.000 kgs) of food goes to waste, every single year. Food waste fighter Orbisk has just secured a EUR 1.2 million Eurostars grant to help make a difference. As of September 1st, Orbisk, Aivero and Eaternity Institut form an international consortium aptly titled ‘FOOD FIGHT’. The partners will explore cutting edge camera and streaming technologies. Furthermore, the consortium will focus on the prospecting capabilities based on the generated data, to better understand and advise clients to reduce their food waste and environmental impact.

Read the full announcement.


FrieslandCampina Director becomes Managing Director at PEF Technologies

Yulia Mitko - Meeuwes Buiten - PEF Technologies

After two years of effective cooperation on a consultancy basis, the team of PEF Technologies have appointed Meeuwes Buiten as Managing Director. Meeuwes has 35+ years of experience within the dairy industry. He took various managing positions at Royal FrieslandCampina, amongst which Supply Chain Director. “His knowledge of product development and his broad and global network within dairy sector makes his input indispensable for the company. I believe that under his lead we have all chances to bringing the product to the market in the nearest future,” comments Valeriy Mitko, Technical Director and co-owner of PEF Technologies.

Go to the full press release.


Odd.bot delivers proof-of-concept for Weed Whacker robot

OddBot Proof of Concept

This summer Odd.bot demonstrated their Proof-of-Concept in the presence of their current financers: the Horizon Flevoland Proof of Concept Fund, a robotics expert hired by them and a delegation from Wageningen University & Research. Odd.bots has demonstrated in the field, at a grower of organic carrots, that they have a working robot that can not only recognize the weeds well and distinguish them from the crop, but can also remove the weeds independently. The next goal they have set for themselves is to demonstrate by mid-October that the robot will do its work for four consecutive hours: recognize at least 70 percent of the weeds present and remove at least 70 percent of them. So on balance already half of all the weeds present!


EIT Food awards over €200.000 to high-impact agrifood startup Epinutra

EIT Food Corona Bridge Fund

EIT Food invests €5.4 million in 13 high-impact agrifood startups. Among them is StartLife alumni Epinutra. They receive €212.500. The investment is made from The COVID-19 Bridge Fund which supports European agrifood startups that have been affected by coronavirus. The funds help the companies adapt to COVID-19, to continue critical innovation to transform our food systems and to bridge the gap towards their next investment round. The selected startups cover a range of sectors with vast potential to create positive change, addressing one of EIT Food’s focus areas. The investments concerns convertible loans, so EIT Food made sure to select high-potential startups.


Celine obtains 150,000 euro from Rabobank Innovation Fund

Celine - horticulture water management

Celine, provider of automated water and nutrient management in greenhouse horticulture, obtained a Rabo Innovation loan of €150,000. The loan, which is an initiative of the Innovation Fund Rabobank, provides Dutch early-stage entrepreneurs with a good innovative idea that contributes to the digitization, sustainability and/or vitalization of society the opportunity to further develop their plans.


GreenCovery and Mylium win first AtlasInvest Entrepreneurship Grant

Winners AtlastInvest Entrepreneurship Grant 2020

Side-stream specialist Greencovery and sustainable textile producer Mylium are the winners of the first AtlasInvest Entrepreneurship Grant. The grant, provided by the investment holding company of Marcel van Poecke (a successful WUR alumnus), supports student-entrepreneurs from Wageningen University who have impactful ideas. Two grants have been awarded. The startup award (€15.000), won by Greencovery, is granted to student entrepreneurs who focus on commercially promising solutions to global food and sustainability challenges. The Impact Award (€15.000), won by Mylium, rewards social initiatives of student entrepreneurs that focus on maximum impact on the environment and sustainability.

 

p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

NutriLeads Attracts €6.5M Series B Funding

Nutrileads
Source: Oost NL

Dutch Health Ingredients company Nutrileads, a StartLife alumni, has announced the closing of a Series B financing round of €6.5 million. The company will use the capital to launch its the immune-enhancing ingredient Xtramune and to progress its portfolio of health ingredients. The capital is provided by Icos Capital together with Goeie-Grutten and existing shareholders DSM Venturing, Oost NL, Shift Invest and Thuja.

NutriLeads, established in 2012 and based in Wageningen, develops innovative natural food ingredients with clinically proven health benefits for application in dietary supplements and functional foods. Its proprietary lead ingredient, XtramuneTM, is a unique carrot-derived fibre supporting immune function and resistance to respiratory infections.

Entering new phase

This series B funding round marks a new phase for the company. Together with global partners in the food and supplement industry, NutriLeads will be driving XtramuneTM towards commercialization in 2021. In addition, two other ingredients from its portfolio, targeting gut health and metabolic health, will be progressed to proof of concept in humans.

Unlocking potential

Ruud Albers, CEO of NutriLeads indicates: “We are very excited about this successful funding round which helps to propel NutriLeads forward. People can strengthen their health with nutrition. It is our ambition to unlock the potential of clinically proven food ingredients and this funding round supports that mission. It is great to see that all our investors are committed to this shared goal.”

Nityen Lal, Managing Director of ICOS Capital Management BV: “Health ingredients are sought-after by food companies and their consumers. NutriLeads has impressed us by its professionalism, the quality of the work done and their network in the industry. We are confident that this is a worthwhile investment both for our LPs as well as for the consumers who will benefit from the health ingredients to be marketed.”

 

p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

StartLife Alumni Updates – July 2020

Brief updates from StartLife Alumni and Community members.

Ellipsis closes deal with the city of Rotterdam

Zonnepanelen op dak

In the context of our energy transition, the city of Rotterdam wants to continuously map how many solar panels are installed in their city. Ellipsis has been selected to detect all solar panels in Rotterdam using remote sensing and AI, and link this information to the municipal information systems. Rotterdam chose Ellipsis because they can easily integrate the information into the existing information systems of the city and their associates. This critical step, going from raw data outputs to easily shareable and integrable geoinformation, is a major challenge that companies with an AI expertise only, have difficulty solving.


StartLife Grants 350,000 euro Next Stage Funding

StartLife StartLife Pre-seed Fund

StartLife offers promising food- & agtech startups up to 85,000 euro non-dilutive funding, which is split into three stages. For each stage startups have to pitch and defend their case in front of StartLife’s Review Board; a group of agrifood investors and serial-entrepreneurs. Last week the review board granted 350,000 euro to nine StartLife startups.


Collecting 330,000 euro for Take Off

NWO-Take-Off

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has recently completed a new funding round from their Take-Off program, which is aimed at stimulating innovative activity based on the knowledge development and utilization by researchers at knowledge institutions. Three StartLife / Starthub startups participated in the spring 2020 call and were all granted funding. Drone-specialist Van Boven receives a loan of €250,000 for early stage routes. Remode Solutions, developer of custom-made 3D printed bioreactors, and dairy-fat-alternative producer Time Travelling Milkman both received €40,000 for conducting feasibility studies.

View full list of funded Take Off projects


Premal obtains 150,000 euro from Rabobank Innovation Fund

Premal

Malaria prevention and control company PreMal recently obtained a Rabo Innovation loan of €150,000. The loan, which is an initiative of the Innovation Fund Rabobank, provides Dutch early-stage entrepreneurs with a good innovative idea that contributes to the digitization, sustainability and/or vitalization of society the opportunity to further develop their plans.


Wanted: CTO with master in chemical engineering

NXT Cotton

Do you know a master in chemical engineering who likes to help making the textile industry more circular? Dutch startup NXT Cotton Solutions is looking for a Chief Technology Officer. Responsibilities: Program lead for scale-up phase, technological and operational part of Pilot Facility & (Demo) Plant. Set up the NXT Cotton Operational team. Counterpart and sparring partner of the WUR research team.

Download the full vacancy text (pdf) here.

 

p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

StartLife Alumni Updates – May 2020

Brief updates from StartLife Alumni and Community members.

3 million euros for Cerescon’s asparagus harvesting robot

StartLife alumnus since 2015 

Cerescon's asparagus harvesting robot: Sparter

Cerescon, the developer of the very first selective asparagus harvesting robot, Sparter, seems to benefit from the impact of the coronavirus. Many growers of asparagus, the ‘white gold’, are currently confronted with a 30% shortfall in manual harvesters. “Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, interest in Sparter has doubled now that harvesters are even thinner on the ground,” explains Mark van Lier, international sales manager at Cerescon. A Dutch informal has recently invested an additional 3 million euro in the company. Cerescon will be using this extra capital to boost sale and production of Sparter, after the 1-row self-propelling harvesting robot was put through its paces during the current asparagus harvesting season.

Read the full press release.


Livestock management software company Serket receives 350,000 euros early phase funding

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2018 Cohort 

Serket - Livestock Management Software

Serket, a software company that aims to revolutionize the livestock farming industry, has recently been granted a loan of 350,000 euro from the Early Phase Funding initiative of Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (Netherlands Enterprise Agency). The loan is used to further develop their Piguard software, an innovative Livestock Health Management application that uses regular security cameras and artificial intelligence to identify health, reproduction and environmental changes early on and translate visual information into actionable data.


Sponsh Finalist In Europe’s Best Social Entrepreneurs Tournament

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2018 Cohort 

Sponsh - Water from Air

Sponsh, a Dutch startup that extracts water from air to fight water shortage, has been selected for the 2020 edition of the Social Innovation Tournament (SIT), the flagship initiative of the EIB Institute’s social program recognizing and supporting Europe’s best social entrepreneurs. The finalists, whose primary purpose is to generate a social, ethical or environmental impact, were selected from an group of 216 candidates in 31 countries. The finals take place in Lisbon on 8 October – in which all the finalists will have to present and defend their project before a jury of social innovation specialists.

 

p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Founder Story: Epinutra Targets A Natural Solution To Heartburn

Benesco by Epinutra - a natural solution to heartburn

When the team behind Epinutra first started its research, it was looking for solutions to strengthen the connections between cells in the body. Ten years later, it has developed a natural food supplement that could provide a new way to tackle heartburn – even in vulnerable groups like pregnant women.

epithelial-cells-in-esophagus

Epinutra’s CEO and founder Richard Hampson admits that the company took an unconventional approach, first looking for compounds that strengthen the epithelia – the outer layer of cells that protects many internal organs – before considering possible uses for them.

“From a business perspective, it was the wrong way around,” he said, explaining that he and his team spent a decade inventing the test and screening more than 2,000 molecules to see if they hit their molecular target of interest.

A natural solution to heartburn

“We found roughly five candidates that fit the bill, and two of them were food ingredients. So that meant instead of looking at drug development, we could look at natural food supplements,” he said. “There is often a preference for a natural food supplement rather than a drug, especially for pregnant women for example, who often take a ‘grin and bear it’ approach.”

Man-with-heart-burnEpinutra was set up in the summer of 2019 as an affiliate company of Portugal-based Thelial Technologies, S.A., supported in part by grants from the European Research Council and the EU Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Programme. It is dedicated to the development of benescoTM (check explainer video about benescoTM), a supplement taken as a lozenge to support oesophagus health for people who suffer from heartburn. The product is based on two active ingredients: an antioxidant found in apples called quercetin; and vitamin B2, or riboflavin; as well as the sugar-free sweetener isomalt.

The active ingredients are present at relatively low doses – the quercetin is equivalent to that found in about three apples, just over 30 mg – while the vitamin B2 is about 15% of the recommended daily dose. The company suggests that someone might question why it would be necessary to take a supplement when these nutrients are so readily available in a healthy diet, but the time it takes to consume them is important. Eating apples means the quercetin passes very quickly through the oesophagus tube that links the mouth and stomach, whereas sucking a lozenge  similar to breath-freshening mints takes several minutes, which is crucial for the compound to have an effect, in addition to stimulating saliva production.

So, why the oesophagus?

Epithelial health could refer to any number of tissues in the body, but Hampson and the Epinutra team chose to focus on the oesophagus because it is by far the simplest part of the digestive tract to reach.

esophagus-epithelial-cells

“The oesophagus is the simplest for us to address,” he said. “If you want to target anything in the gut you have to pass through the stomach. The oesophagus is much easier.”

Heartburn and indigestion are incredibly common, but few remedies are available, and often come with side effects. There are over-the-counter antacids, which work by either capping stomach acid, preventing reflux into the oesophagus, or by neutralising acids with an alkali compound.

It is an enormous market: the global antacids market alone is worth about $10 billion a year, according to the World Health Organization.

The other option is proton pump inhibitors, which suppress stomach acid production, but over time, they can cause headaches, gastrointestinal complaints, and even interfere with the absorption of some nutrients and prescription drugs.

Licensing opportunity

“There are options, but they all target stomach acid and reducing stomach acid, which we don’t,” said Hampson. “…It is a crowded market, but with solutions that have been around for a long time. Our principal competitors are protein pump inhibitors. They are effective, but have side effects in the long term. And beyond that, they have gone off patent.”

This is part of the reasoning behind the company’s fundamental strategy to license its technology to someone else, rather than developing and marketing its own product; manufacturers are likely to have an appetite for new options (and potential revenue streams) for tackling heartburn in this highly competitive market.

“We just received our first prototypes of benescoTM and we are launching for ourselves with a distribution partner in the Netherlands,” said Hampson. “In the longer term we are certainly looking to license it to a larger player.”

At this stage, however, he says the project is still in an early phase and needs more development before the product will be ready for licensing.

Working with StartLife

The company’s founders already had connections with clinical partners based in Amsterdam, and this sparked their interest in the Netherlands, but Epinutra was established there after contacting StartLife at the beginning of 2019. It was accepted onto the StartLife Accelerate program, and launched just a few months later.

“We don’t come from a strong food background,” said Hampson. “StartLife fitted exactly with what we needed, which was that they saw the innovation that we had and they had experts and connections in the food industry. StartLife has really been a gateway to the food industry in the Netherlands. They can be credited with why we set up a Dutch company.”

He added that having the backing of the StartLife brand and Wageningen University has been a helpful seal of approval with its partners, and StartLife clearly was important financially as the company’s initial investors.

Less than a year after it was founded, Epinutra has just closed a funding round led by Rabobank, and has built its Netherlands-based presence from a small, scientific-focused team to one that includes a variety of experts, including marketing professionals.

After launching the product this year, the company plans to seek equity investors to develop other targeted nutraceuticals. If you are interested in this opportunity please contact Richard Hampson directly: rhampson@epinutra.com.

 

p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

StartLife Alumni Updates – April 2020

Brief updates from StartLife Alumni and Community members

NGS Secures Convertible Loan Of 250k euro From LIOF

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2019 cohort

NGS plus 500 euro biljetten

Next Generations Sensors (NGS) receives €250,000 from the Limburg Business Development Fund (LBDF) of LIOF, the regional development company of the Dutch Province of Limburg. NGS will use the funding to deliver a proof-of-concept for a portable mass spectrometer that can test monsters real time outside a laboratory and is specifically designed for application in the agrifood sector.


Epinutra Collects 150k euro Subordinated Loan From Rabobank

alumnus of StartLife’s Spring 2019 cohort

Epinutra plus euro biljetten

Rabobank recently granted Epinutra, an affiliate company of Thelial Technologies S.A., their Subordinated Innovation Loan (Achtergestelde Innovatie Lening) of 150,000 euro. Epinutra is dedicated to the development of BenescoTM, a targeted nutraceutical ingredient designed to support esophagus health in people that suffer from heartburn. The loan is available for early-stage startups who are working on innovation. Even if there are no proven results or insufficient cash flow. (For the record, the loan is unrelated to financial instruments that help startups overcome the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.)


Four StartLife Alumni Receive Follow Up Funding From StartLife Pre-seed Fund

StartLife StartLife Pre-seed Fund

StartLife’s review board has granted four StartLife alumni their second or third batch of funding from StartLife Pre-seed Fund. The follow up funding is available for startups who participated in the StartLife Accelerate program and have reached predefined milestones. Viroteq received their second batch tranche worth 25,000 euro. Greencovery, De Krekerij and Sundew were granted their third and final tranche of 50,000 euro.


GreenFood: breakthrough fractionation technology for quinoa

StartLife community member since 2014

Greenfood50 quinoa
(c) GreenFood50

Quinoa production in the EU has grown significantly over the last decade. However, due to a lack of tailored technology, its uptake as a protein alternative remains low. But this is about to change, thanks to breakthrough fractionation technology developed by GreenFood50, with the support of the EU-funded QUINNOVA project. The technology, which generates a high-protein fraction, uses an innovative, dry fractionation process that is environmentally friendly and operates using less energy and water than alternative technologies. With the production process now streamlined and scaled up, GreenFood50 is ready to accelerate the introduction of QUINNOVA products onto the market.

Read the full press release.

 

p.s. You can also follow StartLife on Linkedin, Twitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

 

9 New Agrifood Startups Prepare To Tackle Global Challenges

Logo-sheet StartLife Spring 2020 Cohort

The agrifood industry is actively searching for sustainable food alternatives, like plant-based dairy, land-based salmon and, oh yes, bugs! The industry is also concerned with a more sustainable use of resources, striving to minimize water usage and crop spoilage and optimizing the circularity of materials. How can corporates ensure trust, quality and fair ownership in their agrifood supply chains? And how can we keep our waters safe from blue algae? Nine early-stage startups that tackle these global challenges are selected for the StartLife Spring 2020 cohort.

Meet the StartLife Spring 2020 cohort

We take great pleasure in introducing to you the StartLife Spring 2020 cohort:

  • CELINE – automated water & nutrient management for high tech indoor farms
  • CIED – providing transparency in agro supply chain with blockchain
  • Insectocycle – turn-key black soldier fly breeding
  • Mythronics – AI-based quality inspection and monitoring for vegetables and fruits
  • NaturalPond – sustainable treatment of blue-green algae bloom
  • NXT Cotton Solutions – turning used jeans into clean cotton fibres
  • PAR+ (Physee) – optimizing light transmission inside greenhouses with high tech coating
  • Time-Travelling Milkman – plant-based ‘dairy’ using oleosomes
  • Van Holland Zalm – land-based salmon production

From April to June we will help these companies to validate their customer segments and business model and prepare them for fundraising. They will receive intensive training and individual coaching and shall be introduced to various corporates and program partners. On June 24th we will conclude the 12-week acceleration program with the graduation day.

Record number of applicants

“We were thrilled to see a record number of applicants for our acceleration program.”, says Joar Nilssen, scout of StartLife. “The overall quality of the applications has improved as well, making it even more of a challenge to reduce the list to just 15 startups for the Selection Day.” On March 3rd the StartLife team interviewed the nominees in person to assess which teams are best suited to join the upcoming program. We assessed the startups on three main elements: Market & Customers, Product & Technology, and Team.

Assessing startups, in particular in early-stage, is quite challenging, given the limited visibility of information and the venture’s potential impact. Joar: “As a scout who pre-selects the startups, it is always exciting to see how the startups perform during the interviews and how they are assessed by our team members. We are confident about our final selection though and look forward to helping them to excel.”

Photo of Selection Committee of StartLife Spring 2020 Cohort
Photo of Selection Committee of StartLife Spring 2020 Cohort

StartLife Alumni Updates: March 2020

Brief updates from StartLife Alumni and Community members

1) EzCOL B.V. takes major steps forward with cholesterol reduction technology

StartLife alumni / community member
Cholesterol

EzCOL, a spin-off from the European Space Agency research program ‘MELiSSA’, has been working on the development of innovative highly effective cholesterol lowering technology. The technology has shown LDL reductions of up to 90% without adverse effects and could be a game-changer in a highly competitive market. They successfully completed a first-in-man phase I/IIa clinical trial and received approval from the METC to perform a second clinical trial. The company also completed a financing round recently. The funding enables EzCol to expand its team and complete ongoing research activities to further broaden its IP position.

2) Mylium opens laboratory on Agro Business Parc

StartLife community member
Mylium Team and Leather Wallet

To enhance and speed up their product development Mylium has just opened a small dedicated laboratory on Agro Business Parc in Wageningen. Mylium is an early-stage startup that uses the roots of mushrooms, known as mycelium, to create leather-like sheets that can be used in the fashion industry. Mycelium leather is vegan, free of chromium, lightweight and produced in a convenient shape. The co-founders Iris Houthoff, lecturer bioprocess technology at WUR, and Eric van de Zilver, fermentation & upscaling expert, believe that mycelium technology will play an important role in the transition to a circular and biobased economy. The founders expect that with all necessary facilities installed, they are able to produce a first bag prototype by the end of this year.

3) Finalists AtlasInvest Entrepreneurship Grant (AIEG)

Finalists of AtlasInvest Entrepreneurship Award AIEG 2020

StartLife Alumni Rival Foods, Greencovery and Mylium are three of the five finalists for the AtlasInvest Entrepreneurship Grant (AIEG). The other nominees are Vegger and Scope Biosciences. The grant supports student-entrepreneurs with impactful ideas. Two grants are awarded yearly: the Impact Award (€15.000) for ideas with maximum sustainable impact, and the StartUp Award (€35.000) for commercially promising ideas for global challenges. On May 13th the nominees will contend in the finals.

 

FUMI Ingredients Receives Investment of Half a Million Euro for Natural Egg White Replacers

Founding Team of FUMI Ingredients

Producers of meat alternatives all over the world have long been seeking for a break-through solution that allows them to exchange egg whites for a plant-based substitute, making their products 100% vegan. FUMI Ingredients, a Wageningen University & Research spin-off, has found an alternative that is natural and at the same time more cost effective than regular egg whites. Innovation Industries and SHIFT Invest are the first to invest €500,000, which enables the company to produce their vegan proteins on a larger scale.

With consumers becoming increasingly aware of their diets and the environmental impact of the foods they consume, the market for vegetarian and vegan foods is growing rapidly. A major challenge for food producers is to find an alternative for using egg whites, an animal-based ingredient, to bind ‘meat’ together. It is the final hurdle to turn plant-based meat alternatives into 100% vegan products. FUMI Ingredients may have struck gold by finding a solution that they claim is the most sustainable and economical way to produce vegan protein to date. Not surprisingly some of the world’s largest food producers have already shown their interest to the company.

Natural egg white replacers at lower costs

During his PhD study at the Bioprocess Engineering group of Wageningen University & Research (WUR), co-founder Edgar Suarez Garcia developed a process for an egg white replacer made from natural micro-organisms. After obtaining his doctorate Edgar also managed to design a proprietary and scalable production process that can beat regular egg white prices at industrial scale. A natural egg white replacer at lower production costs make the solution a double win. Considering that egg whites have a global market size of $30 billion, a cost-effective and more sustainable alternative represents a lucrative business opportunity.

Turning research into a game changing business

Both Edgar and his (former) PhD supervisor Corjan van den Berg immediately recognized the market potential and decided to investigate how to turn the research into a viable business. They founded FUMI Ingredients and with the support of WUR and startup accelerator StartLife, Edgar and Corjan further developed their company. “As academic researchers we had limited knowledge on how to set up a company. WUR and StartLife gave us all the support and resources we needed to successfully start our company and helped prepare us for raising funds.”, Corjan says.

Sebastiaan Berendse, corporate director value creation of WUR credits the Bioprocess Engineering research group and AlgaePARC led by professor Rene Wijffels for supporting FUMI Ingredients on its route towards implementation and global impact. The research group presently hosts the company at AlgaePARC where Edgar and Corjan can further develop their product.

Ready to hit the market

FUMI Ingredients will use the raised capital to realize their scale-up ambitions and to accelerate their market entry. Both SHIFT Invest and Innovation Industries look forward to helping the company take the next steps in commercializing their ingredients and growing their organization, as underlined by Sander Verbrugge, Investment Director of Innovation Industries and Bram Ledeboer, partner at SHIFT Invest.

FUMI Ingredients welcomes the support of the two investors wholeheartedly. Corjan says: “The combination of SHIFT Invest and Innovation Industries turned out be an excellent match. Aside from their financial support the two investing partners clearly demonstrated that they share our enthusiasm for FUMI Ingredients. We are confident about achieving sustainable growth together and make a lasting impact.

 

Founder Story Sundew | targeting ‘huge unmet need’ for aquaculture

Fish farming has become an increasingly important part of the food supply – but there are major flaws with the range of treatments available for aquatic pests and diseases. Now, a team of biotech entrepreneurs is taking a radical new approach to solve one of industry’s biggest problems. Sundew is an early-stage biotech company that aims to provide safe alternatives to treat waterborne pests and diseases, especially those that affect aquaculture.

The company was founded about two years ago, after its chair and co-founder Neil Goldsmith came across an intriguing biological technology to control the common fish parasite ich – also known as white spot disease – on the Danish IP Fair website. A few months later, he and three other high-profile biotech entrepreneurs formed Sundew, and gained a worldwide exclusive licence to commercialize the technology.

Sundew - Company Visual

“There’s nothing fundamentally novel about treating diseases in water, but we are finding a different way of doing it,” said co-founder Andy Gardiner. “That is the huge unmet need – doing it better.”

Indeed, there is an enormous need for chemical-free solutions, and Sundew claims its technology provides just that: a natural compound that eliminates risk for industry and consumers alike.

With more than 20 years’ experience in launching biotech startups, Gardiner comes from a financial and commercial background, rather than a life sciences one. In early 2018, he and Goldsmith had set up a company called Double Bio. Goldsmith had recently stepped down after 13 years as CEO of the specialty health and nutrition biotech firm Evolva, and they were looking for a biotechnology venture they could help bring to market. This was it.

The technology platform is a naturally occurring bacterium produced via fermentation to control ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) in freshwater fish. Developed by researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), it needed some business savvy and a significant cash injection to introduce on an industrial scale.

“We had already talked about setting up a business that could deal with environmental diseases,” Gardiner said. “This gave us a focus.”

The problem

Aquaculture has been growing at about 6-7% a year for the past 30-40 years, according to FAO figures, far outpacing growth in other food production sectors. The value of world trade in fish and fish products has grown from $8 billion in 1976 to $143 billion in 2016. However, there are challenges that come with such rapid growth, and safe, effective disease control is one of them.

“The solutions that are currently on the market are not ideal in many ways,” Gardiner said. Some treatments for controlling ich on food fish, such as malachite green, are only approved for use with ornamental fish as they pose risks to human health. At the moment, Formalin (made with formaldehyde) is one of the only widely approved treatments, but it is hazardous to handle and not easy to apply.

“It’s technically banned in Denmark , but the industry still has a special licence to keep using it because there’s no other option,” said Gardiner.

In May 2019, Gardiner attended the F&A Next event in Wageningen where he spoke with StartLife’s Program Director Loet Rammelsberg. Rammelsberg encouraged him to apply for the StartLife Accelerate program, and in September, Sundew was selected. So far it has secured €35,000 under the scheme, with a further €50,000 in the pipeline. In addition, it was awarded a grant of €780,000, under the Danish government’s Green Development and Demonstration Programme (GUDP).

Scaling up

For now, Sundew is far from commercial scale, still working at petri dish level, but it is working to bring production up to at least kilogram-scale so it can provide quantities suitable for industry testing.

“We need to get to tonne-scale before getting this on the market,” said Gardiner. “There is a very high degree of confidence that we can get the product up to where we need it to be over the next three years.”

But controlling this one parasite is only the very beginning.

“We have a single molecule at the moment that we know works on more than one disease,” he said. “Our first thing is to screen that molecule against other similar parasites and see where else we might have an effect. Apart from that, there are a whole lot of other, smaller molecules that could treat things in a similar way.”

Further down the line, the team intends to tackle some of the problems that affect conventional agriculture, and even human health, also using biological approaches.

“Beyond aquaculture, in terms of diseases carried in water, there’s human diseases like cholera and malaria, nematodes, which are a problem for cattle, and red tides [algal blooms that release harmful toxins].

“There’s currently no good solution for that, and possibly we could find things that work.”

For any application, the product will need to be environmentally benign, scalable and reasonably cheap.

Asian aspirations

Apart from the company’s four co-founders, and a researcher who was hired using funds from the Danish grant, a freelancer is working to building a network for Sundew in China.

“Ideally, we will find a good partner in China in the long term, at least for distribution,” he said.

The Chinese market is a major target. It has by far the world’s largest aquaculture production , and freshwater fish like carp, eel and catfish dominate its seafood market.

“Because of the structure of the aquaculture market for freshwater fish, Asia is particularly important to us,” Gardiner said. “Major animal health companies see this as their primary need in China…All freshwater fish farms will have ich as a risk. You can imagine a very well-run farm where they can keep this out, but anything that’s drawing water from natural sources is likely to be affected by it from time to time.”

When it comes to regulation, the company is looking at global routes to market for treating food fish, as well as ornamental fish, for which the regulatory path may be faster.

“We are at the start of a long road,” Gardiner said. “We have no real doubts that it’s likely to take us three or four years to get through the regulation that will allow us to sell this really broadly to the aquaculture market.”

Despite the challenges ahead, he is optimistic about the company’s potential.

“We are never going to be short of waterborne diseases and needing solutions that work well,” he said. “Being the company that deals with aquatic diseases, that’s our long-term vision.”

 

Hello Sundew

In the 40-seconds video below Andy Gardiner gives a brief introduction to Sundew and explains why he joined the StartLife Accelerate Fall 2019 program.

 

 

StartLife Alumni Updates: January 2020

Greats news about alumni and community members of StartLife.

1) PreMal Introduces New Mosquito Trap Model

alumnus of StartLife’s Spring 2019 cohort
Premal's MTego Pot - Mosquito trap

Malaria prevention and control company PreMal has introduced a new variant of their proprietary MTego mosquito trap – The MTego Pot. The core competence and functionality is the same for both products; both traps use close-range host cues to attract human-biting mosquitoes. The major difference is that the original trap is designed to be hung and the Mtego Pot is a standing trap that can easily be placed on any floor. The new product has been developed in response to feedback from some hospitality companies, like hotels and restaurants, who were interested in a trap that is less visible and (even more) easily placed on their terraces. The MTego Pot is also slightly cheaper which makes it more attractive to budget-minded customers.

2) Zero FoodWaste Launches Finished Food Waste Monitor

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2018 cohort
Zero FoodWaste monitor launches finished product at Horecava 2020

Zero FoodWaste is on a roll. At the closure of 2019 they raised €250,000 revenue-based capital. Just a few weeks later they officially launched the final version of their fully automated food waste monitor at Horecava in Amsterdam. In 2019 the company ran pilot projects with a prototype monitor to measure waste streams at various catering companies like Novotol, Albron*, Vermaat and Ramada. The large number of data that were gathered from these pilot projects helped fine-tuning the artificial intelligence software that identifies the type and amount (weight) of ingredients being thrown away. The raised capital will be used to hit the market, thus another exciting year ahead for Zero FoodWaste.

*Click here to view a short video about the cooperation between Albron and Zero Foodwaste (in Dutch).

3) Greenfood50 Acquires Dutch Quinoa Group Activities From the Quinoa Company

StartLife community member since 2014

GreenFood50 has acquired the cultivation, production and sales activities of the former Dutch Quinoa Group of the Quinoa Company. The B2B sales activities include a range of basic quinoa ingredients in bulk packaging. In the Dutch food service and retail markets these products are sold under the Lola Quinoa brand. The acquisition will further strengthen GreenFood50’s position as market leader in innovative quinoa ingredients.

 

StartLife Alumni Updates – December 2019

Greats news about alumni and community members of StartLife,

1) Zero FoodWaste First to Raise Revenue-based Capital

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2018 cohort


Photo: Non-Dilutive Capital

Zero FoodWaste, developers of the world’s first fully automated food waste monitor, is the first startup in the Netherlands to raise funding from an investor on revenue-based terms, rather than shares. Non-Dilutive Capital invested €250,000 in return for a future share in revenues. Read the full article on Sprout (in Dutch).

2) Sundew Receives €780,000 Grant of Danish Government

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2019 cohort

They only just finished the accelerate program at StartLife when the Danish aqua biologicals startup Sundew was awarded a grant of €780,000 from the Danish Government. One of the reasons for Sundew to join StartLife was to prepare themselves to raise its first funding. Mission accomplished!

3) FUMI Ingredients Reaches Innovation Award Hattrick

alumnus of StartLife’s Spring 2019 cohort

FUMI Ingredients, producer-to-be of egg-white replacer made from natural micro-organisms, is gaining lots of news momentum by collecting several innovation awards. Last September they won the Rabobank Sustainable Innovation Award 2019. This month they became award winner of the category ‘Most Innovative Alternative Food or Beverage Ingredient Award’ at the FI Global Startup Innovation Challenge 2019, as well as the overall winner of the ‘EIT Food Prize’. As 2019 is just their starting up year, co-founders Edgar Suarez and Corjan van den Berg are already looking forward to 2020.

4) Van Boven Raises €400,000 Proof-Of-Concept Funding

member of StartLife community since 2019

Van Boven has raised their first investment deal of €400,000 from regional development company Horizon. Van Boven collects crop data in the field with drones and uses smart algorithms to monitor each individual plant, head and crop in order to forecast the size of the harvest and optimum moment of harvesting. The investment is to aid in delivering proof-of-concept of their software. Read the full press release on the website of Horizon (Dutch only).

 

Personalized Nutrition Planning Platform Verdify Has Launched

Screenshot website Verdify 13-10-2020

After two years of preparation and development nutrition startup Verdi Food has launched their platform for evidence-based personalized nutrition planning: Verdify. The platform empowers patients with a chronic medical condition to easily implement medically prescribed diets in their daily routine. Verdify will also soon be integrated with a large Dutch supermarket. This will allow users to order recipe ingredients directly via their application. A great start for this promising startup that is part of the StartLife community since 2018.

Effortless nutrition planning

People who have considered following a health-related nutrition program or diet know what a daunting task this can be. A growing number of companies try to solve this problem by means of applications that provides customized meal plans. However, most of these applications are limited in their flexibility to the user – offering meal recipes that do not fully meet individual preferences and nutritional needs. As a result, these companies fail to solve the real challenge that people encounter after having received dietary advice. The nutrition startup Verdi Food may have struck gold by developing a truly smart and evidence-based solution.

Verdify: a smart, personalized nutrition planning platform

Verdi Food generated a software engine that automatically adapts virtually any meal recipe to a detailed personal nutrition and health profile – including food preferences, allergies, medical diets and in 2020 biomarker outcomes (blood, microbiome) as well. Meanwhile, taste, nutritional value and fit with the recipe is safeguarded. The company designed the engine to accommodate the full spectrum of patient needs. By doing so they go far beyond what is possible with other meal planning apps.

The application is great for all to use, but most of all for patients with a chronic medical condition. It is developed to be a highly convenient tool for patients to plan, purchase and prepare healthy meals that fit into a personal diet prescribed by healthcare providers. To ensure that meals meet specific health conditions Verdify works with evidence-based diets only. And for each medical indication its approach is verified with medical experts.

Scaling up fast

The first version of Verdify is made ready for people with food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and hypertension. The nutrition startup intends to demonstrate the potential of the personalized recipe service first in these domains and then scale up further. They expect to go fast forward in the coming months, so they already prepare for a first external funding round.

Jochem Bossenbroek, co-founder and CEO of Verdi Food, accredits StartLife for an invaluable contribution to the development of Verdify: “The coaching and feedback of StartLife has supported us in adopting a fully evidence-based approach, positioning Verdify in such manner that it can be used as an extension of current medical practice.

Hudson River Biotechnology and Gen-X deliver Proof of Concept for SuRE technology in plants

HRB logo HD_2526x1785

Wageningen, 30 October 2018 – Two Netherlands-based startups take major technological step in precision plant breeding, by showing that the SuRE technology can be successfully applied to the tomato genome, delivering a new genetic target identification platform for use in agricultural crops.

SuRE, ‘Survey of Regulatory Elements’, is a highly novel platform technology that allows unbiased genome-wide identification of gene regulatory elements that can serve as targets for mutagenesis. Through SuRE, we can identify unique and proprietary (patentable) targets that we can modify to yield new traits. SuRE outperforms competing technologies by a wide margin and has valuable agricultural applications, such as the identification of novel, unique and sophisticated targets for molecular plant breeding through targeted mutagenesis approaches.

The technology is patent pending and was invented by Gen-X’s founder and published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, in 2017. HRB has partnered with Gen-X to translate the SuRE platform technology from validated pharmaceutical applications to new agricultural applications. These include the identification of novel, unique and sophisticated targets for molecular plant breeding through targeted mutagenesis approaches (TILLING and other gene-editing methods like CRISPR), as well as of novel, strong endogenous promoters to drive cis- and transgene expression.


Proof of Concept for SuRE in plants

With SuRE, a plasmid library is constructed, consisting of random genomic fragments inserted upstream of unique 20-bp barcodes. The library is transfected into protoplasts, and barcode expression is quantified by high-throughput sequencing. Over 50-fold genome coverage can be reached, allowing robust mapping of autonomous promoter and enhancer activity to a genome.

In a project supported by Syngenta, Vegetable Seeds from BASF (Nunhems Netherlands), HZPC Research BV and Genetwister, HRB and Gen-X were able to show that the SuRE platform technology can be successfully applied to the tomato genome. The figure above shows that the SuRE library vector can be used to assay transcriptional regulation in tomato, and that when tomato genomic DNA is analyzed, a clear peak pattern is observed, representing gene regulatory elements.

“We are excited about achieving this major technical milestone. The combination of theproprietary SuRE and CRISPR technology platforms offers a powerful and unique way for plant breeders to improve crop yields and enable more sustainable food production” says Rudi Ariaans, CEO and co-founder of HRB.

About Hudson River Biotechnology 
Hudson River Biotechnology is a highly innovative agricultural biotech company located in Wageningen (Netherlands) focused on improving crop productivity and quality, addressing the world’s increasing demand for food and natural ingredients. We do this by genetically optimizing crops to increase yields, improve disease resistance & nutritional value.

Gen-X is a biotechnology company located in Amsterdam that provides functional genome annotation on an unprecedented scale using the SuRE technology (www.gen-x.bio). We enable the identification of relevant regulatory DNA elements and provide functional annotation of non-coding sequence variants.

Hudson River Biotechnology raises seed investment round

HRB_plant and scientist

Wageningen-based CRISPR startup accelerates growth

Hudson River Biotechnology (HRB) has raised a strategic investment round, fully funding its current business plan and bringing in a team of experienced investors and entrepreneurs.

HRB is a young and highly innovative agricultural biotech company located in Wageningen (Netherlands). HRB applies novel breeding techniques such as CRISPR to develop new plant traits, and has exclusive access to a novel genetic target identification platform, called SuRE (licensed from Amsterdam-based partner company Gen-X). Their internal R&D pipeline is focused on developing innovative, new traits for plants that are used to produce high-value compounds for the pharma, cosmetics and food industries. In addition, HRB offers their molecular breeding and target identification expertise as an end-to-end service solution for accelerating breeding efforts to plant breeders, seed companies and natural ingredient producers of all sizes. Combined, these efforts ultimately contribute to solving global food challenges such as the need for improved nutritional value or reduced pesticide use.

Founded in 2015, HRB combines the business acumen and market knowledge of Rudi Ariaans with the scientific expertise in genetics and consulting experience of Dr. Ferdinand Los. HRB remains one of the few independent players in the agricultural industry – no shares are owned by seed companies – and targets the multi billion-euro agtech market.

“The combination of the proprietary SuRE and CRISPR technology platforms offers a powerful and unique way to improve crop yields and enable more sustainable food production. Both technologies are easy to integrate into existing breeding programs and the targeted approach significantly reduces the time, and therefore costs, needed to develop innovative traits” says Rudi Ariaans, CEO and co-founder of HRB.

Ferdinand Los, CSO and HRB co-founder adds, “SuRE is unique in that it can provide gene regulatory sites in a genome-wide fashion, allowing us to modify gene expression levels via CRISPR—turning the “volume button” of the genes, rather than shutting them off completely. This is highly desirable, as completely removing genes, the more common way CRISPR is used, can often be damaging to the plant. Also, this approach can allow us to increase gene activity without resorting to transgenic methods”.

“We are excited to bring on board such an experienced investor group that has a proven track record of successfully scaling up technology companies” says Ariaans. HRB will use the investment to significantly accelerate growth, by growing the team and expanding R&D activities. The agricultural industry is changing rapidly; being able to offer both a target identification and target transformation service will ensure a leading position for HRB in the fast moving CRISPR environment. “With this new investment, we will create a world-class agtech innovation factory”.

FreshStrips won the Golden KIEM Award

FreshStrips has won the Golden KIEM Award including 25K for product research. With the Golden KIEM, NWO, the top sector Chemistry and InnovationLink, annually award the best chemical startup. FreshStrips is a new StartLife startup that develops smart-packaging solutions that inform consumers on the quality of food products.

For more information on FreshStrips check their website: https://lnkd.in/ewGjGxm 

For the (Dutch) news article check: http://bit.ly/2DeGQ6c

GreenFood50 wins Startup of the Year Award

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Right: Marc Arts, Managing Director GreenFood50. Left: Martijn van Dam, State Secretary

On March 27, GreenFood50 won the Rabobank Startup of the Year Award 2017 during the Business Event Wageningen.

Marc Arts, managing director GreenFood50: “We are very happy with this Rabobank startup award. Besides the recognition, this will help us to scale up our business in the coming years. It’s also a great opportunity to bring our innovative quinoa ingredients to the attention of food industry”.

GreenFood50 based on Wageningen UR’s Campus develops, produces & sells innovative quinoa ingredients for tasty, sustainable & healthy foods. These quinoa ingredients are applied in bakery products, salads, pastas, sauces, beverages, sports nutrition, healthy bars, snacks, vegetarian and gluten free products. During F&A Next a quinoa burger produced with GreenFood50 ingredients will be on the menu!

‘Our close co-operation with Wageningen University & Research and other leading international research organizations ensure that the latest technologies and know-how are applied to our products’.

GreenFood50 ingredients are used daily by the Dutch Top sport restaurant in Papendal where 370 athletes prepare themselves for the Olympics in PyeongChang and Tokyo.

Marc: ‘GreenFood50 is built on our passion to provide tasty, sustainable and healthy food for a growing world population’.

The GreenFood50 team has a diverse and international background with over 30 years of experience in the global food and agriculture industry. The team has the capabilities to translate customer needs into innovative products.

GreenFood50 is supported by StartLife, Wageningen University & Research and other partners.

Watch the aftermovie of Business Event Wageningen

Founder Story B-Mex | Creating value with greenhouse-science

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.

b-mex startlife startup buwalda

“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.

In2Care Receives €3.5 Million From Bill Gates Foundation To Test New Malaria-prevention Method

Wageningen-based startup In2Care is part of a consortium that has received a total grant of 9,3 million euro from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop a new ‘Eave Tubes’ malaria-prevention method, developed in collaboration with researchers in Africa. In2Care receives 3.5 million euro for their part. 

In2Care, that works on the project together with partners in the US, UK and Africa, receives this five-year grant to investigate a new method for preventing the transmission of malaria. The method involves limiting mosquito access to houses by screening windows and installing “eave tubes” that contain a unique type of insecticide-laced netting developed by In2Care that kills the insects as they attempt to enter.

“In 2015 an estimated 438 thousand mostly African children and pregnant women died of malaria,” said In2Care’s Director Bart Knols. “Although we have achieved tremendous progress over the last fifteen years and have saved countless lives by using insecticide-treated bednets and indoor spraying with insecticides, resistance to insecticides in mosquitoes is spreading rapidly which may undermine these fragile gains. Eave tubes combine two approaches: First the house is rendered mosquito-proof and second the tubes represent a novel approach to target mosquitoes as they try to enter the house in search of a blood meal .The beauty of it all is that house occupants don’t need to do anything, it is passive technology.”

Mosquitoes find their way to humans by responding to odors leaving the house. They enter the house through the ‘eave’, the gap between the roof and walls. According to Matthew Thomas, who will head the study at Penn State, African malaria mosquitoes have a strong preference for entering houses at night through eaves — the gaps between the roofs and the walls of houses. The team’s novel eave tube approach involves blocking the eaves and inserting tubes that act like chimneys to funnel human odors to the exterior of the home. Attracted to the human odors, mosquitoes enter the tubes and encounter netting that has been treated with an electrostatic coating that binds insecticidal particles to it. The netting can hold several kinds of powdered insecticides, including biological agents, and has been shown to break resistance with currently recommended insecticides.

“Since insecticide is only used on small pieces of netting in the tubes, the reduction compared to spraying walls of entire houses is massive, making eave tubes highly cost competitive, especially now that more expensive insecticides are needed due to resistance against the cheaper ones” said Knols. “Furthermore, retreatment is easy, as it requires simple replacement of small pieces of netting within the tubes.”

With a previous €5.2 million grant from the EU, the collaborative team of researchers has already conducted a proof-of-concept intervention in which they installed eave tubes in more than 1,800 houses in the Kilombero valley in southern Tanzania. The team found that the eave tubes reduced indoor mosquito densities by up to 90 percent.

The new project funded by the Gates Foundation expands on the previous intervention by installing eave tubes in approximately 6,000 homes in villages in Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania. The researchers will examine householders in these villages and compare them with equivalent control villages that have not been supplied with eave tubes to determine the effect of the intervention on malaria incidence. The team also will test the mosquitoes caught in the villages for insecticide resistance. Finally, the researchers will conduct socio-economic analyses to determine homeowner acceptance and create strategies for implementation across different regions and market sectors.

“We know that eave tubes can perfectly kill mosquitoes when they contact electrostatic netting; even the ones resistant to insecticides. But that’s not enough to convince policy makers that this approach can be added to the arsenal we have at present. Quite rightly so, before a new approach can be adopted we need to clearly measure the overall impact on disease, not just mosquitoes. That’s what we aim to do in this unique project,” Knols said. “If we are to eradicate malaria from the face of the planet over the next decades it will be essential to move new strategies forward, and especially those that can help to break the vicious circle of insecticide resistance. This is what eave tubes offer.”

 

Source: wur.nl