Tag Archives: StartLife Accelerate

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 Presents Seven New AgriFood Challengers

Last Wednesday seven new agri-food startups successfully completed the StartLife Accelerate program. For three months they received intensive training and support to further shape, refine an accelerate their business. They ended the program with a presentation to a large group of investors and corporates, known as graduation day.

Pressure Cooker

From more than 50 startups that applied only seven were selected to take part in StartLife’s pressure cooker for high-tech agrifood startups. For Alexis Vlandas, co-founder of the French company Zymoptiq, the ‘pressure’ played an important role in the decision to apply to the program. “We don’t have such intensive startup support in France. StartLife challenged our business model in every way and we were “forced” to make important, validated choices in a short period of time. As a result, we made major progress in a very short time, which is exactly what we wanted to achieve.”

‘Farm to Fork’ network

StartLife has close connections to a wide range of companies and organizations throughout the agri-food value chain. This “farm to fork” – network also offers a lot of added value to the participating startups. Davide Parisi, CEO of the Italian startup Evja agrees. “Warm introductions to the right people and parties are worth gold. StartLife provided us valuable insights on the Dutch market and ecosystem as a whole, which allowed us to enhance our next steps in terms of product and business strategy.

Graduation Day

The acceleration program was completed with a demo day: a presentation to approximately 120 investors, bankers, business executives, innovation managers, researchers and other relations from the (inter)national StartLife network. Marijn Frank, known from the Dutch TV program “Keuringsdienst van Waarde”, hosted the presentation of the startups to the audience, who were then invited to ask question to the startups.

One of the questions that an angel investor asked Gerhold ten Voorde, founder of Corvus Drones, was whether greenhouse growers are waiting for his data-gathering drones, after all, can they just as well install camera’s? Gerhold immediately had a clear answer to this: “To monitor all plants in a one-hectare greenhouse you easily need a thousand camera’s. That is a costly affair. You achieve the same result with just one drone.” A convincing answer that was followed up with a 1-on-1 conversation during the closing drink.

Open call to next agri-food challengers

The StartLife team is already fully engaged with the preparations for the next StartLife Accelerate program, which will run from April to June 2020. Do you want to follow the footsteps of StartLife alumni such as Fumi Ingrediënts, Zero Foodwaste and Hudson River Biotechology? Then register before February 1st .

Graduation Day - StartLife Accelerate Fall 2019

P.s. If you like to learn more about all the seven startups, then download the program booklet of the graduation day in which the companies are briefly introduced.


Seven new StartLife startups contributing to Food and Agtech innovation

Biological approaches to treat aquatic pests and diseases or an aerial scout in the greenhouse: just two examples of the seven promising food & agtech startups selected to participate in the StartLife Accelerate Fall 2019 Program.

From the fifty early-stage food and agtech startups who showed interest in the program, the review committee had the challenging task to select the most promising. Loet Rammelsberg, Program Director at StartLife, says: “It was a very intensive selection, the next step is to help these passionate entrepreneurs validate their solution in the market and get them ready to raise funding from investors.” See video below to get an impression.

Participants of the accelerate program are evaluated on their product and technology, market potential and their team. The program is only open for innovative food & agtech startups. For the fall cohort, fifteen startups were invited to the selection day and seven startups finally made it into the program.

International cohort of startups

The following seven Food & Agtech startups were selected for the StartLife Accelerate Fall 2019 program.

  • Corvus Drones: The aerial scout in greenhouse horticulture.
  • CubeX: Modular easy to ship organic waste treatment solutions.
  • Evja: Micro-climate monitoring supporting open-field farmers.
  • Sundew: Biological approaches to treating aquatic pests and diseases.
  • Zymoptiq: Simplifying enzymatic activity measurements.
  • Viroteq: Adding AI-based intelligence to increase the flexibility of robotics.
  • Next Generation Sensors: Brings the lab to the farm via a portable mass spectrometer.

This third edition of the StartLife Accelerate program  entails the most international cohort thus far. Aside from Dutch startups, the cohort includes startups from France, Denmark, Italy and Lebanon.

Wageningen University & Research (WUR)

The close connection with WUR remains one of the most important reasons for startups to apply for the program, according to Rammelsberg. “We connect startups to leading researchers in their field, link them to ambitious student teams and enable them to make use of advanced research equipment through Shared Resource Facilities. This really helps startups to get the necessary scientific validation for the further development of their company.”

Successful alumni from earlier editions include Sponsh, Zero Foodwaste and Fumi Ingredients. These organizations were also selected for the Rabobank Sustainable Innovation Prize.

“The program encouraged me to be more ambitious”

StartLife Accelerate Program makes promising Food & Agtech startups ready for investors

Beginning this week about a hundred people attended the StartLife Graduation Day, where eight Food & Agtech startups showed their achievements. The Accelerate Program prepares startups to successfully enter the agri-food market. All startups that took part in the program are currently closing key partnerships, launching customers and raising investments.

“The financial and business coaching in the program was very helpful, as well as the guidance of the experts,” says Edgar Suarez, founder of FUMI Ingredients, which has developed an affordable and healthy alternative for egg-white, based on microalgae. “Our product is very sustainable. There is no land or animal use involved and it brings about a 95 percent reduction of CO2-emissions”, Suarez explains. Edgar founded FUMI ingredients right after graduating from his PhD-study at Wageningen University & Research in March 2019.

Learn from market feedback

“Our protein can be whipped into foam, bind ingredients and stabilize gels and emulsions such as mayonnaise,” Suarez says. The next step would be to build a larger factory to produce higher volumes of the ingredient. Suarez: “The program encouraged me to be more ambitious.” Thanks to the partner network of StartLife, FUMI Ingredients connected to large agri-food corporations such as Unilever and Givaudan. Collaboration with these partners provided clear product and market feedback that prepared the startup for a faster market entrance.

Customers’ point of view

Valeriy Mitko, founder of PEF Technologies, is also positive about the involvement of experts from the industry. “Due to the coaching we were able to identify the market and structure our ideas according to a customers’ point of view,” Mitko says. He worked as a PhD reseacher at the University of Twente and in 2018 he founded PEF Technologies, which he runs with his wife Yulia. Mitko developed a “nanosecond pulsed electric field” technology for the preservation of dairy products by inactivating microorganisms. It is a non-thermal alternative for pasteurization. “Our technique reduces the energy use and maintenance costs a lot,” Mitko explains. The program helped him to improve the business plan and strategy. “Dairy is a broad field and we decided to focus on cheese producing enterprises. I have found a way to make our technology affordable for small and medium sized cheese producers. Now several cheesemakers are interested,” says Mitko.

Access to funding

“We help startups to professionalize and refine their business plans and organization to such a level that they are ready to deal with potential customers and investors,” explains Thomas van den Boezem, Program Director at StartLife. The program is designed in two-week sprints during which StartLife coaches, university experts and serial entrepreneurs help the startups to validate the main assumptions in their business plan. Also there is a fulltime week on ‘investor readiness’ with guest lectures by leading venture capital investors in the industry, to support the startups to raise funding for their plans.

“From last year’s cohort, five out of nine startups managed to raise seed funding within six months after completing the program” Van den Boezem says.

The new StartLife Accelerate Program starts this September. Startups that are interested in participating, can apply until 1 August 2019.

The participants of the StartLife Accelerate Spring Cohort 2019 are:

  • Clevabit: Using sensors and data analytics to help livestock farmers monitor and improve the health of their animals.
  • TasteIndex: Digitization of taste to help catering and retail organizations better deliver products matching consumer preferences.
  • Thelial: Developing a natural nutraceutical to help people reduce acid reflux symptoms and improve oesophagus health.
  • PreMal: A novel trap to catch mosquitos in tropical regions and prevent malaria.
  • PEF Technologies: Nano-second Pulsed Electric Field technology to provide a better alternative to pasteurization for preservation of dairy products and beer
  • SAIA Agrobotics: Developing a robotics system for greenhouses to help growers harvest and deleaf crops.
  • FUMI Ingredients: Developing novel protein ingredients, including egg-white protein replacer, from micro-organisms, for the food industry
  • WAM: Developing predictive harvest forecasting service for the businesses.


Nine promising food & agri startups join the new StartLife Accelerate program

StartLife Accelerate supports promising food & agri startups as they develop their product, business model and team. For the first time, nine startups join together in one cohort. For three months they can learn and work together to validate their business with potential customers and pitch to investors. As of September 17th, the ten startups will participate in this new StartLife Accelerate program which takes place on Wageningen Campus.


StartLife offers a unique curriculum to the cohort that includes tailored support and trainings from StartLife coaches and leading experts from the industry. Entrepreneurs, coaches and partners work together to ensure a sustainable success of the businesses. After three months the startups are ready to pitch for the StartLife Review Board who can award funding. The program offers trainings on market validation, team development, financial modelling and more. In the last ten years StartLife has learned that these are crucial elements for startups to be succesful.

Thomas van den Boezem, program director StartLife: “This is the first time StartLife invites multiple startups to join together in a program. We have experienced there is tremendous value in working with a cohort of multiple startups, who can exchange knowledge, experience and network with each other during the program”


To maximize the value of the program, StartLife works with many partners that offer specific expertise. These partners include BDO, Rabobank, Wageningen University & Research, OostNL, SHIFT Invest and HighTechXL. A great network of mentors will be available for the intensive support of the starters. The startups Plant Meat Makers and Agri Gripping participating in the program originate from the Wageningen University & Research. The cohort further exists of the startups Burgs Foods, Sponsh, Eden Advanced Technologies, GreenCovery, Bird’s AI, beterschappen, and zero foodwaste.

Agri Gripping, Vine Weevil control using a trap system

Beterschappen, Personalized meal solutions for kidney patients


BirdsAI, AI-based land monitoring and visualization

Burgsfoods, Cricket-based burgers


Eden Advanced Technologies, Automated aeroponics farming systems


Greencovery Upcycling technology for waste water streams

Sponsh, Smart cotton that produces water from air

ZERO FoodWaste, Automated food waste registration

And Plant Meat Makers, Next-generation plant-based meat analogues