We proudly announce the nine early-stage startups selected for our Fall 2022 accelerate program. The startups, from 8 different countries spread over 3 continents, introduce new technologies tackling big challenges in our current food system. The solutions include alternatives for fish and cheese, and technologies that improve of crop productivity and soil health and reduce energy consumption in greenhouses.
In the coming 3 months, the startups will sharpen their business case, improve their technologies and prepare for (further) investments. The startup founders will receive training, feedback and insights from experienced agrifoodtech entrepreneurs, industry experts and investors. A large pool of mentors, trainers and corporate leaders will accelerate their path to becoming ‘top startup athletes’.
“We can’t wait to get started with this pool of startup founders. It’s exciting and a privilege to work with these rising entrepreneurial talents and help them grow and scale their business,” says Jean Boudillon, StartLife’s Program Manager and newest team member. “We look forward helping them bring their vision to the market and are thrilled to introduce them to a wider audience.”
Meet the startups
FÆRM(Denmark) – Redefining cheese hand in hand with the established dairy industry to create a future where beans are the new cows
Umami Meats (Singapore) – Pioneering cultivated seafood by crafting delicious, nutritious and affordable cultivated fish
Albotherm(UK) – Improving crop productivity by up to 20% through optimizing light in greenhouses
Heliopas AI (Germany) – Providing insights to farmers to increase yields while enriching soil and environment
Veridi Technologies (Netherlands) – Pioneering the use of AI and automated microscopy to scale up soil microbiome diagnostics
Voltiris(Switzerland) – transforming greenhouses into renewable powerplants with solar modules optimized for agriculture
Agbio & Biobased tech
Alghètica (Italy) – Unleashing the true potential of microalgae in becoming a molecular factory of new and improved plant-based ingredients (through CRISPR)
Bsafe (Brazil) – Helping agriculture to become more sustainable by providing specific and safer biopesticides based on RNAs
Demo Day: Meet StartLife’s Fall 2022 Cohort on 8 December
On Thursday, December 8th, the startups will conclude StartLife’s 9th acceleration program with a live presentation to a global audience of investors, corporates, partners and other agrifoodtech enthusiasts. Join us to be inspired and get a glimpse of the future in food and ag!
Depending on your preference you can join us in person in Wageningen or online through Crowdcast. (All people registered will automatically have access to the online streaming and recordings of the event.)
On 23 June, a cohort of nine early-stage startups graduated from StartLife’s latest acceleration program and are now raring up to tackle global issues across the agrifood domain. StartLife also announced the launch of a new program: StartLife à la Carte.
On the graduation day, StartLife’s managing director Jan Meiling spotlighted the urgency of innovation in the agrifood space. “Two weeks ago, there was a message to the world that we’re not going to meet our climate goals,” he stated. Nonetheless, a more sustainable food system would play a crucial role in addressing this. “Therefore, we need to speed up innovation. Even if we’re just a small part of a complicated puzzle, we need to take responsibility,” Meiling urged.
From alternative proteins to waste reduction and more effective agriculture, this cohort’s startups all offer innovative means of addressing these vital questions.
Bringing goals into focus
StartLife’s acceleration program graduates highlight the connections they have gained over the last few months.
The startups flagged StartLife’s help in terms of structure. “We learned how to handle business and investment strategies and validate the market, for example,” explains Saptarshi Mukhopadhya, Development Manager at InsectSense, which has developed a biochip that mimics insects’ extremely sensitive sense of smell.
For Upstream Foods, which is developing cell-based fish fat, co-founder Kianti Figler says that each of StartLife’s coaches brings decades of experience that is crucial to young entrepreneurs. “We have the vision, the drive, the ambition, but to plug into that experience is great for us.”
The co-founders of Upstream Foods also agree that structure has been a key aspect of the program. “We were given an ecosystem of support that helped us grow and prioritize our focuses,” says Figler.
Everyone on the Upstream Foods team has a biotech background. They have found that the food space has a completely different culture and rhythm. “Understanding that space and market, plus getting connected with industry professionals, was very valuable for us,” Figler continues.
For Naturanova, the Chile-based company behind a computational peptide discovery platform, StartLife gave key advice about the EU’s regulatory scene:
“We’re working with companies from Europe that are also established in the US and Latin America because there are regulatory challenges that we are figuring out,” says co-founder Antonella De Lazzari.
“A key part of the program that helped me both personally and the company as a whole is networking,” says Mukhopadhyay. “StartLife has an extensive network in the agrifood domain, which adds a lot of value for both market validation and business opportunities. This helps understand the exact problem that is in the market, as well as potentially converting it into a business opportunity,” he continues.
For the Germany-based Organifarms, the StartLife program was very beneficial for understanding the Dutch market for farm robots and helped it gain local contacts.
“We had some early contacts, but StartLife gave us a better understanding of the market to scale up and be successful here in the Netherlands,” says CEO and co-founder Dominik Feiden. One example is connecting Organifarms with different banks to help finance equipment.
What’s coming next?
The startups are now fizzing with energy for their next steps. Upstream Foods has recently raised pre-seed funding and is now stepping into the lab to develop a proof of concept. “Our seed round will probably take place around 18 months from now, so we’re casually talking with investors to understand what it is they value,” adds Figler.
Naturannova is also at a very different stage after working with StartLife. “We can now prove high traction for our team. We’ve got a lot of homework to do with exciting challenges ahead,” says De Lazzari.
Meanwhile, InsectSense is speaking with investors to see which will align best with its strategy: “We’ve also learned that success is not just about external activities, like validation and strategy. It’s also about product development, because unless you have that, nothing else matters. Now we’re focused on real tangible product development,” explains Mukhopadhyay.
Finally, Organifarms is celebrating the release of its product demonstration video and is now carrying out pilot customer trials: “We’re showing how it works – we can prove that we’re not just talking and actually can deliver. Then we will bring the first units onto the market,” details Feiden.
Among the other graduating startups are NoA Biosciences, Gaia Tech, Lite+Fog, Groam and Next Probiotics. More information about the cohort can be found here. You can view the complete recording of StartLife’s Accelerate Spring 2022 Graduation Day below.
"The next cohort of the StartLife Accelerate program will start in September, with applications open until 19 July. Want to join? Check the StartLife Accelerate page.
Introducing “StartLife à la Carte”
The graduation day also unveiled StartLife’s latest program: StartLife à la Carte. It will allow startups to access the support they need on a fully tailored level. Informally, the support has been in place for some time already but has been kept under wraps until now.
Each year, StartLife takes up to 40 new startups under its wing. While around half enter its acceleration program each spring and fall, personalized tailored support is also given to about 10 to 20 individual startups throughout the year.
“Although I had fun referring to our ‘secret program’ when talking to startups, it made more sense to also get this program out in the open,” says Bram van Beek, StartLife’s Marketing & Communications Manager.
Loet Rammelsberg, StartLife’s Program Director adds that making connections is a central focus within the program.
“In the end, connections are what matters most – and that’s why most startups don’t make it. They might end up building something that nobody needs. There’s a nice combination in connecting investor and corporate feedback with the new technology startups bring to the table,” he details.
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 and/or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).
StartLife has selected nine new (very) early-stage startups to join its eighth acceleration program this spring. The startups have been selected for their promising technological solutions to tackling global agrifood challenges, including sustainable farming, food waste prevention and the protein transition.
The startups selected will enter StartLife’s 3-month acceleration program, which is entirely dedicated to guiding foodtech and agtech startups in validating their business, raising funding and accelerating their impact. Loet Rammelsberg, StartLife’s program director, is excited to start StartLife’s eighth cohort, which will have some extra challenges.
Rammelsberg, “Though StartLife’s acceleration program is already fully tailored to early-stage agrifoodtech startups, this cohort includes numerous very early-stage startups. The companies and their technologies are, so to speak, yet to be born. However, considering their highly promising solutions and the great teams, we are confident as to the potential impact and their chances for success.”
Smart, sustainable food and ag technologies
For its spring 2022 program, StartLife received a record number of applications from startups all over the world. For the first time ever, even from five continents. Rammelsberg, “This underlines the fact that worldwide a growing number of entrepreneurial talents are dedicated to providing novel solutions that tackle our global challenges in food and agriculture.”
The following startups, including StartLife’s very first Latin-American startup, are fortunate to be accepted into the acceleration program. And StartLife is proud to have them onboard and to be working with them.
Naturannova (Chile)– plant protein discovery platform for the design of tailor-made ingredients
NoA Biosciences (Netherlands)– Fermentation of woody biomass into alternative protein for feed and food
Upstream Foods (Netherlands) – Animal-free, cell-based fish fat to improve plant-based protein
Gaia Tech (Switzerland) – Valorization of high-value food, feed and pharmaceutical ingredients from olive oil by-products
Organifarms(Germany) – farming robots for indoor farms, starting with a strawberry harvester
Lite+Fog (Germany)– Novel vertical farming setup using fogponics and textile-based technology
Agbio & Biobased tech
Groam(Switzerland)– Provider of sustainable foamed biomaterials
InsectSense (Netherlands) – Insect-behavioral based technological solutions
Next Probiotics (Israel) – Technology enabling the growing of vegetables and fruits rich in probiotics
Join StartLife’s virtual Demo Day on 23 June
In the coming months, the startups will sharpen their business case, improve their technologies and prepare for (further) investments.
On June 23rd, the startups will conclude the program with a live (virtual) presentation to a global audience of investors, corporates, partners and other agrifoodtech enthusiasts. Those who are interested in joining the Graduation Day (Demo Day), in person in Wageningen or online, can register here or via the form below. All people registered will automatically have access to the online streaming and the recordings that become available after the event.
In Person Venue
Wageningen Campus | Plus Ultra II Building
6708 WH Wageningen
StartLife has selected nine new early-stage startups to join its seventh acceleration program this fall. The startups have been selected for their promising technological solutions that are designed to fix issues like food waste, pollution and decarbonization, and support sustainable food production. Almost half of the tech startups selected are co-founded by women.
Globally, we have a growing number of mouths to feed. That is a huge challenge. But it’s not just about producing more food. Affordability, health, accessibility and sustainable production also play an equally important role. To achieve this, we need to radically change our food supply chain. “And that’s where startups come in,” says Loet Rammelsberg, program director at StartLife. “The startups that we selected are SDG-driven and aim to contribute to a sustainable agriculture and responsible food production.”
Together with our partners, which includes Wageningen University & Research, venture capital firms and corporates in the food and agriculture domain, we will help these early-stage startups to speed up their business development process towards becoming an impactful company.
Smart and novel agrifood technologies
A quick rundown of the nine companies and their agrifood technologies:
Agcurate (NL) – Providing rural agricultural intelligence via remote sensing
Crocus Labs (DE) – Disrupting the horticulture industry with smart lighting solutions
Glaia (UK)* – Nanotechnology-based solutions that optimize plant performance for a sustainable agriculture
Infitiv (NL)* – Early-warning solution for food quality degradation and spoilage detection
InPhocal (NL)* – Sustainable and waste-free marking of food and packaging
ReShore (NL) – Creating living breakwater: regenerative aquaculture and coastal protection
Solasta Bio (UK)* – Nature-based insecticides for safe and effective crop protection
Identifying all-star startup teams
Choosing the most promising startups is a challenge for any investor, in particularly when it concerns early-stage startups.
“It is not just about technology and impact. In the end it all comes down to how well the startup team performs.” ~ Loet Rammelsberg
“The startup teams we have selected are pretty diverse. Some of the founders are recent university graduates, others are renowned experts in their fields. Some startup teams are have years of experience together, other teams are recently formed.”
Rammelsberg also points out that almost half of the startup teams selected include female co-founders.* This is remarkable considering that there are relatively few female tech entrepreneurs. “Gender is not a selection criterion for us, but we do appreciate diverse teams. Startup teams with both genders are known to be more successful, show a higher return on invested capital and are built in a more sustainable way.”
Live virtual pitching event on 9 December
In the coming months, the startups will sharpen their business case, improve their technologies and prepare for (further) investments. On December 9th, at 3PM CEST, startups will conclude the acceleration program with an online presentation to a wide and global audience of investors, corporates, partners and other agrifood enthusiasts. It is an open event. If you are interested in attending, we invite you to register now via the form below.
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 worldwide 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.
In April, StartLife welcomes its sixth cohort of startups that help build a future-proof food ecosystem. The selected startups introduce novel technologies and solutions including computational designed enzymes, botanical biopesticide and AI-driven greenhouses. On June 24th the startups present themselves during a live online pitching event.
Let’s take you on a trip from the UK to Israel and back to the Netherlands via Switzerland for an introductory round to seven innovative agrifoodtech startups that are embarking on a journey, in cooperation with StartLife, to make their sustainable mark on our planet.
These young startups are eager to show the world what they have to offer. “But before taking a plunge into the deep blue ocean, they wisely prepare themselves,” explains Loet Rammelsberg, program director at StartLife.
“In our 12-week acceleration program we challenge the startups on every aspect of their business: their technologies, market validation and business model. We have a pretty stellar team of international trainers, coaches, mentors and leading corporates to support the startups. It can be confrontational at times, but we know that at the end of the program the participating startups are in a better position to successfully make their mark in the industry.”
Live virtual pitching event on 24 June
On June 24th, at 15.00 CEST, the startups will present the outcomes of their acceleration program in fine-tuned pitches to a global agrifood community, including investors, corporates, media and other essential stakeholders.
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.
On 9 December we welcomed hundreds of members of our global F&A community to our Jubilee Graduation Day. We celebrated the graduation of nine startups of the StartLife Accelerate Fall 2020 cohort as well as 10-years of StartLife. In case you missed it, or want to relive the moment, we are happy to share the Graduation Day highlights with you.
Jubilee Graduation Day After movie
“Great event your team had today, it was one of the more entertaining webinars I’ve been on this year and I’ve been on a few too many. You have an awesome batch of cohort companies as well.”
Francesco Lorenzetti, Green Circle Capital
“What a great event and line up of startups. This was the best online event I participated in since Corona hit us.”
An Michiels, AgKnowledge Partnering, Former Head EAME Seed Development Syngenta and Global Head of Research Bayer.
Relive the full event
If you want to see the complete online event, which takes about 1,5 hours, then check the video below.
During the online event we showed various videos. You can view them in the full event recording above, or view them directly via the following links.
We have selected nine European startups for our Fall 2020 cohort. The startups are introducing new technologies that tackle global challenges such as diminishing food waste, boosting sustainable production and enhancing productivity. In the coming months the startups will be diving deep into their businesses. Their ‘graduation’ is due on 9 December.
According to McKinsey, agriculture is among the least digitized of all major industries. With technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, encapsulation, RFID and spectrometers our new batch of startups is keen to modernize and reshape the food industry. The following companies make up our fifth cohort:
Vertigo (Netherlands) – Quality control for fresh fruit with microwave measurements
Even with almost 10 years of experience as an accelerator, deciding which startups StartLife accepts to its support program isn’t easy. Program director Loet Rammelsberg: “The road from a minimal viable product to a successful startup is a big jigsaw puzzle. We have to assess at an early stage if we can help find and connect the right pieces together. Obviously we hope the newly selected startups will follow into the footsteps of successful StartLife alumni like Nutrileads, Hudson River Biotechnology and Cerescon and high potentials like Orbisk and FUMI Ingredients.”
In the coming months the startups will be diving deep into their businesses. They will validate their customers segments, refine their propositions and prepare for attracting growth capital and partnerships that will spur their business development. On 9 December the startups will finalize the acceleration program with a presentation to an international audience of investors, corporates and other stakeholders from the agrifood industry.
‘Zooming’ into Europe
In response to the coronavirus pandemic we went fully remote with our flagship Accelerate program in the spring edition of this year. This time the program is fully virtual from the outset. Loet: “We had already planned to open our program to more international startups. With the program changes we had to make earlier this year we realized that a virtual program would enable entrepreneurs who are not based in the Netherlands to reap the benefits of our wide support more easily. In a way you could say we are ‘zooming’ our way into Europe.”
Whilst the startups indeed appreciate the remote program, they are given the option to attend the program virtually or in person, as the program is now offered in hybrid. “Only for the demo day, which we refer to as graduation day, we prefer to have all startups physically present”, adds Flora Vogelzang, program coordinator of StartLife.
10 years anniversary ahead
With the fifth cohort we will also celebrate our 10th anniversary on 5 November. The anniversary coincides with the opening of our brand new office building on Wageningen Campus. The new building is shared with various organizations involved in boosting entrepreneurship and innovation, and, not least important, with numerous agrifood startups and scale-ups. Jan Meiling, our managing director, announces that more exciting news is yet to come in the coming months.
p.s. You can also follow StartLife on Linkedin, Twitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifoodtech startups, scale-ups and more via the StartLife newsletter.
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
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
A microbiologist producing sustainable proteins from micro-organisms and a technician who developed a robot for automated harvesting in greenhouses: just two of the eight promising high-tech startups selected to participate in the second StartLife Accelerate Program. It is the first program in the Netherlands entirely dedicated to supporting young food & agtech entrepreneurs in validating their businesses and raising funding. The startups were chosen from over 30 candidates, at the selection day organized by StartLife, March 12 in Wageningen.
“The selected startups have developed groundbreaking products and technologies that could have an enormous impact on industry and society – but only with an effective market strategy”, says Thomas van den Boezem, Program Director at StartLife. “That’s why we specifically chose them to participate in the StartLife program.”
The eight selected startups include:
FUMI Ingredients (sustainable proteins from micro-organisms),
PreMal (a high-performance mosquito trap),
SAIA Agrobotics (harvest and crop handling for greenhouses),
Wageningen Agricultural Monitoring (advanced monitoring of crop yields),
Clevabit (a smart decision-support system for cattle breeders),
Thelial (a nutraceutical that improves barrier function in the oesophagus),
TasteIndex (digitalization of taste to facilitate matching of food products),
PEF Technologies (non-thermal food processing and preservation technology)
Establishing a high-performing team, defining your value proposition, developing a go-to-market strategy and delivering a convincing investor pitch and business plan, and negotiating with investors, are just some of the elements that make up StartLife Accelerate both concentrated and effective. The three-month program is uniquely and entirely dedicated to guiding food and agtech startups towards growth and market success. Participants experience a high-quality curriculum and business support from Wageningen University & Research experts, and from qualified trainers and successful entrepreneurs. Each participant receives a €10k soft loan up-front, and €25k after successfully completing the program.
Participants were selected via a two-step process: initially, entries were evaluated on their innovativity, stage of development (entrepreneurs need to have a prototype or most-valuable player) and market potential. Fifteen of these entries were invited to the selection day. The young entrepreneurs had to present themselves from three different perspectives:
The people behind the startup and their personal drive and motivation.
The value proposition of their product or technology.
The market opportunities and challenges. The presentations were reviewed by the StartLife team together with independent investors.
StartLife believes that startups are the propelling force behind the food and agtech innovations required to meet future global food demand. The company fosters entrepreneurship in food and agtech, and supports entrepreneurs in translating innovative business ideas into global enterprises. StartLife collaborates closely with Wageningen University & Research and other knowledge institutes, multinationals, government organizations and investors. Since 2010 it has built, supported and funded 300+ startups, in bringing breakthrough technologies, to market.
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 9 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.