Agtech startup Muddy Machines, a StartLife alumn, today announced a new round of series seed funding of 1.8M euro. The new funding will allow the company to enhance the development of its harvesting robots that support zero emissions and solve labor issues in the agriculture industry.
The funding round was led by Regenerate Ventures with participation from Ponderosa Ventures, Jude Gomilla and Thrive/SVG Ventures and numerous others. “We were impressed by Muddy Machine’s vision and speed of technical development.”, says Paul Rous, MD at Regenerate Ventures. “Fixing labor issues in farming is essential for ensuring a sustainable domestic food supply in developed countries and reducing food miles.”, added Evi Steyer, MD at Ponderosa Ventures.
Florian Richter, CEO and co-founder at Muddy Machines, stipulates that raising money for agtech and hardware businesses is a challenge at the best of times. “We are extremely proud to have secured this fund raise in the current investment climate. We will now focus on creating a meaningful amount of harvest capacity for our customers.” The situation is desperate.“, said John Chinn of Cobrey Farms, the largest growers of asparagus in the United Kingdom.
This new funding will be used to strengthen the company’s engineering team and build suﬃcient runway while demonstrating product market ﬁt. Speciﬁcally, the areas that the company will focus on are:
Building a small herd of its Sprout robots for the 2023 asparagus harvest season and generating initial revenues,
Continuing with the development of new crop harvest capabilities and
Developing a roadmap for scaling production of Sprout robots.
Muddy Machines was founded in 2020 by Christopher Chavasse and Florian Richter with a vision to sustainably solve labor issues in farming with robots. They developed a robotic platform that is capable of deploying a variety of harvest tools in specialty ﬁeld corps. In Fall 2021, they took part in the StartLife Accelerate program. The company has won nearly €3M in grant funding.
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).
Dutch foodtech company Verdify, a StartLife alumnus, has raised €800,000 on top of the €1.3 million seed funding the company obtained last December. Verdify will use the additional funding to accelerate the market introduction of its platform for recipe personalisation and roll out an entirely new business model for nudging people towards healthy and sustainable eating.
More than 90 million consumers in the EU struggle with food challenges because of their health condition or the aspiration of a more sustainable diet. Verdify enables people to make the right food choices by providing matching and reliable meal inspiration.
Fleur Pasman, Nutrition Director at Verdify: “We aim to make knowhow about healthy and sustainable nutrition easily applicable in daily life through smart use of technology. The extension of this funding round enables accelerated implementation of our concept to facilitate better food choices at a large scale.”
The additional capital will be provided by Brave New Food Investments and existing shareholders Brightlands Venture Partners and Joles.
Vincent van Gorkom, Partner at Brave New Food Investments: The additional capital enables Verdify to accelerate the market introduction of the platform for recipe personalisation. This entails expansion of the commercial team and reaching an increasing number of consumers. We are excited to be on board and trust the competences of the Verdify team.
Swapmeals: tailormade recipes for healthy and sustainable diets
Verdify develops innovative software for recipe personalisation. The company combines strong expertise in the life sciences, dietetics and artificial intelligence to adapt online recipes to lifestyle and nutrient requirements. With its technology platform, Verdify unlocks the potential of personalised nutrition for consumers, healthcare and companies in the food sector.
Verdify’s website Swapmeals.com currently generates more than 40,000 monthly visits. There, the composition of any meal can be optimised by manually swapping ingredients. This can also be done fully automatically based on extensive personal nutrition profiles, in which case a nutrition score indicates the personal match with the adapted meal. The required ingredients can be ordered from affiliated food retailers. Soon, the technology will also be activated on other recipe platforms to reach vast numbers of consumers.
Over the past years Verdify has invested heavily in the development of technology for recipe personalisation. A joint effort of Verdify’s dietitians, software engineers and artificial intelligence specialists has been key to creating the platform. Now, the software can be applied to tailor virtually all recipes on the internet – fully in line with the applicable nutrition guidelines. Recipes can be converted into a plant-based or lactose-free variant, for example, or optimised for someone with heart disease, at the touch of a button.
Promoting healthy and sustainable food
Companies in the food sector can now use Verdify’s technology to let their brands appear automatically in matching recipes on frequently visited websites or ecommerce platforms. Online meal inspiration is widely used for food brand promotion but development of this type of content is resource intensive. Verdify offers a solution by matching food brands with generic ingredients in a recipe, or with their plant-based or low-salt swap alternative. This option is offered to companies with products in their portfolio that fit in a generally healthy lifestyle.
p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifoodtech startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account and/or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).
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
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
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.
Jumbo supermarkets introduced last week the Algae Burger. These meat substitute burgers are made from spirulina, an algae species that already exists for 3.5 billion years. The algae are supplied by StartLife startup Duplaco based in Hengelo.
The algae veggie burger is a beautiful addition to the landscape of vegetarian products, according to Ed van de Weerd, Director of Commerce at Jumbo: “Jumbo wants to offer its customers a maximum of choice including the largest range. The offer in our supermarkets will not be extended only if the customer asks for it, but we also want to inspire customers with special and innovative products like this new algae burger. ”
According to ‘Damhert’ producer of the Jumbo burgers algae offer the possibility to create a more sustainable food chain, using only sunlight and salt water as an energy source for growth.
The Belgian producer writes on her website that since the sixties, extensive research has been conducted on the nutritional benefits of spirulina. There are now more than 100,000 studies and articles published on the health benefits. The algae contribute to a healthy immune system, are a provider of energy and contribute to healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The Algae Burger at Jumbo exists for 60 to 70% of protein. The spirulina algae is rich in antioxidants and contains vitamins, minerals, and several unsaturated fatty acids.
Increasing the production of algae at Duplaco
Marcel Oogink of Duplaco is excited about the launch of the algae burger: “We are pleased with the success of the algae burger and proud that we can contribute with our Spirulina algae. The development of this product started in early 2015, the pleasant cooperation with chain partners has encouraged us to put more energy on product introductions in both the food and feed.
For human applications, we do this via the EFRO project ‘De Groene Eiwitversneller’. To meet the growing demand, we will significantly increase our production in the coming years. This is possible with help of CQ Green Protein Fund, our new external investor. ”
The PoultryBot developed by Bastiaan Vroegindeweij, founder of LiveStock Robotics is nominated for the Innovation Price of the laying hen business. The startup is founded by Bastiaan after his PhD research at Wageningen University.
Cerescon, developer of an automatic asparagus harvester, is the first startup which successfully completed the entire StartLife Incubation Program. StartLife launched the incubation program for agriculture and food startups in the summer of 2015.
Since the beginning of 2014, the team of Cerescon is busy with the development of an asparagus harvesting machine which makes it possible to harvest without manual stabbing asparagus.
In the coming asparagus season, the startup will test their alpha-testing machine throughout the season at an experimental farm of Wageningen UR (University & Research center) in Vredepeel. Starting at the last weeks of the season, the alpha-machine is also tested at three large growers in the Netherlands and Germany.
First prototype in 2018
Thérèse van Vinken, co-founder of Cerescon: “After testing the alpha-machine, we proceeded directly with the development of the beta-version. The beta-version will be extensively tested in the asparagus season of 2017. In 2018, we will bring the first prototypes on the market. After the launch of the prototype we will increase our production and will export the machine worldwide”.
StartLife Incubation Program
After the start of the program in the summer of 2015, a total of 12 startups entered the program. The program consists of three rounds and offers startups access to financing via a pre-seed loan for each round and personal coaching. Van Vinken: “Following the program was for us very valuable. StartLife has challenged us within the program to be critical towards our current ideas and future growth plans.”
Jan Meiling, director StartLife: “We are very excited about the team of Cerescon. They have lots of contact with prospective customers through a self-created user group and are a complementary team. They have the potential to become a market leader. ”