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.