Investing in the future of agrifood

Posted: 26 August 2020 | | No comments yet

Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food, tells New Food about the importance of startups in the wake of COVID-19 and how the organisation is investing in vital agrifood research and development.

Investing in the future of agrifood

The European Institute of Innovation & Technology’s food division (EIT Food) announced that it will invest €5.4 million in 13 high-impact agrifood startups as part of its COVID-19 Bridge Fund. A total of €4.088 million will come from the EIT’s Crisis Response Initiative, and €1.3 million of additional funds has been provided by EIT Food in a bid to provide extra support to the ventures throughout the pandemic. To find out more, New Food spoke with Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food.

Q: Why is there a need for initiatives such as the COVID-19 Bridge Fund?

A: Startups with high impact and growth potential have already been hit hard by the pandemic, and with COVID-19 still circulating, this will remain the case for the foreseeable future.  

Startups have struggled during COVID-19 – already financially stretched, they’re often not at a profit-making stage, and research and development is expensive. In order to continue this vital research, development and innovation across the agrifood industry, initiatives such as EIT Food’s COVID-19 Bridge Fund can play a key role in supporting this.

Q: How important are startups to the entire agrifood sector’s recovery from the pandemic?

A: We believe that supporting entrepreneurs in the agrifood sector during this critical time is imperative to make sure at least some good comes from it, in terms of accelerating positive trends. Startups provide crucial innovation to help the agri-food industry tackle climate change and improve our food system. Whilst the COVID-19 situation is complex, and market solutions to food system challenges may have been disrupted or delayed, the pandemic also presents many new opportunities to adapt to a new way of living and make more radical progress faster in some cases. 

Q: How were the startups selected? 

A: The aim of EIT Food has been to support as many ventures as possible. That is why we are happy to have been able to go beyond the funding awarded through the EIT’s Crisis Response Initiative, and provide an additional €1.3 million from EIT Food funds. 

As with every competitive call, unfortunately we had to make a selection from the 100+ applications received. This was done through a thorough evaluation process, based on clear criteria. These include not only the growth and impact potential of applicants, but also the extent to which funding through the Bridge Fund has a strong catalytic effect to the venture. In other words: to help it survive and bridge the gap towards a next investment round.

The selected startups cover a range of sectors including alternative proteins, sustainable agriculture, targeted nutrition and circular food systems, EIT Food wrote in a statement. The 13 selected startups are: Agritask (IL), Alberts (BE), Antofénol (FR), Consentio (ES), Eatch (NL), Epinutra (NL), Feltwood (ES), Foodpairing (BE), Food Sourcing Specialists (ES), Mimica Touch (UK), NapiFeryn (PL), Phytolon (IL) and Sencrop (FR).

Q: What does EIT Food hope to see off the back of this investment?

EIT Food’s strategic objectives are to help shift the global food system onto a healthier, more sustainable and transparent path. With this COVID-19 Bridge Fund support, startups will be able to continue their innovation activities, extend their runway and prepare for follow-on funding. Ultimately, the supported ventures will be able to continue making a positive economic, social and environmental impact, and progress EIT Food’s own strategic objectives.

Q: Are there any other projects being carried out by EIT Food in the wake of COVID-19?

A: We offer a range of funding opportunities and other entrepreneurial support through our existing Business Creation programmes, which are continuing in the wake of COVID-19. These include Seedbed – a pre-accelerator programme to transform innovative ideas into market-validated business propositions; EIT Food Accelerator Network – a programme to build skills, benefit from mentoring and gain exposure to markets and partners; and RisingFoodStars – which gives outstanding early scaleups access to knowledge and partners that will propel them further and faster.

About the author

Andy is the CEO of EIT Food, Europe’s leading food innovation initiative which aims to create a sustainable and future-proof food sector. Based in Leuven, he has international experience in food systems, innovation, telecoms and technology services and a proven track record in building profitable businesses in the USA and Europe.