Editor’s Note: Peter Votkjaer Jorgensen, is Venture Partner at global logistics and transport company Maersk’s venture arm Maersk Growth. Here he writes about the first edition of the company’s FoodTrack program, which 10 startups participated in over the summer ahead of the launch of the next edition.
Food Waste is a trillion-dollar issue with more than 1.3 billion tons of food lost or going to waste every year. Awareness around reducing food waste is increasing among consumers however, with more than 75% of the waste happening before the food even reaches consumers, we have a much larger structural challenge to deal with.
Seeing those staggering statistics, we realised that a wide approach, covering the end-to-end food value chain is needed in order to successfully address this problem. And it is simply good business for everyone in the value chain to address it.
With Maersk’s global presence and substantial involvement in food transportation, we are well positioned to be part of the solution. But, for a global company like Maersk to be part of the solution, we need to be agile and think like startups, as well as seek out new ideas and new partnerships, while driving execution with the high impact that multinationals can do.
The Maersk Group has been involved in worldwide logistics and transport for more than a century. The company ships more perishable food than anyone else, transporting 30% of all reefer containers (containers designed for shipment of perishable goods) and is, therefore, no stranger to the challenge of food waste. This industry knowledge, global presence, and infrastructure of Maersk can be used to accelerate the development of startups working on technologies and innovative business models aiming to combat food waste in the supply chain.
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Therefore in June, we ran the first edition of our startup program FoodTrack by Maersk in collaboration with Dutch accelerator Rockstart at our headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. Ten startups from 10 different countries took part in the program, working on various solutions and technologies along the food value chain from fork to distribution to attack the problem of large-scale food waste.
The month-long program consisted of investor readiness sessions where mentors trained the companies on highlighting the market need, value proposition, and go-to-market strategy of their technologies as well as working on their business models and capital allocation strategy. These sessions also helped the companies refine their investor pitches ahead of a Demo Day at the end of the program.
But what set FoodTrack apart from other agrifood accelerators was the access startups had to Maersk experts. Over a series of “speed meetings” each startup had five 30-minute meetings with two Maersk experts per round to give them the chance to get insights on the technical, operational and business aspects of their businesses. We also hosted Soren Skou, CEO of The A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, who enjoyed startups pitching and engaged in a wider Q&A session on the importance of FoodTrack.
Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, CEO of ColdHubs, the Nigerian startup manufacturing solar powered small sized cold storage for smallholder farmers, said he got specific advice from Maersk’s refrigeration professionals on how to adapt and develop his product further.
“What stands out and helped me most at FoodTrack were the speed meetings with Maersk and non-Maersk professionals. It was useful to get the insights of these experienced industry professionals into the technology and service we seek to deliver. Our thinking about retrofitting reefers into ColdHubs 2.0 came from the speed meetings. During our interaction with Maersk refrigeration professionals, we knew that we can leverage reefers to deploy our second generation ColdHubs,” said Ikegwuonu.
It was a great experience for everyone involved – we all learned something new over those weeks not least learning deeply about the creative innovations that transcend the space –and it ended with a very exciting Demo Day where the 10 startups pitched for an investment by Maersk Growth.
We use the opportunity of having four weeks together with the startups to consider team, solution, fit with Maersk and several other aspects – all forming part of our investment due diligence and decision-making process. This process is unique and enables both parties to look into the workings of the other party and become comfortable with what each party brings to the table in an investment. We expect to announce at least one investment from FoodTrack’s first edition in Q4.
Building on the positive learnings of the first edition, the first edition of FoodTrack by Maersk will commence in November 2018 and Maersk is currently accepting applications from agrifood tech startups to take part.
The purpose of FoodTrack is not to offer training; it’s us investing. The program itself is an investment, as Maersk Growth supports travel and accommodation expenses and does not require startups to give up any equity to participate. It is already quite a commitment for a startup to spend a month here in Copenhagen and we want to ensure we get the right startups participating; the decision for the startups should be about the value of a program with Maersk, not whether they want to release equity just to participate.
Technologies interesting to Maersk include farm management solutions, packaging and preservation methods, improved information systems encouraging more transparency and information sharing across the supply chain, food condition tracking and analysis to determine if something is spoiling across the whole value chain, and new market opportunities where farmers and stakeholders can redistribute surplus produce.
Some technologies are likely to go across the entire supply chain, and we do have an interest in those as well. The waste that happens at the consumer end is not within our reach.
To apply before the September 30 deadline, please click here.
Watch the video for more insight into the program!
*This article was sponsored by FoodTrack by Maersk. Find out more about becoming an AgFunder Network Partner here.