“The reason we organized this program is that we realized the entire agri-food innovation ecosystem – including cross-overs to e.g. high-tech, IT, life sciences — is needed to radically change the current food system and to tackle the major challenges it faces,” Thomas van den Boezem, project manager for InnoLeaps, the Netherlands-based innovator and accelerator, told AgFunderNews. “Only this way can we tackle sourcing issues, develop breakthrough technologies and work towards sustainably feeding 9 billion people in 2050.”
Additional partners were added to the program, including StartupAmsterdam, Startupbootcamp — the largest European startup accelerator — and The Talent Institute.
The Food Ecosystem Accelerator is looking for businesses across the following three themes: food tech & data, food delivery & commerce, and sustainability & social responsibility, and is hoping students, startups, corporates and others from the food system, will think outside the box for solutions.
Over 100 people joined an opening event on March 17 in Amsterdam, and more than 30 “radical” ideas have already been submitted that meet the above criteria. Currently, the program is in the middle of collecting further ideas, and the challenge remains open until May 31. A few days later, the 10 winning ideas will be announced, and then from June 10-12, those chosen will take part in the Food Hack Weekend.
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“The Food Hack Weekend is our own ‘MVP’ (Minimum Viable Product) of the Food Ecosystem Accelerator. It will prove to us, to the participants, and to the public, what the merit is of collaborating with unlikely but extremely relevant partners,” van den Boezem said. “It will prove that working within the ecosystem is the only way to go from idea to implementation of radical innovations. After this ‘proof of concept,’ a full three-month accelerator is to be organized in the fall of 2016.”
During the Food Hack Weekend, the program will bring together the ecosystem in practice. Teams of students, startups and corporates will all participate, mentored by experts from YFM, InnoLeaps, and the industry.
“In three intensive days, we’ll apply lean startup, customer development, experiment design and other techniques to transform early-stage but promising ideas into real propositions that are pitched to a jury of top experts,” van den Boezem said. “They will choose one winning team, which will be accelerated and mentored by our partners and us.”
The next step will be a three-month accelerator after the summer, aimed at corporates, startups, and students.
“Surrounding these activities, we’re actively building the ecosystem by fostering collaborations between eight leading universities in The Netherlands, the large corporate organizations and the startup ecosystem,” van den Boezem said.
The founding partners of the program have both committed to run the program for at least three years, seeking not just to aim for a one-off intervention, but to transform the agri-food sector, starting in The Netherlands.
“We believe taking concrete steps to a series of activities, combined with building the network, will lead to a richer innovation ecosystem,” van den Boezem said.
To apply to the accelerator, click here.
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