To be published in EVMI October 11, 2022 

By Janet Kooren

How to turn innovations into success
Iffi startup event

We decided to have a look ourselves at the IFFI Startup event, a meeting place for startups and corporates in food ingredients. For this occadion IFFI – Ingredients for Food Innovators – contacted and collaborated with StartLife.

StartLife has been actively supporting startups since 2010, by bringing investors, companies and innovations together -successfully. StartLife is presenting itself as the national food & agricultural ‘incubator & accelerator”, located on Wageningen Campus and has supervised more than four hundred startups on their way to success. During the startup event, startups were brought together with a company in a session wherein both parties presented themselves. We saw Time Traveling Milkman in a parallel session with FrieslandCampina, Corbion and No Palm revealing their business after one another and Cargill and Greencovery taking the stage. This was merely a part of the program, as participants had to make a choice in which parallel session they wanted to be present.

A different mindset

During the opening, Jan Meiling, Managing Director of StartLife, told us how he saw the mindset change in the past ten years. “In 2021, we saw more venture capital in food than is being invested by corporate in R&D.” He told us startups deliver the ‘drive’, the investors the ‘belief’, and the corporates the ‘mass impact’. In other words, they need each other. The opening session was followed up by FUMI Ingredients, a startup with a protein replacement on the basis of micro-algae. A natural protein alternative. Corjan van den Berg took us along his journey from idea  to product. He showed us how to create the biggest impact with the least equipment possible, for instance searching through the university’s remaining research equipment to see what is still usable. He further highlighted the importance of a balanced team. He started FUMI Ingredients with a scientist-colleague, leading to a few missing skills in the overall team. This was solved over time, so his story revealed. Lessons learned which the startup audience could learn from.

“Ali Babi became our main supplier and we tried to rent as much capital intensive equipment as possible. Of course, subsidies can also play a big role.” An important conclusion from Van den Berg was to simplify your process as often and as much as possible in order to be able to use it as well as possible. Not simply send your product to potential clients, but think along with them about a possible application of your product. “Often you cannot exchange the product one on one, but depending on the application you need to play with the dosages or other parameters. It is important to work with your client and research possibilities together.

During the first parallel sessions Dimitris Karefyllakis presented Time Traveling Milkman. During his studies in Wageningen he discovered oil droplets in sunflower seeds show properties very similar to those of milk fat. “We all want to create a better planet, but we also want creamy products. Plantbased dairy does not create the most creamy products and with the invention we hoped to have found a solution. The oil drops – oleosomes – in the sunflower seeds are covered by a thin layer of protein. If you manage to keep the oil drops intact, you can apply them to add a creamy aspect to your plantbased products. The process is very simple and only requires water as excipient. The trick is to break the sunflower seeds and to keep the oleosomes intact.”

In another session, we heard how strategic partnerships with startups are organized. In his presentation, Philip Mertens of DSM gave an overview of how and why to set this up as a corporate and to use it as strategy for your own innovation. “For each startup that we support, we evaluate its added value in the context of a business group. We support startups with funding, coaching and support and so far have helped about a hundred of them.”

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