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Accelerator to help plant seed for sustainable food systems

Koepala, a developer of sustainable packaging solutions for takeaway food, is one of six Finnish startups selected for FAN Nordic Hub.


VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has selected 10 agricultural and food technology startups for FAN Nordic Hub, a Helsinki-based accelerator programme created in partnership with Valio and the University of Helsinki.

Six of the participants are based in Finland and four are from Sweden. They were selected out of a total of 81 high-quality applications by an international panel of impartial experts.

“We were impressed by the high level of ideas and skills of the applicants, and we look forward to working with the selected teams,” said Paolo Borella, the programme manager of FAN Nordic Hub from VTT. “There is a good mix of different types of business ideas, which all correspond extremely well to the most interesting and sustainable trends in the food industry.”

Half of the startups, he revealed, work with alternative protein sources – each from their own unique angle – while the rest have set out to tackle challenges in farming, retail, storage and product development. The companies based in Finland include Acoustic Extra Freezing, eniferBio, Entoprot, Koepala, Probitat and Solar Foods. Of these, Acoustic Extra Freezing represents a neighbourly success story, one of manycompanies originating from Russia that are gaining a foothold in Europe via Finland.

The startups will each be assigned a mentor with a background in the food industry or startup scene and provided access to lectures and workshops on topics ranging from product development and service design to sales, marketing and fundraising.

Open wide for collaboration

Both Valio and the University of Helsinki expect the benefits to be reciprocal.

“We want to share our experience with startups and learn new things ourselves at the same time,” summarised Soila Kananen, innovation manager at Valio.

Another Finnish participant is Entoprot, a startup committed to increasing insect-based proteins in our diets. Image: Entoprot

The Finnish dairy giant will work with the startups on themes such as corporate co-operation, food trends and sustainability of the food chain. The University of Helsinki, in turn, will provide the participants with its expertise in food and nutrition science, sustainable development, consumer understanding and marketing.

“We expect to learn from the companies in the programme about the latest trends and research in the field,” told Maija Tenkanen, professor at the faculty of agriculture and forestry of the University of Helsinki.

The participants will showcase their businesses to a group of corporates, investors, media and judges at a demo event in October, with two of them to be selected to compete for three 100 000-euro prizes at the European EIT Food Venture Summit.

The programme is part of the EIT Food Accelerator Network (FAN), a European accelerator delivered across the continent to promote the creation of a sustainable food system.

By: Aleksi Teivainen