Tag Archives: funding

Agtech startup Muddy Machines Secures €1.8M Seed Funding

Muddy-Machines-Sprout-Harvest-RobotAgtech startup Muddy Machines,  a StartLife alumn, today announced a new round of series seed funding of 1.8M euro. The new funding will allow the company to enhance the development of its harvesting robots that support zero emissions and solve labor issues in the agriculture industry.

The funding round was led by Regenerate Ventures with participation from Ponderosa Ventures, Jude Gomilla and Thrive/SVG Ventures and numerous others. “We were impressed by Muddy Machine’s vision and speed of technical development.”, says Paul Rous, MD at Regenerate Ventures. “Fixing labor issues in farming is essential for ensuring a sustainable domestic food supply in developed countries and reducing food miles.”, added Evi Steyer, MD at Ponderosa Ventures.

Florian Richter, CEO and co-founder at Muddy Machines, stipulates that raising money for agtech and hardware businesses is a challenge at the best of times. “We are extremely proud to have secured this fund raise in the current investment climate. We will now focus on creating a meaningful amount of harvest capacity for our customers.” The situation is desperate.“, said John Chinn of Cobrey Farms, the largest growers of asparagus in the United Kingdom.

Road ahead

This new funding will be used to strengthen the company’s engineering team and build  sufficient runway while demonstrating product market fit. Specifically, the areas that the company will focus on are:

  1. Building a small herd of its Sprout robots for the 2023 asparagus harvest season and generating initial revenues,
  2. Continuing with the development of new crop harvest capabilities and
  3. Developing a roadmap for scaling production of Sprout robots.

Muddy Machines Demonstrates Green Asparagus Harvesting Robot

About Muddy Machines

Muddy Machines was founded in 2020 by Christopher Chavasse and Florian Richter with a vision to sustainably solve labor issues in farming with robots. They developed a robotic platform that is capable of deploying a variety of harvest tools in specialty field corps. In Fall 2021, they took part in the StartLife Accelerate program. The company has won nearly €3M in grant funding.


p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Verdify Bags Another €800K To Scale Up Personalised Recipe Platform

Dutch foodtech company Verdify, a StartLife alumnus, has raised €800,000 on top of the €1.3 million seed funding the company obtained last December. Verdify will use the  additional funding to accelerate the market introduction of its platform for recipe personalisation and roll out an entirely new business model for nudging people towards healthy and sustainable eating.

More than 90 million consumers in the EU struggle with food challenges because of their health condition or the aspiration of a more sustainable diet. Verdify enables people to make the right food choices by providing matching and reliable meal inspiration.

Fleur Pasman - Nutrition Director of VerdifyFleur Pasman, Nutrition Director at Verdify: “We aim to make knowhow about healthy and sustainable nutrition easily applicable in daily life through smart use of technology. The extension of this funding round enables accelerated implementation of our concept to facilitate better food choices at a large scale.”

The additional capital will be provided by Brave New Food Investments and existing shareholders Brightlands Venture Partners and Joles.

Vincent van Gorkom, Partner at Brave New Food Investments: The additional capital enables Verdify to accelerate the market introduction of the platform for recipe personalisation. This entails expansion of the commercial team and reaching an increasing number of consumers. We are excited to be on board and trust the competences of the Verdify team.

Swapmeals: tailormade recipes for healthy and sustainable diets

Verdify develops innovative software for recipe personalisation. The company combines strong expertise in the life sciences, dietetics and  artificial intelligence to adapt online recipes to lifestyle and nutrient requirements. With its technology platform, Verdify unlocks the potential of personalised nutrition for consumers, healthcare and companies in the food sector.

Verdify’s website Swapmeals.com currently generates more than 40,000 monthly visits. There, the composition of any meal can be optimised by manually swapping ingredients. This can also be done fully automatically based on extensive personal nutrition profiles, in which case a nutrition score indicates the personal match with the adapted meal. The required ingredients can be ordered from affiliated food retailers. Soon, the technology will also be activated on other recipe platforms to reach vast numbers of consumers.

Verdify Raises €1.3M To Scale Its Swapmeals Platform For Personalized Recipes

Recipe personalisation technology

Over the past years Verdify has invested heavily in the development of technology for recipe personalisation. A joint effort of Verdify’s dietitians, software engineers and artificial intelligence specialists has been key to creating the platform. Now, the software can be applied to tailor virtually all recipes on the internet – fully in line with the applicable nutrition guidelines. Recipes can be converted into a plant-based or lactose-free variant, for example, or optimised for someone with heart disease, at the touch of a button.

Promoting healthy and sustainable food

Companies in the food sector can now use Verdify’s technology to let their brands appear automatically in matching recipes on frequently visited websites or ecommerce platforms. Online meal inspiration is widely used for food brand promotion but development of this type of content is resource intensive. Verdify offers a solution by matching food brands with generic ingredients in a recipe, or with their plant-based or low-salt swap alternative. This option is offered to companies with products in their portfolio that fit in a generally healthy lifestyle.


p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifoodtech startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account and/or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Astanor Ventures Partners With StartLife To Help Scale Up Disruptive Agrifoodtech

Image Partnership Astanor-StartLife

Astanor Ventures, a venture capital fund uniquely focused on supporting and scaling disruptive solutions to some of the most urgent global needs in food and agriculture, has joined the StartLife partner community. Together we will maximize impact by helping startups grow internationally.

The partnership connects StartLife’s large network of startups with Europe’s largest impact investor in the sector, and facilitates an exchange of knowledge and expertise between the two entities. Based on campus at Wageningen University & Research, StartLife also provides a gateway to up-and-coming technologies and innovations in agtech and foodtech.

Astanor is born in Europe, with offices in Luxembourg, Belgium, France, and the US, with a global reach throughout Europe and the United States as well as a presence in Australia. Astanor has raised over € 370 million to invest in impact-driven agrifood tech companies and has backed over 40 companies worldwide.

Wageningen at the centre of the European agrifood ecosystem

Astanor and StartLife in front of StartLife's partner wall
Arnout Dijkhuizen (Astanor) and Lin Zhu (StartLife)

“Wageningen is really the European centre of food and agricultural development,” said Arnout Dijkhuizen, Investment Principal at Astanor. “We strongly believe in this ecosystem and the part that StartLife plays in it. There is also a lot of opportunity because of the European Union with its Farm to Fork strategy. We like to say we invest in the whole value chain, not just from farm to fork, but from soil to gut.”

Investment Relations Manager at StartLife Lin Zhu said, “Astanor has significant influence in the field of sustainability, which matches our mission and vision as well, and obviously adds very good value to the StartLife ecosystem. For us, we wanted to not only expand the investor network with more international investors to match our startup portfolio, but also increase the knowledge in our network. We always try to create a close-knit community that can push the industry forward.”

Providing agrifoodtech solutions along the value chain

Both Astanor and StartLife are impact driven, meaning that all the companies they back must provide solutions to urgent social and environmental issues in the food and agriculture value chain. That could mean reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it could also be about improving biodiversity, conserving water, tackling societal issues for farmers, or improving health, for example.

"Agriculture has the ability to go beyond sustainability and become regenerative."

“Agriculture has the ability to go beyond sustainability and become regenerative,” said Dijkhuizen. “Currently, we have a system that produces a lot of food but not necessarily in the right place or with the right nutritional profile. We focus on all the aspects of the value chain.”

From startup to scale-up

StartLife primarily targets early-stage companies in the sector, while Astanor’s focus is on taking them to the next level and helping them grow into mature companies.

“We believe in impact through scale, which means the companies we support need to be for everyone and not just a select few,” Dijkhuizen said. “With our international presence we can also help these companies go further in their international development.”

“StartLife provides a safe environment between the startups and the investor,” added Zhu. “Both parties can be very honest about their expectations.”

Startups looking to connect with Astanor should get in touch with StartLife directly to arrange an introduction.

About Astanor Ventures

Astanor Ventures is an impact investor that backs ambitious entrepreneurs across the world with disruptive, scalable solutions that will create systemic change across the agrifood value chain. Astanor partners with founders who are committed to restoring balance and sustainability to the land and oceans, prioritizing nature and culture, nurturing change and feeding growth.


p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account and/or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

StartLife Will Again Invest Millions In Agrifoodtech Startups

In the next few years, innovative tech startups working to make our food chain more sustainable can request subordinated loans from StartLife. The loans will vary from €75,000 to €250,000. Financing is from a new fund, Startup Fund Gelderland (SFG).

Our current food supply is under pressure and traditional production systems have a very negative influence on the climate. The problem is an urgent one. By offering favorable, subordinated loans, StartLife enables young technology companies to realize innovative solutions for sustainable food production. For example, technologies that contribute to reducing greenhouse gases in agriculture, reducing waste in food chains and developing meat substitutes.

StartLife offers the risk-bearing loans in combination with professional coaching and supervision. Under the motto ‘stronger together’, startups will also have access to the knowledge and experience of prominent corporates and investors in the agriculture and food industry that are affiliated with StartLife. And of course, warm connections can be made to StartLife’s founding partner, Wageningen University & Research.

Startup Fund Gelderland

Jan Meiling (StartLife) and Suradj Hiralal (Oost NL)

In addition to aligning with StartLife’s mission to make food systems more sustainable, companies must also have technology that is both protectable and scalable. In addition, the company must create a demonstrable economic or social impact in the province of Gelderland by being located here or carrying out part of its business activities here. This also explains why the fund is called ‘Startup Fund Gelderland’.

The fund has been set up made possible by the province of Gelderland and various supporting programs, including StartLife, and it is managed by the East Netherlands Development Agency (Oost NL). Loan applications from and the supervision of agrifood startups are handled by StartLife. Suradj Hiralal, project manager SFG at Oost NL, explains:

Our organizations have already had a successful collaboration in place for many years. StartLife has all of the knowledge and experience needed to support these startups. And by combining our (inter)national networks, we offer startups optimum support.”

From €6 million to €180 million

The loans are from a so-called ‘revolving fund’. Loans that are repaid become available again for new loans. With this system in place, StartLife expects to offer about €6 million in loans to agrifood startups in the next few years.

Jan Meiling, managing director of StartLife, pointed out that StartLife has already provided almost €8 million in loans from previous funds. And not without results.

“The startups that we support have created about 1,500 knowledge-intensive jobs and raised about 230 million in total funding. That’s a multiplier of nearly 30. And the counter is still ticking! If we project this into the future, this new fund is likely to result in an additional 180 million in economic activity in the coming years.”

Growth acceleration

Eligible startups can apply for the pre-seed loan throughout the year. Entrepreneurs who want to get the most out of StartLife’s support and its ecosystem can also register for the semi-annual acceleration program, StartLife Accelerate. The upcoming program will run from March through June. Registration is open until 1 February.


p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Biotech startup Scope Biosciences Attracts €1M Funding For CRISPR-diagnostic Platform

Biotech startup Scope Biosciences Partners Up With GenDx

Scope Biosciences, a Wageningen University & Research spin-off and a StartLife portfolio company, announced to have raised an investment of €1M. The funding is provided by GenDx,  a global leader in molecular diagnostic laboratory solutions. The proceeds will be used to speed up the development of its proprietary ScopeDx CRISPR-diagnostic platform and expand its partnerships.

Niek Savelkoul, CEO of Scope Biosciences, commented: “Our proprietary ScopeDx CRISPR-diagnostic platform has shown its incredible potential in various applications in the last three years of its development. With this investment we can bring the first ScopeDx products to the market.

Building on groundbreaking science

Scope Biosciences builds on the research of John van der Oost, professor of Microbiology at Wageningen University & Research (WUR), who is internationally regarded as one of the founders of the pioneering CRISPR-Cas technique, and assistant professor dr. Raymond Staals.

CRISPR-Cas is considered to be one of the most revolutionizing discoveries in the biotech sector. It’s most valuable characteristic is its native ability to precisely detect and cut specific sequences of genetic material for use in genetic engineering.

Fundamental discoveries made by Van der Oost’s research group have revealed how the CRISPR-Cas system contributes to the bacterial anti-viral defense mechanism. He identified various enzymes and molecular signaling pathways that make this defense possible. These discoveries play a fundamental role in the extensive application of CRISPR-Cas today.

Revolutionizing diagnostics with CRISPR-Cas

Developments in recent years have also shown the merits of CRISPR-Cas technology in the use of molecular diagnostics. Scope Biosciences applies CRISPR-Cas’ inherent specificity and ease of use to actually develop such a molecular diagnostic platform. This will revolutionize the field of diagnostics as the simplicity of the assay promises to bring highly accurate molecular diagnostics outside the research laboratory like clinical bedside applications.

Scope Biosciences was founded in 2020 by Jurre Steens, Niek Savelkoul, Bart Scholten and Stijn Prinsen. The idea to set up Scope Biosciences originated in close collaboration with the Laboratory of Microbiology, at the department of Agrotechnology and Food Sciences at WUR. The ScopeDx technology was co-developed with WUR, which is exclusively licensed to Scope Biosciences.

The founders received support from seasoned entrepreneurs Math Kohnen and Wil Hazenberg and StartLife. Van der Oost and Staals both act as co-founders and will continue as Scientific advisors to support Scope Biosciences.

Smart Money

The investment capital is provided by GenDx, which specializes in Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) products for transplant diagnostics and in molecular diagnostics. The Dutch company focuses on the development, production and sales of assays and analysis software for transplantation and companion diagnostics. The collaboration with GenDx is mutually beneficial, as it will entail a co-development trajectory to develop ScopeDx applications for transplant diagnostics.

Scope Biosciences will benefit from GenDx’ experience to speed up developing and marketing the ScopeDx platform. Furthermore, Scope Biosciences plans to use the funding to grow its research and development team, and expand on the running partnerships in the development of rapid diagnostics for infectious diseases in healthcare, veterinary and agrifood applications.

Dr. Wietse Mulder, CEO of GenDx, commented: “We are excited to collaborate with such a motivated and energetic team of Scope Biosciences that is supported by WUR, renowned scientists and seasoned businessmen. We truly believe that together with them, both Scope Biosciences and GenDx will be able to deliver meaningful products to the field of diagnostics based on CRISPR-Cas technology.”


p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Food Waste Monitor Orbisk Raises €1.05M Seed Funding

StartLife alumnus Orbisk has successfully raised  €1.05M seed funding for its fully automated food waste monitor for hospitality organizations.  Orbisk will use the funding to further its R&D and go-to-market efforts and advance towards scale.

Using artificial intelligence, Orbisk’s waste monitors automatically identify what food and how much of it is thrown away by food service companies. By monitoring what food gets thrown out, restaurants and cafeterias not only reduce the amount of good food going into the garbage, they also save money by not spending it on food that customers don’t want. Orbisk’s solution is currently used by 50 restaurants, which are now benefiting from an average food waste reduction of 40 – 50%.

2.1 billion tons food waste

Food waste is big problem. Each year over 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted. This equals 4.4 billion tons in C02 emissions, which accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions. Orbisk’s waste monitors are used in the hospitality industry, which accounts for 15% of all food waste globally. That is over 150 million tons food waste annually worldwide and 10 million tons annually in the EU alone.  Without impactful interventions, food waste is expected to grow to 2.1 billion tons by 2030, representing a major economic burden of €1.1 trillion on the hospitality sector and environmental burden on society.*

Investors double down their stakes

With so much potential impact, it is no wonder that this proven solution receives support from investors. The funding round was led by FoodSparks by PeakBridge VC (one of StartLife’s investor partners), with participation from EIT Food, and existing investors DOEN Participaties B.V. and Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij (BOM) of which the latter have doubled down on their prior investments in the company.

*Source: Catalyze Group


p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

Crop CRISPR Startup Hudson River Biotechnology Raises €5M Series A Funding

The Dutch agricultural biotech company Hudson River Biotechnology (HRB), a StartLife alumnus, has  raised 5 million euro in Series A funding. The company focuses on CRISPR-based genome editing in plants. The raised investment – which consists 50% of non-dilutive funding- will be used to further develop HBR’s nanotech offering and explore market opportunities, as well as scaling up its core crop-breeding business.

Hudson River Biotechnology was launched in 2015 by two founders who meet each other at the Hudson River in New York City, hence the company name. In 2017 they decided to work specifically on the application of CRISPR in plant breeding, which lead to a seed round in 2018. Since then, they have been successful in addressing the two main bottlenecks in applying CRISPR to plants: knowing where to make edits, delivering the CRISPR ‘machinery’ inside the plant, and plant regeneration – getting it from the lab in an in vitro situation back to a real plant that can go in a field or greenhouse,” as co-founder and chief scientific officer Ferdinand Los mentioned in an interview with Agfundernews about the founding round.

Highly scalable nanotechnology

It’s that “delivery” element which has led HRB into exploring its latest new business case. The company has been working on nanoparticles that allow it to bypass plant cell walls in order to introduce CRISPR enzymes – but now it’s eyeing potential alternative uses for this teeny-tiny technology. Though nanotechnology is very expensive, HBR has found a way to make it highly scalable.

Unique delivery

“The uniqueness is in the delivery, and there are two directions we can take this in. One is that we can encapsulate existing compounds or molecules to improve bioavailability and reduce the amounts [of agrochemicals] you need to spray on fields. The other is that we enable the delivery of new types [of inputs] – for example, biological agents”,  says co-founder Ferdinand Los.

HBR takes a non-transgenic approach to CRISPR. They do not add any DNA from other species into the plants it is working on. This allows the company to operate within EU regulatory guidelines with regards to genetically modified organisms, explains Ferdinand in an interview with Agfundernews.

Founder Story: Hudson River Biotechnology


Founder Story Hudson River Biotechnology | CRISPR-Cas9 to boost natural ingredients


Time-travelling Milkman Receives €550K Investment For Plant-based Dairy Fat

Time-travelling Milkman (TTM), a spin-off of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and StartLife alumnus, develops creamy, healthy and sustainable fat ingredients for improving the texture and acceptability of dairy alternatives. With its technology, TTM extracts fat droplets from seeds (e.g. sunflower) to make creamy unsaturated fat ingredients. With an investment of €555.000 by Oost NL and SHIFT Invest, the company will scale-up production and accelerate its market entry. 

“We use European seeds, water and our proprietary processing technology to produce ingredients that add an irresistible mouthfeel in dairy alternatives”, says Dimitris Karefyllakis, CEO and co-founder of Time-travelling Milkman (TTM). “Creaminess comes from fat, not protein. Alternative protein sources are abundant, but the importance of the fat element has been overlooked. Without this, there will be no protein transition”.

“Without fat, there will be no protein transition.” ~ Dimitris Karefyllakis

“The fat ingredient alternatives that are currently used either do not give the required consistency, creating mushy unappealing structures or, like palm and coconut oil, are unhealthy (saturated fats) and unsustainable as they come from the tropics. Inside plant seeds, fats are organized in naturally occurring fat droplets covered by proteins, called Oleosomes, which have a high potential as milk fat equivalents,” says Dimitris.

Next generation B2B fat ingredient provider

Dimitris believes that, based on TTM’s heritage as a WUR spin-off, they know how to give Oleosomes the right twist and format. Prof. Dr. Ir. Remko Boom, Food Process Engineering at WUR, says, “We have discovered that if we can keep the natural structure intact, we can make better ingredients. We can also do this without the need for traditional solvents, but simply by using water. It’s great that TTM is now able to put this into practice. I hope that this will usher in a new phase where we can move towards more sustainable production of our food.”

“We are well positioned to become a dominant B2B fat ingredient provider. Our next step is to scale up and optimize our production at an industrial scale, for which we attracted partners Oost NL and SHIFT Invest who will support us in our journey with their knowledge, network and capital,” says Dimitris.

Accelerating protein transition

Carl Heijne, senior investment manager Food at Oost NL: “The protein transition is a major challenge of our time. A more plant-based diet causes less damage to the environment and is healthier. But existing plant-based dairy alternatives still have many disadvantages. TTM has an innovative solution on its hands. Fat from seeds is much more sustainable. We are proud that as Oost NL we can help accelerate the market introduction.” Oost NL invests from the Innovation Fund ION+, an innovation fund for SMEs in Gelderland.

Bram Ledeboer, partner at SHIFT Invest: “We are proud to announce our investment in Time-travelling Milkman accelerate the protein transition today and into the future”. This funding was provided via our proof of concept fund within the Thematic Technology Transfer (TTT) scheme, which is built around a partnership with the four Dutch technical universities , TNO and RVO. The main focus of TTT is to support early-stage companies that are emerging from scientific research and development into startups with the potential to disrupt the industry.

Support by Food Valley ecosystem

TTM receives wide support from the agrifood ecoysteem in the Food valley.  In Spring 2020, TTM took part in StartLife’s acceleration program. The company is now part of StartLife’s active startup alumni portfolio. TTM also received support from The Growth Accelerator program (De Groeiversneller) and is member of the The Protein Cluster (TPC), a cluster of companies that focus on protein transition. The investment by ION+ is in line with the goals of the province of Gelderland to promote innovations in the protein transition.

Continue reading: The Time Traveling Milkman makes plant-based dairy products deliciously creamy

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Anterra Capital Announces Initial Closing of Second Agrifoodtech Fund at $175M

Anterra Capital , the international agrifood VC firm and investor partner of StartLife, announced the initial closing of its second food and agriculture technology fund, Anterra F&A Ventures II. With $175 million they exceeded the targeted size of the fund. Due to the positive market reception for the fund’s mission and strategy, Anterra is tracking towards an upsized second fund, and anticipates a final closing in the third quarter of this year.

Anterra’s mission is to invest in and partner with entrepreneurs transforming our vital food economy through biotech and digital innovation across crop science, animal health, and human nutrition. As a research driven, value-focused specialist investor Anterra combines a traditional venture investment approach and “venture creation,” building and scaling transformative businesses with its deep industry knowledge and vast global network as a pioneer in the space.

Spotlight on innovators

“New solutions are desperately needed in order to support better outcomes for farmers, consumers and the environment” ~ Adam Anders

Adam Anders, managing partner of Anterra Capital says: “The COVID pandemic has placed a magnifying glass on the critical condition of our food economy, from supply chain and environmental disruptions to structural changes in how we buy and consume food. It has also put the spotlight on the thriving ecosystem of digital and biotech innovators who are dedicated to making our food and agriculture system safer, more secure and more sustainable. With the first close of our second fund, we continue our mission to sustainably transform our food economy.”

Fund partners

The new fund receives continuous supported by original backers Eight Roads (backed by Fidelity Investments) and Rabo Investments, the captive investment arm of the largest global food and agricultural bank out of the Netherlands – Rabobank (another StartLife partner).

New investors include Novo Holdings, a leading global life sciences investor based out of Denmark, Tattarang, one of Australia’s largest private investment groups. as well as other well-respected family offices, sovereign wealth funds, and state-owned investors that provide a global presence, spanning across multiple continents.

Pymwymic And WUR Join Forces In Healthy Food Systems Impact Fund II

Impact investor Pymwymic has launched its Healthy Food Systems Impact Fund II which is aimed at supporting innovative ideas and technologies in the domain of sustainable food systems. Pymwymic has also entered into a strategic partnership with Wageningen University & Research to source and analyze potential launching investments.

Throughout the world, there is a visible shift in agricultural production, the way our food is processed and transported and in our diets. This is the result of climate change, sustainability, living and working conditions for farmers and other businesses involved in our food system, and the desire to provide sufficient food for all. Moreover, there is an increasing focus on healthy food.

Agrifood Startups

In addition to farmers, small businesses and corporates, governments, consumers and researchers, agrifood startups are highly relevant in this transition. They face the challenge of implementing novel solutions in a complex sector. This is why an investment fund is needed with a long-term perspective that understands the challenges these startups face and supports them in their development.

However, merely providing money is not a solution. Thus, the expertise of Wageningen University & Research scientists is indispensable. They know, like no others, what innovations in a particular domain may influence a possible gamechanger in another domain. This interdisciplinary approach is one of the reasons Wageningen scientists are highly acclaimed in the international world of research.

Sustainable food systems

Ivo Demmers is programme manager at Wageningen University & Research (WUR). He supervises an interdisciplinary team of researchers involved in studying how we may transform our current food system into a more sustainable alternative. Demmers feels that investors such as Pymwymic are instrumental in helping startups reach their next development stage. ‘My role within WUR is to build partnerships and to bridge the gap between the experts and scientists that work with us and the outside world.

By getting Pymwymic on board, we are able to add a new perspective -that of the impact investor- to the organizations we already collaborate with, such as corporates, development banks and international research institutes. All these parties are valuable.

‘The way Pymwymic operates is complementary to WUR. Pymwymic is pioneering in this respect, so we knew it would be an excellent party with which to collaborate.’ Ivo Demmers, programme manager at WUR

Impact investing

With the closing of the Healthy Ecosystems Impact Fund I, Pymwymic announces its next fund specifically focused on driving the food system transition. The Pymwymic Healthy Food Systems Impact Fund II invests in innovative ‘impact companies’ and will have a size of approximately €60 million.

Current investments of Pymwymic include  Ceradis (develops nature-friendly fungicides), InspiraFarms (refrigerated containers for small farmers mainly in developing countries), Trapview (smart system to monitor insects in the fields), Rootwave (electric weed control), Naïo technologies (self-driving field robots), Connecterra (‘fitbit’ for cows), Yooji (baby food without artificial additives) and Augmenta (real-time crop analysis on tractors).

“Companies and shareholders invite us to come on board as a shareholder to safeguard and embed the positive impact being pursued into the daily operations of the company.” Rogier Pieterse, Managing Director Pymwymic

Pymwymic’s investment approach draws on deep sector expertise from WUR and is founded on the academic framework “The Food System Approach. With nearly three decades of experience investing in impactful companies, ensuring the positive “impact” of a company is characteristic of Pymwymic’s approach and role. As a shareholder, it plays an active role in embedding impact in a company’s governance, developing and impact strategy, and measuring and managing impact goals.

Shaping the collaboration

The partnership brings together two organizations with a rich history – Pymwymic as one of the oldest impact investors in Europe, and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) having over 100 years’ research expertise making them the largest innovation hub of agricultural technology in the world.

As part of the collaboration, WUR experts will join the Pymwymic Investment Committee and Impact Committee. Moreover, Pymwymic collaborates with StartLife, that also holds responsibility for the annual F&A Next summit, where startups, investors, and corporates meet and learn from each other.

The parties will not enter into an overarching partnership but focus on Pymwymic’s new fund Healthy Food Systems Impact Fund II.

Nutrileads: How One Health Ingredients Innovator Navigated The Investor Landscape

Hitting the sweet spot between pharma and nutrition isn’t easy.  How did the health ingredients innovator Nutrileads successfully navigate its way through the fundraising labyrinth? We’ll take you through the highs and lows of NutriLeads’ journey from zero to seed and beyond – and share what the team learned along the way.

StartLife alumnus NutriLeads works to identify and develop sustainable plant-derived health ingredients that can be added to food products. Their USP? Their products offer clinically-proven health benefits – from enhanced immune function to better gut health.

After completing a successful Series B funding round last year, NutriLeads’ key proprietary ingredient, BeniCaros – a unique carrot-derived fibre that supports innate immune function and improves resistance to respiratory infections – will be launched with a differentiating immune claim in the US market later this year, together with food and beverage and food supplement companies.

From immunologist to ingredients innovator: the birth of NutriLeads

Back in 2011, Ruud Albers was working as an immunologist at Unilever R&D, leading the global expertise group on nutrition, immunity and gut health. When the conglomerate opted for a strategic change of direction, Albers saw this as an opportunity to follow his passion for food and its positive effect on health, alone. Before parting ways, Unilever agreed that he could continue his research, allowing him to take over a number of food and health-related technology patents it had abandoned.

“I had the opportunity to acquire the know-how and the patents, so I decided to build the company developing a class of ingredients we had discovered,” he explains. “ This was essentially the basis of NutriLeads.”

Albers’ first step was to make something of these patents. In a bid to get the ball rolling, he got to work on expanding his network, looking for people whose profiles were complementary to his skill set and could help him develop his ideas.

It was during this time he ran into Erik Dam, who became CBO of NutriLeads and Annick Mercenier, who would become the company’s Chief Innovation Officer. Erik and Annick saw huge potential in Ruud’s vision and soon became co-founders. The fledgling team had the right mix of knowledge and skills, but they also had a huge challenge ahead of them.

“We realized very early on that we’d need a lot of venture capital.”

“We realized very early on that to develop these clinically-substantiated health ingredients, we’d need a lot of venture capital; there’s no way we could have bootstrapped it.” Albers explains.

Securing seed funding: hitting the sweet spot

The hunt for investors began. But after numerous discussions, nobody took the bite.

At that time, Albers’ networking endeavors landed him at the NGI Venture Challenge and at StartLife. It was here that he and his team uncovered a relevant network in the Netherlands. Their startup experts helped the team to better understand the range of financing options available and worked alongside them to hone their business plan to make NutriLeads a more attractive prospect for potential investors.

“Raising seed funding takes much longer than you’d expect.”

“I’d been working in R&D, and I had no idea of the business end of things. This is where StartLife helped,” says Albers. “We learned that raising seed funding takes much longer than you’d expect. It took around ten redrafts of the business plan until we got to a point that we were actually fundable.”

“Hitting the sweet spot between pharma and nutrition actually worked against us at first,” Albers explains. “While a lot of investors were very interested in this area, none of them felt comfortable investing – that was quite a hurdle!”

“We overcame this by bringing four investors who represented different aspects of our target industry between food and pharma into the same room. Their expertise was very complementary. Together, they were familiar with the whole food and nutrition value chain and this gave them confidence to move forward in this new area.”

This approach was successful and NutriLeads closed their first seed round in 2015.

Series A and B: the value of non-dilutive funding

After the company successfully met its milestones, it closed a Series A funding round with the same four investors.

But discussions around closing soon revealed that some of their investors were mainly focussed on making their lead ingredient a commercial success. The team, on the other hand, were eager to develop a whole new generation of ingredients.

“We had interesting discussions with the investors.”

“That was a challenge and led to some interesting discussions with the investors,” says Dam. But throughout the process, the team was able to focus on its long-term goals through non-dilutive funding; by leveraging the capital raised from the investors with grants.”

“This helped us to grow beyond the one-ingredient company that we were back then and brought us closer to where we are today. We now have a healthier portfolio of ingredients in different stages of development.”

When it came to applying for Series B funding, NutriLeads didn’t only want to innovate in relation to the development of ingredients themselves. The startup realized that to strengthen its position in the value chain, it should bring these ingredients to market by commercializing them and working alongside partners to develop and produce them.

As part of this vision, the team was also eager to diversify their investor base for their Series B round and initially garnered some good traction across the pond. But the Coronavirus pandemic hit just as they were about to secure a deal, which made closing exceptionally difficult. In uncertain times, many investors began to refocus on their own portfolio companies, only looking locally for new opportunities. So this meant pushing back the development of their overseas fundraising strategy.

Despite these hurdles in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the startup onboarded two new Dutch investors with strong domain expertise who were not only willing to invest but were also enthusiastic about NutriLeads’ aspiration to become a commercial company – while leading a Series B round together with existing investors. The rest is history.

So what’s next for the firm? Over the past nine years, NutriLeads has demonstrated that its products are able to deliver a genuine health benefit. The team has upscaled production, navigated many of the regulatory hurdles and now plans to launch BeniCaros with an immune claim in the US market later this year.

“We’re nine years into the game and we haven’t sold a thing yet,” adds Dam. “But that’s about to change.”

Advice for fellow founders: investment isn’t just about the cash

For founders looking to follow in NutriLeads’ footsteps, Albers has some noteworthy advice: the quest for the right investor isn’t just about funding.

“It’s a little bit like dating,” he proclaims. “You have to work closely with this person for quite a long time, so you’d better make sure that their ideas and their ambition – and their way of getting there – match with what you want to achieve as a company.”

“There will always be tension.”

He adds: “There will always be tension, but – if you have the luxury to choose – make sure it’s a good match.”

Albers knows that NutriLeads has been fortunate. Few small companies are able to get so many investors on board at such an early stage in their journey. But he believes that this mix of expertise and perspectives has been central to their success.

“This approach not only helped us to balance each investor’s individual interests, and enriched our discussions. It also provided us with access to a wider network – and this in itself has been very valuable.”

Albers also wants founders looking for investment to know that, as their company evolves, so will its needs.

“That’s why Erik will now take over as CEO.”

“You must put the company first. To maximize your chances of success, everyone needs to play to their strengths to make sure they’re adding value to the company. That’s why Erik will now take over as CEO to lead the evolution of Nutrileads from a R&D-driven organization to a company that develops, produces and sells clinically-proven health ingredients. Together with Annick and the rest of the R&D team, I will focus on the exciting science behind our unique ingredients, supporting production and sales to bring substantiated health benefits to consumers.”

And his final piece of advice to impart?

“Enjoy the ride because it’s gonna be a roller coaster, no matter what.”

Find out more about NutriLeads’ journey and how StartLife supports growing agrifoodtech businesses in this video.


p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Inside The Mind Of A Venture Capitalist: A Quick Guide To Raising Smart Capital Effectively

raising smart money

Many early-stage startup founders, especially first-timers, have very limited experience in interacting with venture capital investors (VCs). Consequently, venture capital is seen as a “black box”, largely due to a lack of insight into how VCs work and think. This article provides you valuable insights!

Founders frequently ask  “which investors should I approach?”, “how far am I from reaching a deal?”, and “why don’t investors invest in us?” To answer these questions and to secure that all-important funding, it could come down to simply better understanding who VCs are, how they tick and what drives their decisions. As StartLife’s Investor Relations Manager, that’s exactly what I’ll be helping you with in this article.


The basics: getting to know a VC

Finding an investor is comparable to dating in that it requires compatibility and chemistry. To secure the funding you’re after, you need to know the person behind the investment – both their professional background and their personality.

This might mean working out if they’re impact driven, financially driven or strategy driven, where their funds are coming from and what their financial return objective is. Gathering information on their investment scope, stage, and ticket size will also give you a significant head start.

These factors have a major influence on the decision-making process behind an investment. So to answer these questions and put yourself in a better position when it comes to approaching VCs, there are three key things you should do as a founder:

1) Research: find out who you’re partnering with

Founders are often looking for smart capital – funds that have expertise and networks in the relevant sector. Luckily, it’s likely that the information you need is already available online. While most founders take at least a cursory look at this information, it’s really important to delve into the detail.

  • Check out their website to find out the sectors they invest in, and also pay attention to what they do NOT invest in. This will save you a lot of time.
  • Take a look at the profiles of their investment team on their website or LinkedIn – can you find and connect with team members with knowledge in the sector?
  • Get to know their portfolio companies – have they invested in the sector or similar sectors?
  • Find out if organizations that partner with or invest in the VC fund have expertise in the area you work in.

2) More research: is the fund you’re applying for relevant to you?

Before approaching VCs, ensure that the fund is relevant to the development stage of your company. Stage can be rather ambiguous as everyone has a different definition of what early-stage, seed round, series A round, etc is.

Thankfully, you can find most of the information you need online, as long as you know what to look for. It’s worth bearing the following factors in mind:

  • Ticket size. This is often listed on their websites, so check if your funding needs fit into their range
  • The VC’s portfolio companies, at which stage the VC stepped in, and for how much. This can usually be found on the investor’s own website or sites like PitchBook and Crunchbase, etc
  • The investment criteria on their websites, including requirements on revenue or technology readiness level, for example
  • If fellow founders have had interactions with these VCs and if they have had any feedback

3) Consider your approach: make it targeted

As with job applications, you should target your approach to reflect the VC’s interests and personality. When possible, ask for a warm introduction – this is where StartLife could help. And remember that it’s like dating: you’re more likely to go out with someone who’s a friend of a friend as the vetting has already been done for you.

The Files: Building your documentation

While you were putting together your investor pipeline, you’d ideally been working on your pitch deck and materials, ready to send out to interested investors. We won’t dive deep into building a great pitch deck (there’s plenty of great guides on this online), but it’s absolutely worth putting in the effort to make a deck that is clear, comprehensive and convincing.

Other documentation you might want to have at this stage includes:

  • Forwardable Email Copy – This is the email you’ll use to personally engage key mentors in your process and ask for intros.
  • One Pager – This is a quick snapshot of your company, traction and other insight that could be helpful to an investor.
  • Emailable Deck – This is a high-level pitch deck that will be shared over email.
  • Meeting Deck – This deck will be similar to your emailable deck but will provide more sensitive details such as unit economics or financial models.
  • Financial Model – An overview of your key finances i.e. expenses, revenues, projections and so on
  • Cap Table – A spreadsheet that lists all the company’s securities such as common shares, preferred shares, warrants, who owns them, and the prices paid by the investors for these securities.

Need help putting this all together? The StartLife team has helped over 300 startups in the food and agriculture sector with their fundraising. Drop us a message to see if we can help your company too.

Useful tools at this stage :

  • Crunchbase (to see what investors have previously funded)
  • FoodHack database (to see a snapshot of all active foodtech VC’s)
  • Google sheets / Airtable (to build up your investor pipeline)
  • YAMM (to personalize and send multiple emails at once)
  • Streak (to keep keep track of your outreach)
  • Dropbox (to host files plus other materials you would like investors to review)
  • DocSend (to track who’s viewing your deck)

Scoring a deal: the process behind a VC’s decisions

Once you’ve successfully targeted a VC and have had a few initial conversations, it’s time to convince them to invest in your startup and turn that “no” into a “yes”. Understanding the process behind these decisions is critical. Be aware of the investment process; the steps along the way, and how close you are to a deal. There are normally three major phases in interactions between a VC and a startup:

  1. Screening phase
  2. Due diligence before issuing a term sheet
  3. Due diligence after issuing a term sheet and closing the deal

In general, phases 1 and 2 eliminate around 99% of cases. Once a term sheet is in place, it usually means that you’re very close to a deal. However, unfortunately, most startups don’t make it to this stage.

When this is the case, founders often get feedback that their startup was “too early” for the VC to invest in, and that they should “come back later”. As a result, they often don’t get to find out the real reasons behind the “no”.

“Too early” is usually a way of saying that there are some major risks in the business that need to be resolved before investors are willing to step in. In practice, the most common reasons behind this negative outcome are:

  • The market you’re targeting is not big enough
  • Your time to market is too long (due to regulatory issues or other major hurdles)
  • Your business model is not scalable
  • Your team doesn’t seem right
  • There’s a lack of competitive advantage
  • You have not met investment criteria (e.g. revenue or technology level)

Essentially, it all comes down to risk. Each of the above factors elevates your risk profile and reduces the probability of your startup becoming successful enough to reach the investors’ (usually financial) objectives over a three to five year period – the typical time for a VC fund to hold your startup.

To increase your chances of securing a deal, it’s important to develop mitigation plans to de-risk each of these aspects. The investor might then be ready to join you on your startup’s growth journey.

There are various things that you can do to increase your chances and to avoid feeling jaded by a negative outcome:

1) Ask where you are in the process
Ask the VC firm which stage you’ve reached in the process and make sure you’re clear on the next steps. This will help keep you focused and level-headed.

2) Get feedback from a VC firm
If you’ve failed to secure funding after several in-depth discussions with the investor, don’t only ask for the reasons behind the decision. More importantly, ask about the specific things you need to do to turn a “no” into a “yes”. Having this context will help you move forward and apply for funding again in the future.

3) Understand that a deal is a matter of science and art
Knowing that there are two sides to every decision will help, no matter what the outcome. There are the tangible content-driven motives, and the intangible reasons, which can simply come down to trust, drive, or how well you work together.

4) Start fundraising early
Be aware that the fundraising process, from initial interactions through to closing a deal, can take several months up to more than a year. It’s never too early to start building a relationship with investors in your areas of interest.


How StartLife can help you raising smart capital

In case you’re not familiar with us, StartLife is all about empowering founders to build and grow Foodtech and Agtech startups. Since 2010, we’ve built, supported, and funded over 300 startups in the food and agriculture sector, and helped to expand the ecosystem to create lasting impact.

As StartLife’s Investor Relations Manager, I’m responsible for leading investment-related activities for StartLife and its accelerator program, including deal flow with investors, establishing and maintaining investor partnerships, and coaching startups.

If you are an investor interested in getting in touch with startups, or if you’re an agrifoodtech startup looking for support to secure investment, feel free to contact us to get the ball rolling.

Startups are also welcome to apply for StartLife Accelerate – the leading acceleration program for agrifoodtech startups looking to validate customer segments, raise funding, and gain access to leading corporates and investors in the industry. The next program kicks off in September – come and collaborate with us!


Surfix’s Biophotonic Diagnostic Platform Attracts €8.5M Investment

Surfix announces an investment of €8.5M by a Dutch consortium consisting of Lionix International, Qurin Diagnostics, Photondelta and Oost NL. Surfix will use the investment to accelerate the development of its plug-and-play diagnostics platform for all sorts of point-of-core tests. The initial target applications are early cancer diagnosis, Covid-19 detection and tracing of pathogens in water for aquaculture.

Point-of-care diagnostics refers to performing molecular tests anywhere and anytime, i.e. without having to send samples to laboratories for analysis. Testing on the spot is more convenient, faster and cheaper. The availability of a quick and reliable tests would mean a huge step forward in the fight against the current and future pandemics. The ultimate goal for Surfix is to make a test that is available for the masses and at the cost of only a few euros.

Maarten Buijs, CEO of Surfix, is clearly excited about the investment: “Our drive is to bring point-of-care diagnostics to the next level. In combination with the network and experience of the two Dutch public-private organizations Oost NL and Photondelta, the leading-edge integrated photonics technology of LioniX and the medical knowledge of Qurin, the investment will allow us to take on the industrialization of our solution and clinically validate the exciting results in biomarker detection obtained to date.”.

Senior Investment Manager Tech Pieter Klinkert of Oost NL believes that the solution of Surfix supports the important ecosystem of photonic biochips and microfluidics which Oost NL acknowledges as key enabling technologies and that the company can realize a breakthrough in the field of diagnostics based on photonics.

Surfix, a StartLife alumnus, was founded as a spin-off from Wageningen University & Research and has been very successful as a provider of R&D services in the field of nano-coatings for biosensors and microfluidic devices. The company now focuses on the development and marketing of its plug-and-play diagnostics platform which can be used to detect viruses, DNA and RNA, proteins like antibodies and antigens, and other biomolecules.


p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

PHYSEE (Par+) Closes Series A With €8M Total

PHYSEE concluded its Series A investment round by raising another 4 million euro. The company has now raised in total 8 million euro in growth capital to fund the European roll-out of its smart and sustainable building platform SENSE and to accelerate the industrialization of its light-converting coatings, PAR+.

PHYSEE, a spin-off from the Technical University of Delft, is an expert in the development of light-converting coatings. By adding PHYSEE’s proprietary POWER+ coating, which has recently seen great progress, windows will be able to generate power, making buildings energy neutral. Within this coating domain PHYSEE is also close to commercializing its agricultural PAR+ coating, which converts UV light into PAR light, allowing crops to grow 7% faster in greenhouses. Once successful, the coating will significantly contribute to meeting the world’s growing food demand in a sustainable manner.

Coen van Oostrom, CEO of EDGE, which has participated again in this investment round after an initial investment in 2019, states: “The biggest challenge facing the real industry today is making our built environment healthier, sustainable and more inspiring. I am certain that innovation is and will remain the one true enabler for a much-needed revolution and PHYSEE is one of those companies that perfectly embodies this. I have been a huge fan of PHYSEE from day one and I am very excited to continue our support for the coming years.”

CEO and co-founder Ferdinand Grapperhaus jr.: “The fact that we have been able to quickly close the second half of our Series A investment round by attracting capital from new and existing investors, is a testament to PHYSEE’s potential and the focus from leading real estate developers to invest in sustainable and comfort increasing technology. We look forward to deploying this new capital to accelerate the roll-out of our smart and sustainable building platform and to speed up the commercialization of our light-converting coatings.”

The growth capital was raised from new investors Phase2. Earth and Adunare and existing investors Job Dura and EDGE. The first half of the investment was closed last January.


p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Cricket and Grasshopper Meat Producer Burgs Foods Is Served Funding

Burgs Foods, a young Dutch insect-based food producer, has raised funding from early-stage venture capitalist Unknown Group. The funding is to aid Burgs Foods in its goal for every European to eat at least one meal per week made of insect meat by 2030.

Under the established brand, De Krekerij, Burgs Foods, a StartLife startup alumnus, has rapidly grown to the role of pioneer of the Dutch market in the domain of cricket and grasshopper-made alternative meat products. Last summer their mini sausage rolls filled with crickets were shining on the shelves in all Lidl stores in the Netherlands,
and co-founder Sander Peltenburg was named into the prestigious Dutch Food100 list of entrepreneurs changing the food landscape.

Cricket to Ride

The products of Burgs Foods, which include traditional burgers, meatballs and sausage rolls, along with new classics like pulled grasshopper are characterized by three core features:

  1. a unique umami flavor,
  2. nutrient-rich in nature, and
  3. sustainable.

With these product features Burgs Foods is riding the wave called ‘alternative protein foods’, or should we say, playing the food game ‘cricket to ride’, a movement in line with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, aimed at feeding the world with improved nutrition that are sustainably produced. Indeed, Burgs Foods’ products lead to significantly less environmental impact and greater resource efficiency in consuming insects as compared to livestock.

The Unknown

Edward de Jager, Chairman of Unknown Group said: ”We have known Sander Peltenburg and George Brandenburg, the co-founders of Burgs Foods, for a long time already and consider them strong and dynamic founders. Furthermore, their changemaking contribution to the future of the food industry is driven by sustainable motivation. We see enormous potential in this industry and these founders, and that’s why we welcome them to venture into the Unknown and beyond.”

Sanders mentions that the investment from Unknown Group will be used to strategically and sustainably grow their business by increasing their processing capacity, building partnerships to bring their products to market and marketing their products. On immediate goals, he adds: “We want to raise the level of our production facility to the highest possible safety standards – FSSC 22000. When we reach this, we are able to produce our products under white label for the professional food market throughout Europe. This brings our products to shelves and menus around the continent!”

Big & Hairy

Burgs Foods goals can be called Big and Hairy, which does not refer to the size and skin of their food ingredients, but to their big hairy audacious goal of having every European eat, or should we say try, at least one insect-based meat meal per week by 2030. With their unique insect processing technologies they intend to become the food factory of the future for everything related to processing insects into food. We look forward to Burgs Foods making its ‘big whopper’ up next.


p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Ellipsis Drive Raises €1.9M For Its Spatial Data-Sharing Platform

Ellipsis Drive, a provider of a plug-and-play solution for using, sharing, and selling spatial data, announced today its seed round funding of €1.9 million. This funding round was led by Promus Ventures, through its Luxembourg based space investment fund, Orbital Ventures, and had participation from Techstars. 

“We are excited to back the team at Ellipsis. As geospatial datasets become more prevalent we see the need for a solution that enables the geospatial community to store, share and collaborate around these complex datasets and were impressed with the team’s vision and execution to date. We firmly believe Ellipsis Drive has the opportunity to become a standard piece of software infrastructure in the growing geospatial sector”, says Pierre Festal, partner at Promus Ventures. Together with Dr. Jonathan Fentzke, Managing Director at Techstars, Pierre will also be joining the board of Ellipsis.

Ambitious growth

Ellipsis intends to use the funds to continue to expand operations and its business reach.  And they are ambitious. “To empower organizations working with spatial data requires seamless exchange and collaboration between different user types,” says Rosalie van der Maas, CEO at Ellipsis Drive. “This funding will help us introduce Ellipsis Drive as thé solution that makes the now painful exchange of spatial content easy and profitable.”

‘Google Drive’ for spatial data

Ellipsis Drive is a data platform, where producers, users, and owners of spatial data can easily and quickly turn their files into a collaborative online project. The platform allows collaborators to share content and make project edits using tools as well as any browser. “It’s like Google Drive but for spatial data, and much more interoperable” says Minghai Jiang, co-founder and CIO.

Read the complementary article:
Founder Story of Ellipsis: Using Satellite Data and AI To Build A Better World

p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

StartLife And Pymwymic Facilitating Growth Of Disruptive Agrifoodtech Startups

Worldwide the food supply chain is in dire need of innovations that aid the transition to a healthier and sustainable food system. Agrifoodtech startups with high potential solutions are now given an extra hand to get from pre-revenue stage to growth. Pymwymic, Europe’s oldest impact-driven growth investor, and StartLife, Europe’s first agrifoodtech accelerator, have partnered up to smoothen the transition between these vital startup stages and thus shorten the time needed for promising new agrifood technologies to reach their full potential.

Pymwymic typically only partakes when a startup passes an annual turnover of a half million euro. Through this partnership with StartLife, the impact investor becomes involved at a much earlier stage. This is beneficial for both Pymwymic as well as the startups, explains Rogier Pieterse, their managing director.

“We know how strategic decisions at an early-stage can impact later stage developments. Through early involvement we can help startups to better line up for growth and follow-up funding. By doing so we, both Pymwymic and StartLife, want to help startups reach their full potential faster. And when it comes to follow-up funding, it clearly helps if we have already have developed a good relationship with a startup.”

Impactful growth capital

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the pressing need for sustainable changes in the food system. In order for startups to reach a position where they can truly start making an impact, they need growth capital. For this reason, StartLife has set course to further facilitate accessing growth capital for their portfolio startups. Now we welcome Pymwymic as growth capital partner complementary to ou existing investor partners.

Both Pymwymic and StartLife target impact-driven tech startups from Europe that provide healthy and sustainable solutions within the food supply chain, from farm to fork. “With StartLife predominantly supporting pre-revenue startups and Pymwymic backing early-growth startups to scale up further, our partnership is an excellent symbiosis that paves the road for growth of much desired systemic innovation in the agri and food industry”, comments Lin Zhu, investor relations manager of StartLife.

New Health Food Systems Fund Ahead

The partnership of Pymwymic and StartLife is part of a larger collaboration agreement with Wageningen University & Research (WUR), one of StartLife’s co-founders. In the third quarter of this year, Pymwymic expects to launch a new fund called Healthy Food System Impact Fund, a venture capital fund that invests in early to growth-stage companies which are transforming the food system through innovative and disruptive technologies. The new fund will be based on the sustainable food system approach model designed by WUR.

About Pymwymic

Founded in 1994, Pymwymic is the “Put Your Money Where Your Meaning Is Community”, a co-owned organization of European wealth holders who take a frontrunner role in the transition towards investing with care for people and planet. A community that consists of over 150 individuals, families, entrepreneurs and angel investors of different backgrounds, ages and nationalities. By combining knowledge, passion and money, Pymwymic brings credibility to the impact-investing industry and continuously pushes for higher standards until investing with care for people and planet is the new norm.


p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Viroteq Attracts Funding To Build Smart Stacking and Packaging Robot Software


Efficiently stack packages and objects of different sizes? With the intelligent on-the-fly mixed palletizer software that can make robots deal with flexible situations in a smarter way, this becomes a breeze. Viroteq makes grateful and efficient use of the latest machine vision and deep-learning techniques. Thanks to a fund managed by Horizon Flevoland, the company can now develop a prototype.

“Many stacking and packaging processes within the logistics industry are still performed by people, while this is physically very demanding and monotonous work. By using robots with our software in a smarter and more flexible way, we can automate these processes while at the same time improving the efficiency of the stack, “explains Evert van Galen, co-founder and CEO of Viroteq.

StartLife and Horizon Flevoland

“We are delighted to be able to fund this promising initiative and provide the company with the money for a working prototype. The target? Conquer the market, “said Inge Verschuur, investment manager at regional development company Horizon Flevoland.  The fund is committed to enabling entrepreneurs to grow and at the same time to realize social challenges.

Horizon Flevoland is not the only investor. StartLife also believes in the company. Within the StartLife Accelerate Fall 2020 program , Viroteq developed a “proof of principle”; an experiment aimed at determining whether the invented technology actually works and is feasible. In this program Food & Agritech startups learn what is crucial in validating their business, how to attract financiers and grow their business. In addition, the program provides seed capital, business support and access to leading companies and investors.

Efficient packing

Viroteq wants to sell their software as a licensing model, but also focuses (in collaboration with partners) on the sale of total systems. In the future, the company will not only focus on stacking crates and packages, but also on efficient packaging of the food products in these crates and packages.

Flevoland has a strong logistics sector. For example, the logistics hotspot Almere-Lelystad-Zeewolde finished third this year on the list of top logistics locations in the Netherlands. ‘The logistics sector in Flevoland offers us many opportunities and growth opportunities’, says Evert van Galen of Viroteq.

TMI Proof of Concept Fund Flevoland

Viroteq receives funding from the TMI Proof of Concept Fund Flevoland (POC Fund). This fund is managed by Horizon Flevoland and provides financing to innovative SMEs with growth ambitions that wish to invest in the development of new products or services and are in the so-called proof-of-concept phase. € 13.3 million has been made available for this by a program from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of the European Union, the province of Flevoland and the national government.


p.s. You can  also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifoodtech startups, scale-ups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

Verdify Raises €750k To Create First AI-powered Platform For Personalized Nutrition

Screenshot website Verdify 13-10-2020

The Dutch Foodtech company Verdify, a StartLife alumni, has raised a seed investment of €750.000. Two private investors and AI-investment company Genzai enable the development of the world’s first AI-powered platform for fully personalized and guideline-based nutrition.

Verdify will use the funding to create the first international recipe platform with fully adaptive recipes. The company develops innovative software for assisting consumers online in healthy decision making. Verdify will enable consumers to set up their nutrition passport with detailed information about personal nutrition and health needs, fully adjustable to food and taste preferences. A wealth of matching recipe inspiration is generated on the basis of the nutrition passport, both on the Verdify platform and on the recipe websites of partnering companies.

Improving quality of life

Verdify operates from the vision that nutrition can play a fundamental role in the maintenance of health and the treatment of chronic conditions. Increased attention for nutritional intake in healthcare and -prevention settings can have a profound impact on the quality of life of many people and contribute to lowering medical expenditures. “Our aim is to provide a trusted digital environment for making food choices that are supportive of personal health. We are excited to welcome the new investors and together take key steps towards making a durable impact on health and social wellbeing” said the CEO of Verdify, Jochem Bossenbroek.


Together with AI-investment company Genzai, Verdify develops the software to power the personalized nutrition platform. Roy Lenders, CEO of Genzai: “Food is the biggest market in the world and personalized nutrition is one of the key themes in this market. We are excited to build artificial intelligent models with Verdify that can really enable personalized nutrition for consumers around the globe.” Theo Cuppen, Director of Joles B.V. and one of the private investors said: “Verdify is fully aligned with our motivation to invest in creative startups in the food industry that develop socially responsible concepts on the route from production to consumption.”

Platform integration

The recipe platform will be connected to the order & delivery systems of food retailers and meal delivery platforms to present a new level of convenience in planning and ordering personalized healthy meals. The company’s focus reaches beyond convenience in healthy eating: Verdify operates fully in harmony with national nutrition guidelines that are applied in the medical domain and dietary practice.

Verdify will also construct a software interface that can be used by companies in the food sector for personalizing their recipe content on their websites. This allows the companies to tailor meal inspiration content to the exact needs and preferences of consumers. Besides that, Verdify will offer the possibility to automatically create nutritious recipes around specific (novel) food products through application of its AI Chef.


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Bioventure Sundew Raises €1.4M In Seed Financing

White Spot Disease - Ich_by James_Pickett
Photo by James Pickett

Sundew, an innovative bioventure targeting aquatic pests and diseases, has received €1.34 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s BioInnovation Institute, bringing its total funding raised to date to €1.4M. This funding will allow Sundew to bring its first product, for the treatment of the fish disease ‘Ich’, to market.

Aquatic pests and diseases are a major and growing global problem. Humanity becomes more and more reliant on the oceans for food and natural resources. We have an ever-increasing impact on aquatic ecosystems, ranging from the open seas to groundwater. More than ever preventing, treating and managing water transmitted pests, parasites, diseases and invasive species is vital.

Huge unmet need for aquaculture

In particular there is an urgent need for effective, affordable and environmentally-benign products that can replace the often toxic and non-degradable chemicals that are currently used, as co-founder Andy Gardiner also explains in his founder story: huge unmet need for aquaculture. Chemicals that often cause as many problems as they solve. Sundew, a Danish-Dutch startup biological technology, is developing a range of biological technology platforms to enable the creation, optimization and delivery of cost-effective, robust products with a small environmental footprint.

Sundew’s most advanced technology was initially developed under the EU Horizon 2020 ParaFishControl project by scientists at the Dutch Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) in Wageningen and the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Sundew has a world-wide, exclusive license to the technology and to sell products based on it.

Well ‘spotted’ business

Sundew’s first product addresses outbreaks of lchthyophthirius multifiliis, also known as just ‘Ich’ or fish white spot disease. Ich is a parasite that affects freshwater fish, including seven of the eleven most important finfish aquaculture species, such as carp, tilapia and catfish. (Freshwater fish account for nearly 90% of all farmed fish (by volume) and more than 40% of all aquaculture.) It also affects many well-known ‘ornamental’ species that are found in major display and research aquariums or in ornamental ponds or are kept as pets.

Earlier this year Sundew was awarded €0.8M from the Danish government’s green fund, GUDP, to develop this same product for use by trout farmers, where ‘Ich’ is a major seasonal problem.  The company also obtained €85.000 through the StartLife Accelerate program. The funding announced today will allow Sundew to bring this product to market for the ornamental sector.

Building a company of lasting value

Neil Goldsmith, chairman of Sundew, welcomed the investment saying, ‘this funding will enable Sundew to develop our lead product all the way to market. It is an excellent opportunity to work with two organizations, each outstanding in its area, to build a company of lasting value’.

Christian Brix Tillegreen, Senior Business Developer at BioInnovation Institute, who will be working with the company, said: ‘Sundew uses biology to tackle pests and diseases that live in water and addresses a huge unmet need in the fast-growing agriculture market as well as human health and ecological problems. Sundew’s products could help the transformation towards more sustainable industries. I am excited to work with the experienced start-up team of founders and experts and look forward to supporting their development towards the market’.

Jan Meiling, Managing Director of StartLife, said, ‘It’s really pleasing to see one of our 2019 graduate companies making such excellent progress, especially given the technology link to Wageningen. We always felt that Sundew’s approach was compelling. All of us here at StartLife are very glad to have played a part in supporting their early development.’


p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifoodtech startups, scale-ups and more via the StartLife newsletter.


NutriLeads Attracts €6.5M Series B Funding

Source: Oost NL

Dutch Health Ingredients company Nutrileads, a StartLife alumni, has announced the closing of a Series B financing round of €6.5 million. The company will use the capital to launch its the immune-enhancing ingredient Xtramune and to progress its portfolio of health ingredients. The capital is provided by Icos Capital together with Goeie-Grutten and existing shareholders DSM Venturing, Oost NL, Shift Invest and Thuja.

NutriLeads, established in 2012 and based in Wageningen, develops innovative natural food ingredients with clinically proven health benefits for application in dietary supplements and functional foods. Its proprietary lead ingredient, XtramuneTM, is a unique carrot-derived fibre supporting immune function and resistance to respiratory infections.

Entering new phase

This series B funding round marks a new phase for the company. Together with global partners in the food and supplement industry, NutriLeads will be driving XtramuneTM towards commercialization in 2021. In addition, two other ingredients from its portfolio, targeting gut health and metabolic health, will be progressed to proof of concept in humans.

Unlocking potential

Ruud Albers, CEO of NutriLeads indicates: “We are very excited about this successful funding round which helps to propel NutriLeads forward. People can strengthen their health with nutrition. It is our ambition to unlock the potential of clinically proven food ingredients and this funding round supports that mission. It is great to see that all our investors are committed to this shared goal.”

Nityen Lal, Managing Director of ICOS Capital Management BV: “Health ingredients are sought-after by food companies and their consumers. NutriLeads has impressed us by its professionalism, the quality of the work done and their network in the industry. We are confident that this is a worthwhile investment both for our LPs as well as for the consumers who will benefit from the health ingredients to be marketed.”


p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

StartLife Alumni Updates – May 2020

Brief updates from StartLife Alumni and Community members.

3 million euros for Cerescon’s asparagus harvesting robot

StartLife alumnus since 2015 

Cerescon's asparagus harvesting robot: Sparter

Cerescon, the developer of the very first selective asparagus harvesting robot, Sparter, seems to benefit from the impact of the coronavirus. Many growers of asparagus, the ‘white gold’, are currently confronted with a 30% shortfall in manual harvesters. “Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, interest in Sparter has doubled now that harvesters are even thinner on the ground,” explains Mark van Lier, international sales manager at Cerescon. A Dutch informal has recently invested an additional 3 million euro in the company. Cerescon will be using this extra capital to boost sale and production of Sparter, after the 1-row self-propelling harvesting robot was put through its paces during the current asparagus harvesting season.

Read the full press release.

Livestock management software company Serket receives 350,000 euros early phase funding

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2018 Cohort 

Serket - Livestock Management Software

Serket, a software company that aims to revolutionize the livestock farming industry, has recently been granted a loan of 350,000 euro from the Early Phase Funding initiative of Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (Netherlands Enterprise Agency). The loan is used to further develop their Piguard software, an innovative Livestock Health Management application that uses regular security cameras and artificial intelligence to identify health, reproduction and environmental changes early on and translate visual information into actionable data.

Sponsh Finalist In Europe’s Best Social Entrepreneurs Tournament

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2018 Cohort 

Sponsh - Water from Air

Sponsh, a Dutch startup that extracts water from air to fight water shortage, has been selected for the 2020 edition of the Social Innovation Tournament (SIT), the flagship initiative of the EIB Institute’s social program recognizing and supporting Europe’s best social entrepreneurs. The finalists, whose primary purpose is to generate a social, ethical or environmental impact, were selected from an group of 216 candidates in 31 countries. The finals take place in Lisbon on 8 October – in which all the finalists will have to present and defend their project before a jury of social innovation specialists.


p.s. You can also follow StartLife on LinkedinTwitter or stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scaleups and more via the StartLife newsletter.

FUMI Ingredients Receives Investment of Half a Million Euro for Natural Egg White Replacers

Founding Team of FUMI Ingredients

Producers of meat alternatives all over the world have long been seeking for a break-through solution that allows them to exchange egg whites for a plant-based substitute, making their products 100% vegan. FUMI Ingredients, a Wageningen University & Research spin-off, has found an alternative that is natural and at the same time more cost effective than regular egg whites. Innovation Industries and SHIFT Invest are the first to invest €500,000, which enables the company to produce their vegan proteins on a larger scale.

With consumers becoming increasingly aware of their diets and the environmental impact of the foods they consume, the market for vegetarian and vegan foods is growing rapidly. A major challenge for food producers is to find an alternative for using egg whites, an animal-based ingredient, to bind ‘meat’ together. It is the final hurdle to turn plant-based meat alternatives into 100% vegan products. FUMI Ingredients may have struck gold by finding a solution that they claim is the most sustainable and economical way to produce vegan protein to date. Not surprisingly some of the world’s largest food producers have already shown their interest to the company.

Natural egg white replacers at lower costs

During his PhD study at the Bioprocess Engineering group of Wageningen University & Research (WUR), co-founder Edgar Suarez Garcia developed a process for an egg white replacer made from natural micro-organisms. After obtaining his doctorate Edgar also managed to design a proprietary and scalable production process that can beat regular egg white prices at industrial scale. A natural egg white replacer at lower production costs make the solution a double win. Considering that egg whites have a global market size of $30 billion, a cost-effective and more sustainable alternative represents a lucrative business opportunity.

Turning research into a game changing business

Both Edgar and his (former) PhD supervisor Corjan van den Berg immediately recognized the market potential and decided to investigate how to turn the research into a viable business. They founded FUMI Ingredients and with the support of WUR and startup accelerator StartLife, Edgar and Corjan further developed their company. “As academic researchers we had limited knowledge on how to set up a company. WUR and StartLife gave us all the support and resources we needed to successfully start our company and helped prepare us for raising funds.”, Corjan says.

Sebastiaan Berendse, corporate director value creation of WUR credits the Bioprocess Engineering research group and AlgaePARC led by professor Rene Wijffels for supporting FUMI Ingredients on its route towards implementation and global impact. The research group presently hosts the company at AlgaePARC where Edgar and Corjan can further develop their product.

Ready to hit the market

FUMI Ingredients will use the raised capital to realize their scale-up ambitions and to accelerate their market entry. Both SHIFT Invest and Innovation Industries look forward to helping the company take the next steps in commercializing their ingredients and growing their organization, as underlined by Sander Verbrugge, Investment Director of Innovation Industries and Bram Ledeboer, partner at SHIFT Invest.

FUMI Ingredients welcomes the support of the two investors wholeheartedly. Corjan says: “The combination of SHIFT Invest and Innovation Industries turned out be an excellent match. Aside from their financial support the two investing partners clearly demonstrated that they share our enthusiasm for FUMI Ingredients. We are confident about achieving sustainable growth together and make a lasting impact.


StartLife Alumni Updates – December 2019

Greats news about alumni and community members of StartLife,

1) Zero FoodWaste First to Raise Revenue-based Capital

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2018 cohort

Photo: Non-Dilutive Capital

Zero FoodWaste, developers of the world’s first fully automated food waste monitor, is the first startup in the Netherlands to raise funding from an investor on revenue-based terms, rather than shares. Non-Dilutive Capital invested €250,000 in return for a future share in revenues. Read the full article on Sprout (in Dutch).

2) Sundew Receives €780,000 Grant of Danish Government

alumnus of StartLife’s Fall 2019 cohort

They only just finished the accelerate program at StartLife when the Danish aqua biologicals startup Sundew was awarded a grant of €780,000 from the Danish Government. One of the reasons for Sundew to join StartLife was to prepare themselves to raise its first funding. Mission accomplished!

3) FUMI Ingredients Reaches Innovation Award Hattrick

alumnus of StartLife’s Spring 2019 cohort

FUMI Ingredients, producer-to-be of egg-white replacer made from natural micro-organisms, is gaining lots of news momentum by collecting several innovation awards. Last September they won the Rabobank Sustainable Innovation Award 2019. This month they became award winner of the category ‘Most Innovative Alternative Food or Beverage Ingredient Award’ at the FI Global Startup Innovation Challenge 2019, as well as the overall winner of the ‘EIT Food Prize’. As 2019 is just their starting up year, co-founders Edgar Suarez and Corjan van den Berg are already looking forward to 2020.

4) Van Boven Raises €400,000 Proof-Of-Concept Funding

member of StartLife community since 2019

Van Boven has raised their first investment deal of €400,000 from regional development company Horizon. Van Boven collects crop data in the field with drones and uses smart algorithms to monitor each individual plant, head and crop in order to forecast the size of the harvest and optimum moment of harvesting. The investment is to aid in delivering proof-of-concept of their software. Read the full press release on the website of Horizon (Dutch only).


Hudson River Biotechnology raises seed investment round

HRB_plant and scientist

Wageningen-based CRISPR startup accelerates growth

Hudson River Biotechnology (HRB) has raised a strategic investment round, fully funding its current business plan and bringing in a team of experienced investors and entrepreneurs.

HRB is a young and highly innovative agricultural biotech company located in Wageningen (Netherlands). HRB applies novel breeding techniques such as CRISPR to develop new plant traits, and has exclusive access to a novel genetic target identification platform, called SuRE (licensed from Amsterdam-based partner company Gen-X). Their internal R&D pipeline is focused on developing innovative, new traits for plants that are used to produce high-value compounds for the pharma, cosmetics and food industries. In addition, HRB offers their molecular breeding and target identification expertise as an end-to-end service solution for accelerating breeding efforts to plant breeders, seed companies and natural ingredient producers of all sizes. Combined, these efforts ultimately contribute to solving global food challenges such as the need for improved nutritional value or reduced pesticide use.

Founded in 2015, HRB combines the business acumen and market knowledge of Rudi Ariaans with the scientific expertise in genetics and consulting experience of Dr. Ferdinand Los. HRB remains one of the few independent players in the agricultural industry – no shares are owned by seed companies – and targets the multi billion-euro agtech market.

“The combination of the proprietary SuRE and CRISPR technology platforms offers a powerful and unique way to improve crop yields and enable more sustainable food production. Both technologies are easy to integrate into existing breeding programs and the targeted approach significantly reduces the time, and therefore costs, needed to develop innovative traits” says Rudi Ariaans, CEO and co-founder of HRB.

Ferdinand Los, CSO and HRB co-founder adds, “SuRE is unique in that it can provide gene regulatory sites in a genome-wide fashion, allowing us to modify gene expression levels via CRISPR—turning the “volume button” of the genes, rather than shutting them off completely. This is highly desirable, as completely removing genes, the more common way CRISPR is used, can often be damaging to the plant. Also, this approach can allow us to increase gene activity without resorting to transgenic methods”.

“We are excited to bring on board such an experienced investor group that has a proven track record of successfully scaling up technology companies” says Ariaans. HRB will use the investment to significantly accelerate growth, by growing the team and expanding R&D activities. The agricultural industry is changing rapidly; being able to offer both a target identification and target transformation service will ensure a leading position for HRB in the fast moving CRISPR environment. “With this new investment, we will create a world-class agtech innovation factory”.

N-CHROMA and Phenospex winners startup competition F&A Next 2016

25-26 May we launched with four other partners F&A Next. F&A Next is the first European Platform for startups and investors active in Food and Agriculture, that aims to support startups with funding capital. In total over 150 startups, 100 investors and 200 other visitors joined the 2-day event.

The first day started with a pitching competition of 20 featured startups. N-Chroma, a Wageningen startup and Phenospex won the F&A Next competition.

N-CHROMA Wageningen startup

N-Chroma‘s Constantinos Patinios team won the early-stage startup pitching competition. His company uses biotechnological methods to develop and produce natural colors for usage in food, textile and cosmetics. N-Chroma participated in the competition to attract attention from food companies as they identified this sector as their main target market. Aside from this, an investment of 500.000€ is needed.

Contantinos Patinios, PhD student at Wageningen University: “We don’t have very specific plans yet, but we have spoken to 3 or 4 people and we are curious what these investors can do for us!”


Phenospex, represented by Gregoire Hummel, won the later-stage part of the competition. His startup develops and markets sensors and analysis software to assess and analyze plant performance for agriculture. They aim to be a world leader in plant analysis and automate processes related to plant screening and agriculture. They hope to close an investment deal within the next 4-6 months.

Gregoire Hummel: “We came to present our idea and to meet investors, but now that we won, we are surprised and super happy for the guys at home, they will be happy that people like our ideas and our products.”


N-Chroma and Phenospex will pitch again today, among several later stage scale-ups who will present their pitches. Additionally they will get a chance to pitch at FoodBytes! in Boulder, USA in October. Their trip is sponsored by Rabobank, co-organiser and sponsor of FoodBytes!

About the F&A Next pitching competition

20 promising, pre-selected F&A Startups took the stage to convince a jury of investors. Their innovative ideas in food and agriculture technology ranged from technology to isolate soluble leaf protein to vertical farms and tractor navigation apps. They had to make a strong first impression in only 1 minute, after which 8 of them were selected to extend their pitch to a 5-minute pitch and 5-minute Q&A with the Jury.

F&A next initiators

We initiated F&A Next together with Food Valley NL, Rabobank, Anterra Capital, StartLife and Wageningen UR.

Read more at the website of F&A Next

In2Care Receives €3.5 Million From Bill Gates Foundation To Test New Malaria-prevention Method

Wageningen-based startup In2Care is part of a consortium that has received a total grant of 9,3 million euro from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop a new ‘Eave Tubes’ malaria-prevention method, developed in collaboration with researchers in Africa. In2Care receives 3.5 million euro for their part. 

In2Care, that works on the project together with partners in the US, UK and Africa, receives this five-year grant to investigate a new method for preventing the transmission of malaria. The method involves limiting mosquito access to houses by screening windows and installing “eave tubes” that contain a unique type of insecticide-laced netting developed by In2Care that kills the insects as they attempt to enter.

“In 2015 an estimated 438 thousand mostly African children and pregnant women died of malaria,” said In2Care’s Director Bart Knols. “Although we have achieved tremendous progress over the last fifteen years and have saved countless lives by using insecticide-treated bednets and indoor spraying with insecticides, resistance to insecticides in mosquitoes is spreading rapidly which may undermine these fragile gains. Eave tubes combine two approaches: First the house is rendered mosquito-proof and second the tubes represent a novel approach to target mosquitoes as they try to enter the house in search of a blood meal .The beauty of it all is that house occupants don’t need to do anything, it is passive technology.”

Mosquitoes find their way to humans by responding to odors leaving the house. They enter the house through the ‘eave’, the gap between the roof and walls. According to Matthew Thomas, who will head the study at Penn State, African malaria mosquitoes have a strong preference for entering houses at night through eaves — the gaps between the roofs and the walls of houses. The team’s novel eave tube approach involves blocking the eaves and inserting tubes that act like chimneys to funnel human odors to the exterior of the home. Attracted to the human odors, mosquitoes enter the tubes and encounter netting that has been treated with an electrostatic coating that binds insecticidal particles to it. The netting can hold several kinds of powdered insecticides, including biological agents, and has been shown to break resistance with currently recommended insecticides.

“Since insecticide is only used on small pieces of netting in the tubes, the reduction compared to spraying walls of entire houses is massive, making eave tubes highly cost competitive, especially now that more expensive insecticides are needed due to resistance against the cheaper ones” said Knols. “Furthermore, retreatment is easy, as it requires simple replacement of small pieces of netting within the tubes.”

With a previous €5.2 million grant from the EU, the collaborative team of researchers has already conducted a proof-of-concept intervention in which they installed eave tubes in more than 1,800 houses in the Kilombero valley in southern Tanzania. The team found that the eave tubes reduced indoor mosquito densities by up to 90 percent.

The new project funded by the Gates Foundation expands on the previous intervention by installing eave tubes in approximately 6,000 homes in villages in Cote d’Ivoire and Tanzania. The researchers will examine householders in these villages and compare them with equivalent control villages that have not been supplied with eave tubes to determine the effect of the intervention on malaria incidence. The team also will test the mosquitoes caught in the villages for insecticide resistance. Finally, the researchers will conduct socio-economic analyses to determine homeowner acceptance and create strategies for implementation across different regions and market sectors.

“We know that eave tubes can perfectly kill mosquitoes when they contact electrostatic netting; even the ones resistant to insecticides. But that’s not enough to convince policy makers that this approach can be added to the arsenal we have at present. Quite rightly so, before a new approach can be adopted we need to clearly measure the overall impact on disease, not just mosquitoes. That’s what we aim to do in this unique project,” Knols said. “If we are to eradicate malaria from the face of the planet over the next decades it will be essential to move new strategies forward, and especially those that can help to break the vicious circle of insecticide resistance. This is what eave tubes offer.”


Source: wur.nl

Startups Algreen and Sesolo Mello receive a StartLife microcredit for students

The startups Algreen and Sesolo Mello, partly founded by Wageningen University students, received a StartLife microcredit this week. They will use the loan to further explore the algae market and the opportunities to replace paraffin oil with a biofuel based on local waste in South Africa.

On the photo the Algreen team: Hendrik Staarink and Stefano Canziani.

Spirulina production – Algreen

Hendrik Staarink, graduate of Wageningen University and master student Stefano Canziani both share a passion for algae and founded Algreen in April 2015. This summer they set up a production facility for the eatable microalgae Spirulina on Wageningen campus and got an office at student incubator StartHub. Hendrik: “This year we improved the microalgae production, worked on the needed certifications for human consumption, and found several small customers. We can now produce a significant amount of Spirulina. Our next goal is scaling up our sales network. We see the micro credit as a spinning wheel to get publicity and to invest in our international sales activities.”

Cooking on biofuels – Sesolo Mello

Sesolo Mello is founded by four ‘guys’, and has a clear mission: making social and environmental impact by replacing paraffin oil used in low income communities for cooking, with biofuels from local waste. Co-founder Jacob Bussmann: “By cooking on paraffin oil many toxic compounds are released, with a negative impact on human health and the environment. In the coming year we will start a pilot project in South Africa to develop a production unit for biofuel in a township close to Cape Town. Prior to this pilot project we will use our time to get to know our customers and to adopt our product to their needs. The plan is to start with upscaling the amount of production units to let other township benefit from our idea as well by the end of 2016.”

StartLife microcredits

Every year several students and recent graduates receive the microcredits of StartLife to further explore their idea for a startup. “It is great to see that there are more and more students, like the founders of Algreen and Sesolo Mello, who work out their business ideas into a concrete business plan. With our loan they can start the first business activities”, Jan Meiling, managing director StartLife says.

Read more about the funding opportunities of StartLife