Application to Sustainable Food Systems
(SFS) Challenge

Deadline July 31, 2020 | 23:59 CEST
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About the Challenge

In the midst of the COVID-19 challenge we all face major uncertainty. We anticipate a deep recession and we anticipate that 1bn people will fall back into a position of nutrition insecurity at a time when the already-stretched global food supply will come under increasing pressure. We must focus on the need to make affordable and nutritious food available, but at the same time we cannot ignore the burning platform that is the need for action to mitigate climate change.

These two challenges can move forward hand-in-hand. The ability to extract value from food supply chains in an energy efficient manner can support the economics for consumers, manufacturers and their supply base (including farmers) whilst reducing the CO2 footprint of the entire food value chain. Startups can play a unique role in bringing new disruptive ideas to the table. Corporations can play a critical role in scaling these ideas bringing benefits to society quickly.

A group of leading global food manufacturers and producers- Nestlé, Bühler, GEA, Givaudan, Barry Callebaut, Südzucker, Amcor have partnered with MassChallenge to find and collaborate with startups or organisations, who have proven solutions or technologies, in the following areas:

  1. Food processing solutions (technology, software, control) that minimizes waste and the use of energy, water and chemicals.
  2. Technology solutions to reduce the CO2 footprint of food production, distribution & disposal.
  3. Value creation/upcycling of food processing side streams
  4. Sustainable (plastic-free) bottling and food packaging

The Sustainable Food Systems Challenge is a project to find 6 startups or organisations, and match them to MassChallenge’s corporate partners, so that the startup & partner can collaborate to scale the startup’s idea, and contribute to feed the planet sustainably.

Benefits for the startups selected

  1. A direct pathway to multi-national corporations: If shortlisted by our corporate partners, MassChallenge will introduce you to representatives of the corporate partners, including senior R&D, open innovation managers, sustainability executives and business unit heads. You will talk to the right stakeholders in these organisations, you will have their full attention from the start and will explore ways to collaborate with them.

  2. The ability to scale your technology with them: After the initial meeting we forsee a detailed sharing of information, most likely covered by a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and then the creation of a joint pilot to evaluate the scaling potential of the product. Startups could then become suppliers to the corporation, partners in some form of venture or receive investment. Every step is totally at the corporation and startups discretion, and there is no obligation to proceed unless the startup and corporation wish.

  3. Publicity and more connections: Each corporate partner will invite one of the startups that they shortlisted to our flagship event, the MassChallenge Sustainable Food Systems Challenge Day, on 24th There, the startup invited will present their solution to all of our coprorate partners, resulting in more connections and the potential to work with other corporates. This event will most likely be virtual (e.g. via Zoom) and will be subject to press releases from MassChallenge and some of our corporate partners, providing visibility to the startups.

Eligibility criteria

We are looking for start-ups or organisations that:

  • Have a product or idea at the prototype stage or with a working proof of concept backed by data (ie Technical Readiness Level 5, where the technology has been validated in relevant environment) in the following areas:
    • Food processing solutions (technology, software, control) that minimizes waste and the use of energy, water and chemicals.
    • Technology solutions to reduce the CO2 footprint of food production, distribution & disposal
    • Value creation/upcycling of food processing side streams
    • Sustainable (plastic-free) bottling and food packaging
  • For startups which are from seed to series C+. What’s important is that your product is at least at the prototype stage or with a working proof of concept backed by data. You may already have some sales & traction. This enables us to validate that there is a need for your product and that you’re ready to work with our corporate partners. The next step is to work with the corporate partner to scale your technology.
  • For organisations what’s important is an openness to collaborate and scale your idea.
  • Have Impactful, Viable and Scalable ideas:
    • Impactful: to massively benefit society by extracting value whilst reducing the CO2 footprint of the entire food value chain
    • Viable: be able to demonstrate traction amongst consumers, manufacturers and their supply base (including farmers)
    • Scalable: be able to scale at agricultural, manufacture, distribution or disposal stage of food production
  • Are from any geography. However note that our partner corporations are all headquartered in Europe so physical collaboration would be in Europe.  Startups should ensure they are able to travel to Europe for discussions.

Areas of interest

We seek startups or organisations, who have proven solutions or technologies, in the following areas:

1 . Food processing solutions (technology, software, control) that minimizes waste and the use of energy, water and chemicals. Including, but not only covering:
    • Improved efficiency in food processing, including automation
    • Reducing energy consumption in drying
    • Using more renewable energy & waste to generate energy
    • Green extraction processes 
    • Minimizing use of green and blue water, maximizing use of recycled grey water

2. Technology solutions to reduce the CO2 footprint of food production, distribution & disposal. Including, but not only covering:

  • Food Production: Using renewable energy on farms; Solutions for regenerative farming; Reducing emissions in agricultural production (ie Fewer chemicals for fertilization & crop protection; More organic fertilizer); Access to raw materials with lower CO2 impact (at the right cost) through new and more efficient agricultural practices;   Alternatives to naturally grown products (i.e. fermentation based solutions vs farming); Substitution of environmentally harmful products (Production of dairy-alternative proteins, drinks or powder; Production and processing of cell based meat alternatives)
  • Distribution: Technologies to promote longer shelf life of products to reduce waste (e.g. antimicriobial) 
  • Disposal: Better manure management; Use of biomass for energy production productivity increase

3.  Value creation/upcycling of food processing side streams.
Technologies and creative ideas to transform by-products, or waste materials of food processing into new materials providing the basis for a new usable product and to improve resource use and efficiency. For example ingredients that could be useful as cosmetic actives, fragrance & flavour ingredients, food and nutrition ingredients, odour inhibitors; or solvents through upcycling 

4. Sustainable (plastic-free) bottling and food packaging.
Including, but not only covering:
  • Maximize use of recycled and recyclable material
  • Reduced packaging and amount of different packaging materials
  • Re-using packaging
  • Replace plastics with bio-plastics, microplastics alternatives or paper
  • Facilitate recycling of packaging through its design
  • Biodegradable polymer technology to encapsulate fragrances

How the Challenge works

  • Relevant applicants will be presented to partner corporations
  • Selected startups will be invited to meet with R&D, open innovation, sustainability execuctives, and business unit heads for further discussion and to evaluate the potential for collaboration
  • We expect that this will result in proof of concepts, partnerships, investments for several of the startups.
  • In addition to the above, each partner will select one start-up to pitch their joint collaboration idea at the MassChallenge Sustainable Food Systems Challenge Day on 24 September 2020 where all of our corporate partners will attend.
  • It is anticipated that partners and startups will then work together to scale the startups idea through the partners’ business.

Key dates

  • June 15: Program launch and call for applications
  • July 31: Closure of applications call at 23:59 CET
  • August 28Announcement of the 6 finalists
  • September 24: Challenge Day - Pitching session on-line or face-to-face in Lausanne
  • After OctoberCollaboration between successful startups & corporates.