Germinator vol. 2 has seven new food system innovations in the oven!

Viikki Food Design Factory’s second Germinator pre-incubation programme coaching food system transforming startup teams kicked off in August.

The demand for new sustainable solutions in the agriculture and food sector is increasing steeply. The current ways of producing, distributing and consuming food have proven problematic in multiple ways. The systemic failures of the food system are piling up, with the risk of global food emergency closing in. Indeed, we need all the bold and the inventive to the rescue!   

Hence, Viikki Food Design Factory is proud to present the seven courageous teams of its second season of the Germinator pre-incubation programme, each developing an inventive food and agri solution for the food system transformation. This year again we received 15 very interesting applications, from which our prominent panel selected seven entrants to the programme (see the list of the Germinator batch 2 teams at the end of the article).  

The entry criteria for Germinator includes both business potential factors as well as the four sustainability aspects defining a resilient and flourishing food system: healthy and sustainable nutrition, well-being for the environment and climate, efficient utilisation of nutrients and resources through the circular economy and well-being of societies through economic and social innovations. 

It is not an easy task to tick all the boxes. However, the key is to design sustainable and lucrative businesses from the beginning, which the selected teams have a good chance of accomplishing. A clear benefit for the teams in the Germinator programme is peer-to-peer learning, as sustainable food cultivation and production is the common sector all teams are developing their solutions for. 

Germinator accelerates teams’ offering and business development also through coaching from food business professionals and coaches-in-residence, Laura Forsman and Reetta Kivelä, and mentoring from programme’s sponsor-mentors. This year the Germinator’s sponsor-mentor companies include Raisio, Lantmännen, Valio, Foodwest and Leipurin.  

- VFDF educates and incubates new solutions for food system transformation and Foodwest is very excited to cooperate in this process. We strongly see our role as implementors and developers of these solutions into food-based business. By being active in VFDF’s Germinator programs, Foodwest also provides its support to create new talents and innovations for the food sector and for the future, says Harri Latva-Mäenpää, Innovation Director at Foodwest.

- We at Leipurin plc see the VFDF Program as an exceptional and exciting way to get in touch with not only interesting future’s food solutions in the making, but also with the people that have the capacity to drive these ideas towards reality. Taking part in this program now is a way of doing our bit to help them in the process. Promoting sustainable food chains while maintaining a front-runner role in serving the industry with the best possible solutions is the very core of Leipurin’s  strategy and there are few better ways to do this than such programs, says Antti Isokangas, Key Account Manager and Team Lead at Leipurin.

A culmination of the first part of the Germinator programme is the food system solution pitching competition at Y science – an official Slush side event at the Messukeskus venue on the 17th of November, 2022. Although investors’ interest in the sector is growing, unstable times raise the bar for investments. Hence, the first goal of the Germinator programme and its teams is to craft prominent propositions and pitches for their groundbreaking solutions to knock the socks out of the audience and convince the investors.  

The Germinator batch 2 teams – season 2022-2023

Arctic Farming is a Helsinki based AgriTech startup developing automated vertical farming technologies for the restaurant, retail and wholesale industries. Their mission is to disrupt how food is produced, processed, and distributed to the masses by making vertical farming mainstream. They have a team of experienced and value-driven industry and technology professionals with backgrounds in space technologies, bio research, product development as well as in sales and marketing.

Binkiapp develops an AgriTech solution helping farmers optimize their soil health and adapt to climate change through an analysis method combining microbiology and geographical information systems. The team consists of sustainability professionals from University of Helsinki and Aalto University.

BOLE develops a novel technology platform, combining multiple fields of research, that enables cost efficient production of tasty biomass from industry side streams and mycoproteins from unique Arctic fungi strains.The team is based at LUKE Natural Resources Institute Finland.

Five Letter Foods is not dog food, but real food for dogs. 5LF creates meal kits consisting of functional foods, brewer’s spent grain-based vegan meals, and they are in the process of developing lab-grown reindeer meat. Currently, their Dogbucha (kombucha for dogs) and ice cream are sold in a few dog-friendly cafes in Helsinki. The team covers skills and knowhow in startup business, fermentation, veterinary and nutrition science (University of Helsinki) as well as molecular biology specializing in 3D cell culture and recombinant proteins (Tampere University).

Montinutra Ltd. is a Finnish biotechnology startup developing novel lignocellulosic ingredients for the food and beverage, cosmetics, and chemical industries. Contributing to the circular economy, they do this by converting forest industry side streams, especially sawdust into valuable ingredients. The team consists of business and production professionals with expertise in the field of forestry products and scaleup.

MOLT is optimizing the mold growth in plant based ingredients in order to give vegan home cooks and the food industry the blue cheese taste back. MOLT team's process turns ecological ingredients not only into vegan molded cheeses, but also mold spreads and powders. The team includes top chefs and professionals in brewing, food production and marketing.

Three Mushketeers develops a savory and chewy plant-based protein ingredient for food manufacturing companies using button mushroom by-products, contributing to circular economy. The team consists of a food technology professional and researchers from University of Helsinki.