Showcasing next era innovations delivering sustainable food systems at Y Science

A record crowd cheered for Germinator teams on stage, with team Myshroom winning the pitching competition

Amidst the inspiring first day of Slush, the side event Y Science retook place at the venue Messukeskus in Helsinki, showcasing the most promising science-backed inventions. Y Science brought together over 1400 registered participants this year, uniting the impact-driven scientific community with forward-thinking investors and businesses.  

Viikki Food Design Factory co-organized the event for the third consecutive year and hosted its food systems session and associated pitching competition. This year’s session zoomed in on the growing need to create truly system-level innovations. The session featured a fireside chat with the co-founders and CEOs of two trailblazing startups, Michael Quarshie from Metabite and Tuure Parviainen from Volare, who shared insights into their system-changing solutions.   

As the food system's sustainability transformation progresses, the need to step up the game and innovate solutions capable of deep sustainability increases. This calls for innovations creating new system designs, new value chains, and ultimately new kind of value. In sustainable food systems, value equals elevation of nutritional quality for people, climate crisis mitigation, biodiversity regeneration, upcycling of nutrients and enhancement of social wellbeing of societies. The Germinator teams of the on-going season are indeed developing such cases, giving us all a glimpse of what the sustainability transformation within food systems will look like. 

However, succeeding in the nitty-gritty of building good products and services in the agrifood sector requires collaboration and coaching from seasoned sector experts. A long-standing sponsor-mentor of the Germinator programme has been Raisio, who is mentoring the teams again this year. Its Chief Innovation Officer, Reetta Andolin, of course knows the Viikki Food Design Factory well, and is happy to continue the sponsor-mentorship. 

"Germinator excels in fostering collaboration with the academy, not only through typical research partnerships but also via business-aligned projects, providing insights into both innovations and innovators", Reetta comments.

The culmination point of the Y Science food systems session was the pitches from the Germinator teams. The distinguished jury, comprised of Louise Heiberg from PINC VC; Lauri Reuter from Nordic Foodtech VC; and Keith Bonnici from Tesi, the Finnish Industry Investment Limited, faced the challenge of selecting the standout team. The winning Germinator team this year was Myshroom: a talented group developing umami-rich ingredient providing taste and texture to plant-based products from fast-growing mycelium. Jussi Hildén, the team's food technologist and "mushroom whisperer," delivered the captivating pitch on stage.  

On the night before, Jussi and the other pitchers received last-minute guidance to hone their presentations during a final rehearsal. Good advice was provided among other by Niina Valkonen, Technology manager working at the Germinator sponsor-mentor company, Valio.  

"As an innovative dairy and food company, Valio wants to develop actively products and processes in the field of food and sustainability. Collaborating with Germinator offers us unique opportunity to contribute and support these unique ideas and to meet bright people behind them. Interesting discussions also challenge us to think differently, says Niina."

While Myshroom walked away with the 5000 euro prize, all Germinator teams were pleased with the networking opportunities and important connections to investors and other potential partners provided by the Y Science event. Indeed, having established itself as a key event for early science-based business cases and deep tech, Y Science plays a pivotal role in driving the development of sustainable solutions for our global food systems, among other themes.