When in need of learnings, ask the guys and gals who are doing it!

Taking vegan mold and upcycled sawdust into the food industry requires mutual learning.

If there is something imperative in the food and agri business now, it is accelerated learning. The most traditional of sectors is at the cross-roads of many simultaneous transformations, where the ability to drop old ways of working and adopt novel ones turns the industries – and the whole food system – into one big land of opportunities. However, also the newcomers need to understand the playground, meaning the food and agri industries, for becoming successful players.

That’s where the Viikki Food Design Factory, and its Germinator pre-incubation programme has the role of a catalyst. This season’s Germinator batch consists of seven interesting teams with impactful solution ideas. The programme aids to develop these solutions through competence-building, coaching and mentoring, sector networking, peer-2-peer learning, and demo lab facilities.

Two of this season’s Germinator teams, Molt and Montinutra consist of seasoned professionals with a lot of experience in business, but not so much yet from the food industry. Molt’s creative mind, Ossi  Paloneva has a background in the restaurant business. The insight into their vegan blue and white cheese products developed thanks to his experiences as an innovative chef: the world is still missing a sustainable and healthy vegan option for the delicious flavours of blue and white cheeses. Hence Molt got to work, applied to the Germinator, and are now developing the prototypes in the Viikki Food Design Factory’s demo lab.

Montinutra’s origins are something completely different. Jaakko Pajunen and Antti Kämäräinen come from the recycling and wood industries. And yes, with their team and pilot plant, they are now developing new ingredients for the food industry. Montinutra’s technology is a true Cinderella story: “from wood to food”, as they put it. Effectively, the team upcycles sawdust and turns it into valuable hemicelluloses, meaning wood sugars, and lignins, meaning wood phenols, that can serve as more sustainable alternatives to those currently in use in the industry.

Quickest way to learn is from those who are doing things hands-on. This is what the Viikki Food Design Factory’s Germinator programme facilitates through mentoring sessions between its early startup teams and established sponsor-mentors. Both get value in the exchange of information and insights. Bigger companies get to hear what and how are the newcomers developing their solutions – within the limits of trade secrets of course. The ‘new kids on the block’ get to understand how the business works and what does the day-to-day in the industries actually consist of – which they need to take into account in building a successful company.

This far into the season the Germinator teams have met with two of the programme’s sponsor-mentors, Leipurin Plc and Raisio Group.

- So far working with the teams has been as inspiring and interesting as I expected it to be and I’m sure it will only get better as we go! Especially discussing the ‘whys’ and ‘why nots’ with these groups in different stages of development has proven to be fruitful, challenging and educational all at the same time. It’s great to see new initiatives rise and cultivated in Finland, says Antti Isokangas, Team Lead at Leipurin Plc.

- It was our pleasure to host Germinator teams at Raisio Group! As a corporate we got inspired by the creative startup spirit and visions of the teams and in return provided insights into both selling and purchasing raw materials. We wish all the teams good luck for future!, greets Heli Töykkälä, New Business & Development Manager at Raisio Group.

The Viikki Food System Transformers’ ecosystem got a sneak peek to three of the Germinator teams’ demos and prototypes in a get-together on the 1st day of November. About 60 curious visitors got a taste of what’s to come during the evening. Up next in the teams’ journey is to pitch live at the Y Science event on the 17th of November. From the seven programme participants, the four selected to pitch on stage are Arctic Farming, BinkiApp, Five Letter Foods and MOLT. All seven teams will have a stand at the event.

If you are interested to learn how our gals and guys at this year’s Germinator and Pre-Germinator programmes are transforming the food system with their innovations-in-the-making, do join us at the Y Science at the Messukeskus on the 17th of November! 

Y Science info and registration

Y Science event is on November 11, 2022, at 12.00-16.30, in Messukeskus, Helsinki.

Y Science is an official Slush side event, co-organized by Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE), Viikki Food Design Factory, Health Capital Helsinki and Finnish Forest Industries.  

See programme and registration instructions at Y Science website. The event is free of charge but registration is required.