COP27: Why European food startups are in the spotlight

When it comes to investing in European start-ups, fintech still reigns supreme. According to data from Dealroom.co, the fintech sector attracted a quarter of all European funding ($15.6 billion, or €14.9 billion) in the first half of 2022. health, energy and transport are also in the top 5.

But if we go down to sixth place, we discover a sector of startups that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves: food. In the first half of this year, start-ups in this sector attracted 3.1 billion dollars (2.9 billion euros) in funds.

And there is so much to do. At first glance, the food sector – especially in terms of production – seems calm and traditional, but it is deceiving. From the invention of the plough in the distant past, to genetic crops, to surveillance drones, technology has always enabled farmers to increase their yields, while automation and supply chain technology has helped industrial producers to bring an ever-increasing range of products to supermarket shelves, keeping costs down.

the environmental challenge

However, technology today helps solve other problems. It is generally agreed that food production accounts for nearly a third of the global carbon footprint, and according to recent research from the University of Illinois, that number could be as high as 37%. From a general point of view, certain forms of production contribute to significant environmental degradation. In this sense, many of the current challenges are to provide a growing world population with quality food and, above all, to do so in a sustainable way.

That’s why the European Union’s EIT Food Program highlighted the work of food startups ahead of COP27. “The food system must be at the center of the climate agenda,” says Andy Zynga, CEO of EIT Food.

But, like Mr. Zynga points out, food was not discussed very extensively at previous COP summits. That changed this year with the creation of a food systems pavilion. Ahead of the event, EIT Food used its own blog and social media to showcase the work of 27 innovative companies operating in the farm-to-fork value chain.

be explicit

Mr. Zynga was asked about the reasoning behind this campaign. “Everyone talks about the fact that food contributes about 30% of global emissions,” he explains. “We wanted to focus on the positive, not the negative. We believe that innovation is the answer. 🇧🇷

At the same time, the organization wants to ensure that agriculture and food are on the agenda. “In the past, the impact of food production was understood but not explicitly talked about,” he explains. “We want to make these issues explicit. 🇧🇷

What does this mean in practice? Well, EIT Food is a non-profit organization funded by the European Union and responsible for fostering innovation. Its aim is to help start-ups and scale-ups in the food sector that can tackle the challenges of becoming carbon neutral, improving nutrition and creating a fair food system that people can trust.

The chosen companies reflect this mission. To name just a few examples: Napiferyn Biotech (plant proteins), Urban Crop Solutions (indoor farming to reduce emissions), Vaxa (reducing emissions by growing algae), and Grawindy Renewable Energy technologies (combining renewable energy and food production).

Impact factors

All companies on the list have already been supported by EIT Food and were selected based on matching the “impact factors” identified by the organization. The 27 selected companies come from all over Europe.

All of this is obviously good news in terms of raising awareness among businesses themselves, but can small businesses at the start of their journey really make a difference in the face of an issue as intractable as climate change?

Helping them do this is at the heart of IET Food’s mission. The aim is to provide support from the earliest stages of a company’s development through to its rapid growth. Programs include industry challenges (where entrepreneurs develop ideas in “foodathons”), an incubator, accelerator, and a Rising Food Stars initiative for large companies. The programs connect entrepreneurs with partners and also investors. “So far, our business has attracted €400 million in foreign investment,” says Zynga.

That’s the big picture. In the short term, the objective is to take advantage of COP27 to encourage more countries to prioritize investments in food innovation, while encouraging companies in the sector to develop action plans for sustainability.

But are big producers encouraged to work with start-ups? Andy Zynga responds in the affirmative, citing consumer demand for eco-friendly products, as well as a new European eco-label system designed to allow individuals to understand the impact of the food they eat. Measures to strengthen legislation on carbon credits and debts could also stimulate action. Movement, yes, but it’s a long game.

Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Trevor Clawson

🇧🇷< Leia também: COP27: Duas vitórias óbvias, três desafios e uma conta de US$ 65 trilhões >🇧🇷

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