From spent grain flour to apricot pit nut butter: Who are the startups set to shake up the food industry?

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: GettyImages/Kristina Kuptsevich
Pic: GettyImages/Kristina Kuptsevich

Related tags EIT Food Circular economy Sustainable packaging

EIT Food RisingFoodStars has announced its next cohort of agrifood scaleups that are developing groundbreaking solutions to address long-term food sustainability.

Faced with the need to urgently secure food self-sufficiency and address the impact humanity is having on the planet – including reducing net emissions by 90% by 2040 – over 250 high-impact startups from across Europe were evaluated by experts from the agrifood sector to ensure those chosen have the potential to disrupt the food industry.

After thorough evaluation to assess their idea, its impact and commercial viability, the entries were whittled down to 14 successful incumbents who demonstrated an alignment with EIT Food’s commitment to a net zero food system that is fair and resilient and designed to help to build healthier communities.

EIT Food 1

They join RisingFoodStars, which is supported by the EU’s European Institute of Innovation and Technology. Since 2018, more than 130 startups have been supported by the program, with alumni having already secured over $700m in investment and supported by an additional $15m in investment from the EIT Food Impact Fund.

Narjis Chakir, Scale-ups Accelerator Programme lead at EIT Food
Narjis Chakir

“We recognize the complexity of ensuring food security, reducing CO2 emissions and providing healthy options for EU residents while remaining competitive in the global market,” said Narjis Chakir, RisingFoodStars program lead.

“With over 8% of EU citizens unable to afford regular meat, fish, or vegetarian meals, new solutions are essential.

“Our personalized approach is key to initiating transformative change, unlocking commercial opportunities and facilitating rapid, sustainable growth for startups. For example, our alumni company Infinite Roots has secured $58 million from a leading European retailer and the holding company behind Haribo to scale its mycelium fermentation platform.”

The rising food stars gain access to the world’s largest and most dynamic agrifood community of industry experts and leaders, research institutions and investors.​ They also benefit from support with enhancing the global competitiveness of EU products, navigating the complexities of developing and commercialising their innovations and establishing themselves as leaders in the agrifoodtech field.

The 2024 RisingFoodStars

Rising star Getty MF3d
Pic: GettyImages/MF3d

The startups innovating with circular food systems and targeted nutrition:

Green Spot Technologies utilizes a zero-waste fermentation process to convert food industry side streams, like brewery grains and fruit peels, into nutrient-dense, multifunctional ingredients.​ The French company’s eco-friendly approach requires minimal water and energy, resulting in ingredients with a low carbon footprint.

Agrain transforms brewing industry byproducts – specifically spent grains – into aromatic flours and crackers. The spent grain flours are rich in fiber and protein, while the Danish company’s process reduces waste and utilizes resources efficiently, significantly lowering environmental impact by saving water and land.

"Being A RisingFoodStar meant a tremendous push in terms of commercialization strategy," said Aviaja Rieman-Andersen, cofounder and CEO of Agrain."The internalization workshop, for example, made us realize that we haven't thought through our country expansion approach from the right angle."

The Netherlands-based NoPalm Ingredients produces yeast oils and fats from agricultural food waste. Its process significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and land use compared to traditional palm oil production.

Austrian startup Kern Tec transforms previously unused fruit pits (apricot, cherry and plum kernels) into plant-based milk alternatives, nut-free spreads, gourmet oils and other innovative products.

Verdify offers a platform that personalizes online meal inspirations based on individual health conditions, lifestyle choices and dietary requirements. The Netherland company’s tech integrates with various recipe platforms, providing consumers with tailored meal recommendations.

The Netherland’s startup OneThird offers AI-powered scanners and a smart quality insights platform that provide real-time assessments to predict the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, which has the potential to reduce food waste by up to 25% and save millions in lost produce.

EcoBean processes spent coffee grounds to produce eco-friendly chemicals like coffee oil, antioxidants, polylactide (PLA), protein additives and lignin. The Polish company’s tech addresses the significant waste problem associated with coffee consumption and transforms it into valuable resources, helping businesses lower their CO2 emissions and meet sustainability goals.

Some of the startups focussed on alternative proteins and sustainable packaging:

Notpla (the UK): A revolutionary packaging material made from seaweed and plants that biodegrades in weeks, naturally.

Neggst Foods (Germany): Developing legume-based egg alternatives that consists of a white, yolk, and a biodegradable shell.

Matr (Denmark): Uses traditional fungi fermentation techniques to transform Nordic organic vegetables, legumes and grains into ingredients with a deep umami flavor.

Ficosterra (Spain): Developing prebiotic and probiotic products from seaweeds and microorganisms.

Those Vegan Cowboys (Belgium): Animal-free dairy products with casein from a stainless steel cow, obtained by precision fermentation and plant-based ingredients.

Revo Foods (Austria): Creating plant-based seafood alternatives using 3D food printing tech.

Cultivated Biosciences (Switzerland): A unique creamy fat ingredient that improves the mouthfeel of animal-free cheese and yogurt.

“These organisations are truly rising stars in Europe’s agrifood space and we see enormous potential for them to create impact across our food value chain,” said Benoit Buntinx, director of Business Creation for EIT Food.

“We are looking forward to providing these scaleups with the tools they need to boost their chance of business success and supporting them as they continue to grow and thrive.”

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