These 20 food and agritech start-ups are trying to overhaul sectors that are being affected by changing technologies and a climate crisis.
While almost all sectors of the economy need to deal with the climate crisis and the issue of sustainability, one of the areas at the forefront of rapid, revolutionary change is agriculture and food production.
With many pesticides being banned across Europe, tighter regulations on production and the realities of working with flora and fauna under threat by fluctuating temperatures, there is a need to adapt or fail to survive.
Here are 20 European start-ups that are developing the technology and concepts that aim to bring efficiency and sustainability to a whole new level.
Founded originally as a student research project at St Mary’s Grammar School in Magherafelt, CropSafe co-founders Micheál McLaughlin and John McElhone are now sowing the seeds of their success as a start-up.
They have created an app that combines AI and satellite images to detect diseases in crop fields. With this information, farmers can pinpoint their sprays, reducing the impact that these chemicals have on the environment, while saving money.
The company was one of 12 finalists in the Invent 2019 competition for start-ups in Northern Ireland, where it won the prize for best agri-science product.
— Catalyst (@CatalystNI_) October 10, 2019
From its base in Greenore, Co Louth, Xocean is working to overhaul ocean data collection and address the significant knowledge gap that exists in the global ocean economy. Approximately 95pc of the world’s oceans are unmapped.
It does this through marine robots that record data, which is made available through a turnkey service to surveyors, companies, agencies and academia.
Xocean was founded in early 2017 by James Ives, who serves as its CEO. In November last year, the company secured €7.9m in funding to support its international expansion. It now hopes to recruit an additional 140 employees to service the market demand.
We love this shot of X-04 passing the Haulbowline Lighthouse. Have you spotted an XOCEAN USV surveying in your local area? #XOCEAN #unmannedsurveys #safety #economic #environmental pic.twitter.com/636PdBfPTU
— XOCEAN (@xoceansocial) September 27, 2019
Founded in 2018 as a University of Bath spin-out, Naturbeads aims to replace microplastics in shower gels and toothpastes with biodegradable microbeads made from cellulose.
Approximately 30,000 tonnes of microplastics from consumer products end up in our planet’s oceans every year, equivalent to three times the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Naturbeads was founded by CEO Giovanna Laudisio as well as Janet Scott and Davide Mattia. Last year, it received almost £600,000 in funding from a partnership between UK Research and Innovation and Sky Ocean Ventures, through the Plastic Research and Innovation Fund.
@Naturbeads CEO shared the stage with @emilypenn and speakers from @CitytoSea_, @FinisterreUK and @wessexwater at the first #BathOceanPlasticDay! Great turn out and a lot of interest form the public. Well done @JessHrivnak!#PassOnPlastic #Refill #microplastics https://t.co/G9CSYbyCYm
— Naturbeads (@Naturbeads) January 14, 2020
Atlantic Photonic Solutions
Founded in Castlebar, Co Mayo, in 2018, Atlantic Photonic Solutions has developed fish-friendly light that aims to remove sea lice from farmed salmon. Sea lice has become a major problem in the salmon farming industry, with Ireland, Scotland and Norway cited as having critical lice populations.
Led by managing director Rory Casey, the start-up hopes to use its device, which emits a particular wavelength of light, to treat sea lice.
Last November, the company was named a regional winner at the InterTradeIreland Seedcorn competition, taking home €20,000, before being named best new start-up at the national finals and winning a further €50,000.
West Awake – Winner New Start Company Atlantic Photonic Solutions – Congrats! pic.twitter.com/gl5Z142lq0
— EI WEST REGION (@ei_westregion) November 28, 2019
Launched in 2019 by Karen and Oliver McDonald, Farm Compare is an online marketplace for farmers to source new equipment. This includes general farm machinery, trailers and silage equipment.
The start-up was developed with the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator in 2018 and was launched at the Balmoral Show in August of last year.
Week one complete ✅#Propel2020
— Farm Compare (@FarmCompare) January 17, 2020
Machine Eye is a start-up founded by recent Queen’s University Belfast graduate Brendan Digney.
The technology uses advanced electronics and AI to predict and prevent incidents where bystanders and operators of farm, plant and heavy machinery are at risk of injury, intervening automatically to keep them safe.
The business has gained quite a lot of attention, winning the electronics start-up award at Invent 2019 and Enterprise Ireland’s Safety Innovation award at the 2018 National Ploughing Championships, among others.
Digney now plans to take up a full-time role at Machine Eye, with the aim of having the device commercially available and manufactured in Ireland this year.
— Machine Eye (@machine_eye) December 11, 2019
NUI Galway spin-out Farmeye has created a blockchain platform for measuring food chain sustainability. The company has also developed Soilmate, an app and web-based system that uses GPS and barcoding to geotag the location of a soil sample sent to the laboratory for analysis.
Based in Oranmore, Co Galway, the start-up was founded by CEO Dr Eoghan Finneran, business manager Brendan Allen and CTO Joe Desbonnet.
Just 10 days left until #Slurry2020 & Farmeye are in the thick of it #GPS soil sampling.
On farms in Meath, Cork, Tipp and Waterford this past week with farmers using #PrecisionAg to save money, soil and the environment.
We even got the wellies on @castlemine to muck in! #soil pic.twitter.com/rpmImHVqiU
— Farmeye Ireland (@FarmeyeIreland) January 3, 2020
Trinity College Dublin spin-out Senoptica has developed packaging sensor technology that aims to improve food safety and reduce waste. Led by CEO Brendan Rice, the firm specialises in an oxygen sensor for meat and plant-based meat substitute packaging.
Rice co-founded the company with Dr Steve Comby and Dr Rachel Evans in 2018 and has already conducted trials with one of Europe’s largest meat processors. Last year, Rice said that Senoptica was close to raising €1.5m in funding, with plans to enter the market in 2021.
Founded by brothers James and Conor McCarthy in 2015, Dublin-based Flipdish is one of the great Irish food start-up success stories, raising €7.5m in 2018 alone. Flipdish works with restaurants and takeaways to create their own branded food ordering website, and last month announced plans to bring self-service kiosks to a number of client restaurants in Ireland.
Estimated to have processed €60m in payments last year, Flipdish currently partners with more than 1,500 brands across Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US. Last month it was revealed that Flipdish will work with Manna to operate the first drone fast-food delivery service in Ireland.
@Flipdish has been included, and highlighted as one of the #Startups to Watch, in a definitive international report on The Future of On-demand Food Delivery compiled by @Sifted an online publication backed by Financial Times. Download the report here: https://t.co/np0W4v1lXn pic.twitter.com/S9XTcP2LuP
— Elkstone (@ElkstonePartner) January 9, 2020
Based in Limerick and founded by David McDonnell, Anuland is an agritech company developing precision agriculture solutions and digitising farm work. It does this through combining IoT in the field with AI in the cloud to improve farm sustainability in environmental, financial and social terms.
Anuland’s main product is called FieldSense and it aims to make farming more financially and environmentally sustainable.
The start-up made headlines last October after being named the overall winner at the National Dairy Innovation Awards. As well as winning the top prize, Anuland also won the award for best start-up and the technology award in the show’s gold category.
— Anuland (@Anuland1) November 19, 2019
Belfast-based Changeover Technologies – renamed from Silform Technologies in 2019 – has developed an environmentally clean, high-volume, low-cost system for the conversion of coal waste deposits into pellets that have economic value. It is led by Kenneth Flockhart.
Originally developed in 2015, the company established its first test site in Dromore in 2017 and last year filed two patents on its formula and process, which emits 30pc less CO2 than coal and 70pc more heat than a biomass wood pellet.
Last August, the company secured €2.2m in funding led by the Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Growth Fund, in syndication with private investors.
Dublin start-up FoodMarble was founded in 2016 with the aim of finding a tech solution to help individuals overcome digestive problems. The company’s co-founders are CEO Aonghus Shortt, COO Lisa Ruttledge, CTO Peter Harte and CMO James Brief.
Last year, the team received clinical validation for its Aire device from a top digestive health research group. Aire is a pocket-sized device that helps people who struggle with irritable bowel syndrome to figure out which foods are the root cause. It is currently on sale in more than 50 countries.
In 2017 FoodMarble raised €1.7m in funding and in 2016 it was awarded more than €90,000 at the SOSV Hax Accelerator in China.
Is it the pain of getting blue-shelled, or something you ate?! Use your FoodMarble AIRE to track your fermentation levels, and figure out your food triggers ?#mariokart #healthtech #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/qnpdhMOUHu
— FoodMarble (@FoodMarble) January 13, 2020
Having sowed the seed for an idea in 2013 for how farmers could use improved weather data, Clare-native Dr John Garvey eventually developed FarmHedge. The start-up – a spin-out of the University of Limerick where Garvey is also a senior lecturer in risk management – now helps farmers find supplies through a smartphone app.
Since 2014, it has raised hundreds of thousands of euro from Enterprise Ireland and international accelerators. With customers in Ireland, Austria and Germany, FarmHedge was among 15 start-ups selected for the Google spring Adopt a Startup programme last year.
— Paddy Finn (@paddyfinn) November 5, 2019
Swiss start-up AgroSustain was founded in 2018 by Dr Olga Dubey, Jean-Pascal Aribot and Dr Sylvain Dubey to develop organic preservatives in order to reduce waste in the food industry. This, the company believes, is necessary with recent bans on many pesticides within the EU.
Less than a year after it was founded, the Lausanne-based start-up raised €1m to further develop its mould-resistant compounds including running studies for human safety and pilot trials, with expectations for market approval by the end of this year. The company is now looking to raise around €3m to launch its AgroShelf+ product in the US, Russia and its native Switzerland.
AgroSustain was honored to participate in one of such events – Agro Greenhouse complexes Russia and CIS.
Thanks a lot to all the organizers for such an outstanding event. Looking forward to the next events! pic.twitter.com/N3ksZ0raSK
— AgroSustain (@AgroSustain) December 6, 2019
Founded in 2017 by farmers and systems engineers Dimitri Evangelopoulos and George Varvarelis, Athens-based start-up Augmenta has developed an AI-based camera that is placed on a tractor, with a web platform for scanning and analysing crops.
Having already sold devices to eight countries and working across thousands of acres of farmland, Augmenta now plans to expand its operations to North and South America after receiving €2.3m in funding last October.
Co-founded by COO Peter Verstrate and CSO Prof Mark Post, Mosa Meat is a Dutch start-up developing lab-grown meat. A spin-out of Maastricht University, the company is attempting to create one of the world’s first beef burgers entirely from cow cells and is working towards releasing its meat products on the market by 2021.
In 2018, Mosa Meat secured €7.5m in Series A funding, which has allowed it to bolster its operation with the construction of its first production plant. In January of this year, it announced a partnership with animal nutrition firm Nutreco and Lowercarbon Captial.
Fijne vakantie! Joyeuses fêtes! Schöne Ferien! Happy holidays from everyone in the Mosa Meat team!
We've come a long way this year – growing to 40 people, making scientific breakthroughs and beginning development of our first pilot plant.
We can't wait for what 2020 will bring. pic.twitter.com/6iqzVotScB
— Mosa Meat (@mosa_meat) December 30, 2019
Founded in Stockholm in November 2016 by Hjalmar Ståhlberg Nordegren, Elsa Bernadotte, Ludvig Berling and Mattis Larsson, Karma has developed an app to limit food waste by helping supermarkets sell surplus food to consumers.
In 2018 it launched the Karma fridge, installed in partnering supermarkets, and followed this by raising $12m in funding and expanding into the UK and France. Karma estimates it has saved more than 800 tonnes of food waste and the start-up has received vocal support from Barack Obama. It now plans to launch 100 Karma fridges internationally.
Karma is on a mission to inspire the world to become the first Zero Food Waste Generation! Join us. ?? @BarackObama @ObamaFoundation #Sustainability #YoungLeaders #ClimateAction #FoodWaste pic.twitter.com/3okT2HZLKh
— Karma • Rescue unsold food (@YourKarmaApp) May 16, 2019
Founded in 2015 by Johan Nihlén, Swedish firm Altered Company claims that its environmental water nozzles for showers and sinks can reduce water waste by up to 98pc. The device can be installed in a matter of minutes and is made from lead-free ‘eco brass’.
In 2018, Ikea announced it had partnered with Altered Company to use the technology for its own Misteln nozzle. To date, Altered Company has raised more than $2m in funding.
— Altered (@alteredcompany) January 15, 2020
Tara McElligott, Sean Smith, Jose Lopez and Daniel Izquierdo Hijazi are the founders of Micron Agritech, a concept they developed together as students of TU Dublin in 2018. With a device called Tástáil, the start-up is helping farmers conduct quick and easy testing of animals for parasites, without the need for any veterinary intervention.
Knowing the health status of their animals immediately, farmers are better positioned to save time seeking treatment or purchasing medication before the rest of the herd can be infected, according to the company.
Last year, Micron Agritech won the Local Enterprise Office ICT Award at the the Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards.
Can’t wait to continue our startup journey! https://t.co/PnPRESJnjb
— Daniel Izquierdo Hijazi (@DanielIzH) November 21, 2019
Using its autonomous ChickenBoy robot suspended from a ceiling, Barcelona start-up Faromatics is helping poultry farmers monitor their flocks using a series of sensors and cameras that measure factors such as air quality, humidity and temperature.
It also is able to detect dead birds, analyse chicken faeces and detect whether the birds have intestinal disease.
It was founded in 2016 by Daniel Rosés, Heiner Lehr, Johan Van den Bossche, Jörg Hartung and Maurice Mergeay. The company has been valued at €2.3m and has received funding across two rounds.
— Faromatics (@chickenrobots) January 13, 2020
Disclosure: SOSV is an investor in Silicon Republic