The Covid-19 Bridge Fund has been set up to support 13 early-stage companies
EIT Food launches Covid-19 Bridge Fund to support agribusiness
Photo as seen on EIT Food’s website

The food arm of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, EIT Food, has set up the Covid-19 Bridge Fund to invest €5.4 million in 13 high-impact agrifood start-ups. The organisation explained that the fund comprises €4.088 million from the EIT’s Crisis Response Initiative and €1.3 million provided by EIT Food.

The Covid-19 Bridge Fund aims to help early-stage companies adapt to Covid-19 and continue critical innovation to transform food systems, and to bridge the gap towards their next investment round.

Dr Andy Zynga, chief executive of EIT Food, said: “Start-ups will play a critical role in the European post-Covid-19 recovery effort, and could provide the solution to the future challenges we will face as a society.

“These new investments will be a vital lifeline to many game-changing innovators and reflects EIT Food’s ongoing commitment to delivering sustainable, healthy and trusted food systems.”

The selected start-ups cover a range of sectors with potential to create positive change, including alternative proteins, sustainable agriculture, targeted nutrition and circular food systems.

A pipeline of 74 companies from 19 countries, including Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel, the UK and Poland were closely analysed, and 13 were chosen to be part of EIT Food’s investment portfolio.

The 13 selected start-ups are:

  • Agritask (Israel)
  • Alberts (Belgium)
  • Antofénol (France)
  • Consentio (Spain)
  • Eatch (Netherlands)
  • Epinutra (Netherlands)
  • Feltwood (Spain)
  • Foodpairing (Belgium)
  • Food Sourcing Specialists (Spain)
  • Mimica Touch (UK)
  • NapiFeryn (Poland)
  • Phytolon (Israel)
  • Sencrop (France)

Driving change

Polish biotech start-up NapiFeryn extracts protein from rapeseed oil production waste streams, providing a sustainable alternative to animal-derived proteins.

The protein that NapiFeryn produces is as nutritional as plant-based market leader soy, creating a product that is more sustainable and affordable for consumers.

The investment provided by the Covid-19 Bridge Fund will help NapiFeryn continue its research and development activities, leading to commercialisation of novel, plant-based, functional food ingredients derived from rapeseed.

“Our technology to extract protein from rapeseed has the potential to transform the protein market by reducing food insecurity and increasing plant-based eating habits of consumers around the world,” said NapiFeryn’s co-founder Magdalena Kozłowska.

For Kozłowska, the cash injection from EIT Food is vital. “This funding enables us to continue our research and bring us closer to the introduction of rapeseed proteins to global markets.”

Antofénol, another beneficiary of the Covid-19 Bridge Fund, is a French biotechnology company developing a sustainable and healthy replacement for chemical preservatives on fruit and vegetables, which are used to extend shelf life and preserve quality.

Fanny Rolet, founder of Antofénol, explained: “Our innovative technology allows us to extract agricultural waste from vineyards and transform it into a chemical-free product capable of replacing toxic substances that sit on our fruit and vegetables.”

Rolet said the benefit of its technology is twofold. The technology replaces molecules that could be harmful to the health and the environment while recycling waste by transforming it into a product that can be used by the agricultural sector.

“This bridge funding from EIT Food will enable us to enhance our product portfolio and help us to work towards our vision of a circular economy model,” said Rolet.

EIT Food’s Covid-19 Bridge Fund

The Covid-19 Bridge Fund is part of the EIT’s Crisis Response Initiative, and as such it directly contributes to the EU’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which totalled €60 million.

In July, EIT Food was awarded €6.17 million from the Covid-19 Rapid Response Call for Innovation to develop solutions specifically targeted towards the crisis.

The total available amount awarded for both funding opportunities by EIT is €10.25 million.

Benoit Buntinx, director of EIT Food Business Creation, said: “Start-ups have faced an increased level of uncertainty and market volatility during Covid-19 and our bridge funding will ensure that they can continue to thrive.”

Buntinx pointed out that EIT Food believes that innovation holds the key to fixing the food system so that it is healthier and more sustainable for all. “This fund will play an integral part in our efforts to build a high-impact entrepreneurial network that can support our recovery from this crisis,” he concluded.

Date published: 10 August 2020

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