From circular economy strategies that reduce the amount of resources needed to digital tools for improving on-farm efficiency to increasing production, food and agricultural tech innovators have developed solutions with the potential transformational potential to transform the food industry. The first step is to find solutions for the biggest challenges in the food industry. They must be scaled up to have any meaningful impact. Many entrepreneurs and start-ups in food technology fail to overcome this obstacle.
“There are a couple of barriers that a lot of promising innovations face when it comes to scaling up. Giles Bolton, responsible sourcing chief at Tesco, stated that funding is one of the obstacles. The other is the ability to prove and test their innovations at scale ,”.
To address these problems, Tesco created the Innovation Connections accelerator with WWF environmentalists. “Innovation Connections is a partnership between our suppliers .”
Innovation Connections will find suppliers that can scale up innovative ideas and technologies. To help applicants pitch scaling-up ideas that can be applied in real life, they have been placed with suppliers who are long-term Tesco customers. Winners will work with Tesco’s supplier partners to pilot and scale their innovation and will each receive up to PS150,000 in funding support.
“A quarter of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the way that we produce and consume food. However, this doesn’t mean it has to be. “It’s possible for farmers to produce sufficient nutritious food while also supporting their livelihoods. This is possible for Tanya Steele (WWF CEO) said.
“We hope the launch of this new accelerator programme with Tesco will bring innovative solutions a step closer and help us achieve our goal of halving the environmental impacts of the average UK shopping basket.”
‘We need to take transformative action’
From 70 applications to the programme, Tesco worked with WWF, Innovation Forum and VentureBright to whittle it down to eight finalists who went head-to-head at a pitch competition last week. Bolton stated that Tesco hopes to help the transition towards a sustainable food system by supporting start-ups like these.
” It is clear that the world’s food system has many challenges. These include the current crisis in Ukraine and the impacts of climate change. He told FoodNavigator that if we want to build a system for food security and provide affordable, healthy and sustainable food to our customers then we must take transformational action ,”.
” We are working with start-ups and suppliers to improve our operations. This includes supporting innovation within our supply chain. We are exploring the possibility of insects being grown from food waste to feed livestock and cut emissions. And last year, we began selling the first commercial volumes of vertically-grown strawberries, produced by one of our suppliers using a revolutionary system that lengthens the UK growing season, uses 50% less water and cuts carbon by 90%.”
Regulation to ‘unlock innovation’ in UK food
Tesco is calling on the UK government to ‘do more’ to unlock the innovation potential in UK food supply chains and support innovation to market readiness, not just focus on the seed funding stage.
Specifically, Tesco wants to see the government set out ‘timelines and process’ for updating ‘outdated regulations’ that hinder the scale-up of late-stage innovation. As an example, Tesco cited the usage of insect protein as a feed ingredient in animal feeds and in low-carbon fertilisers. The supermarket group wants to see incentives for consumers and businesses who adopt new foods system innovations early.
“Progress towards a more sustainable food system will require joined-up action from industry and government. This includes implementing and scaling up new technologies as well as updating existing regulations to eliminate some barriers that currently prevent innovation ” Bolton stated.
” The severity of climate and natural crises requires that we move quickly. We see huge potential in insect feed for animals and sustainably fertiliser, however we believe there are many obstacles to progress. The legislation must be amended to permit alternative feeds like insect protein in poultry and pig feed .” . In the UK, preparations are underway for publication of its forthcoming Food Strategy White Paper. This is a great opportunity for the UK to transform its food system, and increase food security.
Innovation Connections finalists and partners revealed:
- AgriSound and Tesco fruit supplier AM Fresh: AgriSound offers a technology that uses bioacoustics to monitor pollinators and pest levels on farm to help farmers protect biodiversity and increase produce yields.
- Aurea and Tesco apple supplier Adrian Scripps: Aurea has developed a system for full lifecycle crop intelligence for fruit trees that allows farmers to manage health and fruit-load for every tree individually, improving yields while minimising the use of inputs like fertiliser.
- Chirrup.ai & meat and fish Hilton: Chirrup.ai has produced a monitoring system that uses birdsong as a science-based biodiversity indicator in grassland farming.
- CCm, Andermatt, FCT and Tesco potato supplier Branston: The collaboration has produced a demonstration of low carbon fertilisers to reduce the carbon footprint of potato production.
- FCT and produce supplier ProduceWorld: FCT has developed ‘advanced carbon footprint software’ for horticultural growers to analyse and reduce their emissions and increase carbon sequestration on farm, whilst also identifying cost savings and efficiencies.
- Future by Insects and meat and fish company Hilton: The companies are working together to trial circular fish feed, which uses food waste to grow microalgae to feed fish.
- Harbro and milk processor Muller: Harbro has developed technology to precisely measure nutrient efficiency on dairy farms.
- InsPro and prepared fruit supplier Prepworld: Are trialling portable bioconversion units that use insects to convert food waste into chicken feed and reduce the use of soy feed in the egg supply chain.