Podcast: The network of start-ups fueling the food chain

How FoodBytes! is creating an ecosystem for innovation

The start-ups who pitch at FoodBytes! are driving some of the key developments in food and agriculture today. Nina Meijers, Start-up Relationship Manager at Rabobank, explains how supporting these companies fuels innovation across the food chain.

Listen to this episode of Food Forward

Rabobank’s FoodBytes! is best known as a pitch competition. But according to Meijers, that’s really only the beginning of the story. “The pitch competition is foundational, but the real lasting value for all participants – start-ups, corporate clients, and investors – is this continuous community and network.”

Since launching in San Francisco in 2015, FoodBytes! has received over 2,000 applications and boasts a community of 265 alumni – and counting. And then there’s the network of large corporates and investors who have come on board to mentor and collaborate with start-ups. Fostering enduring relationships like these is central to a growing innovation ecosystem nurtured by Rabobank that also includes TERRA, an accelerator bringing start-ups and corporates together to pilot projects.

“Over the last four years large corporates lost 18 billion dollars in market share to emerging companies who are able to more nimbly adapt to changing consumer demands,” Meijers explains. “Corporates are increasingly looking for ways to engage in a meaningful way – ways to collaborate with these leading edge innovators to help them evolve their businesses. That’s the nexus where FoodBytes! sits.”

In this episode Meijers shares the dream of creating an essential database for start-up and industry innovation, the biggest trends in food and agtech, and her advice for pitching on the FoodBytes! stage. Listen here.

From the podcast:

Why should corporations care?
“Consumers are driving demand for better, cleaner, healthier, safer food and they’re willing to pay a premium for it. Corporates realize that they need to shift and change, be flexible and nimble. The start-ups are really the ones driving that innovation.”

What’s in it for the bank?
“We want to be that trusted advisor around innovation. We look at this as a way to understand what’s coming down the pipeline.”

On the biggest trends:
“We’ve seen three times the amount of waste-focused start-ups applying to FoodBytes! over the last three years.”

Start-ups are saying:
“They’ve never received a more valuable stack of business cards at an industry event.”

On why we should feel hopeful about the future:
“These start-ups are seeing an opportunity that’s not being solved and they are pouring everything into it to build a better food system.”

Key advice for pitching:
“Get people excited about what you’re doing and clearly clearly clearly articulate your value proposition.”

FoodBytes! is coming to Chicago

FoodBytes! hits Chicago on September 19. Learn more about the 15 start-ups who will be pitching and get your tickets today.

Food Forward is a new Rabobank podcast featuring the innovators and agriculture experts who are changing the way we produce and consume food. Listen and subscribe on iTunes, RaboCasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.