APPLY NOW!
4 min read

NoMaze - Simplifying plant breeding analytics with AI

By Linh Pham on Feb 1, 2024 7:00:00 AM

NoMaze was founded straight out of university by Finn Gaida and Jean-Pascal Lutze. The Munich-based startup accelerates plant breeding research using AI. The vision at NoMaze is grounded in the belief that data should provide answers, not questions. In this interview, we explore how NoMaze, a participant in RootCamp Batch #5, tackles the challenges of plant breeding data analytics under time constraints. Learn about their innovative software solution designed to streamline the plant selection process and discover how they contribute to sustainable agriculture.

 

How does NoMaze's solution empower researchers and breeders?

NoMaze enables plant breeders and researchers to optimize yield and make informed decisions through a suite of specialized tools. We have developed multiple field trial analysis use cases, such as head-to-head comparisons and General Combining Ability /Specific Combining Ability analyses. These are available as user-friendly, drag-and-drop blocks in our software, simplifying complex analyses. For more advanced needs, our marker-based genomic selection tool helps model Genotype-by-Environment interactions. This feature is crucial for uncovering patterns and insights that might be hidden or challenging to find without NoMaze. It enables a deeper understanding of how genetic factors interact with environmental conditions, leading to more precise breeding decisions. 

Looking to the future, we are working on predicting phenotypic values, such as yield or plant lodging, based on genetic sequences and environmental data, such as temperature. This predictive capability will be a significant milestone, allowing breeders to anticipate plant performance under various conditions, further aiding in yield optimization and informed decision-making.

What specific challenges in data analysis do researchers and breeders face?

In plant breeding, researchers and breeders often grapple with highly complex data derived from multiple sources. Addressing this challenge, our platform provides easy and intuitive tools for data visualization and handling, simplifying the complexity and allowing users to seamlessly integrate and interpret diverse data sets. Another significant challenge is the seasonal high time pressure in plant breeding. To alleviate this, the platform incorporates automation in key areas, speeding up processes and reducing manual workload. Recognizing the inefficiencies and frustrations caused by frequent back-and-forth communication between different departments, our solution offers a common communication layer and shared documents within the platform. This facilitates smoother collaboration, ensuring that all team members are on the same page and can access the information they need without delays. 

Can you elaborate on the broader impact that NoMaze has on addressing key challenges in agriculture, particularly in the context of improving plant breeding processes?

NoMaze provides enhanced insights that lead to significant improvements in crop breeding. Our startup contributes to the development of crops with higher yields and reduced risk of harvest loss. This not only helps in lowering food prices but also contributes to greater stability in food supply chains. Our impact extends even further, aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 13 (Climate Action). By improving crop yields and breeding processes, NoMaze aids in addressing global hunger challenges and supports sustainable agricultural practices that are crucial for reducing emissions and capturing carbon. Additionally, as part of the Breedfides project by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, we are working to democratize genomic prediction. This initiative aims to make advanced genomic tools accessible to a broader range of researchers and breeders, especially in underrepresented and developing regions. By doing so, we're not only enhancing global food security but also promoting equity in the agricultural sector.

Could you share insights into the future roadmap for your startup, outlining any upcoming features or improvements?

Our upcoming roadmap includes a major design rework to enhance the user experience, making our data understanding tools more intuitive and accessible. Additionally, we're integrating machine learning predictions with our data visualizations, offering plant breeders more insights and predictive analytics alongside their genomic and phenotypic data. This integration will facilitate more informed decision-making. Moreover, we're continually expanding our use case library to address a wider range of plant breeding challenges and objectives, ensuring our platform remains versatile and highly relevant to our users' needs. These developments aim to empower plant breeders with advanced, easy-to-use tools for their research and practices.

Why did you apply for the RootCamp accelerator program?

We decided to join the RootCamp accelerator for a few key reasons. Firstly, it opens doors to an awesome network of partners in the agriculture sector. This is a big deal for us because it means more chances to collaborate and expand our reach. Secondly, having access to the investor and mentor network at RootCamp, along with their expertise and guidance, helps us. They understand what we're trying to do and can offer targeted advice to support us move forward. Lastly, the program is a great opportunity to meet other founders who are on a similar journey. It's both reassuring and holds us accountable to our goals, all while having a good time together.

If you're eager to meet Finn  and Jean in person, be sure to save the date: February 7th for Batch#5's Partners & Mentors Day and RootCamp Ecosystem Party in Hannover. Don't miss out—secure your spot by registering here!

Topics: Startup Bios Interview
4 min read

Amata Green - Transforming agricultural waste into valuable soil enhancers

By Linh Pham on Jan 25, 2024 8:00:00 AM

Spain holds the top position globally in olive oil production, yet a considerable portion of the olive often goes underutilized in the oil extraction process. This leftover material is commonly considered as "waste," posing a notable challenge for olive oil mills. Amata Green, a startup from RootCamp Batch #5, has developed a specialized procedure to convert this intricate waste material into high-quality biochar. In this interview, we delve into how Amata Green endeavors to introduce biochar to Spain, exploring the distinctive features that make their biochar valuable and understanding its substantial impact on farming practices. 

The Amata Green founders Mihaela Strungariu and Sandi Martin during the Welcome Week at RootCamp. © Amata Green

What agricultural challenges does your solution address, and why do you focus on Spain?

In southern Spain, the climate is arid and desert-like. Each year, the region experiences escalating heatwaves and droughts, resulting in dropped blooms, diminished yields, and reduced revenues for olive farmers. This challenge intensifies annually with the worsening impacts of climate change. Despite Spain's global leadership in olive oil production, only approximately 22% of the olive is utilized in the oil extraction process. The remaining portion is deemed waste, presenting a dual challenge for olive oil mills. Disposing of this waste is burdensome for the mills and environmentally unfriendly. Olive mill waste, is characterized by its extremely high moisture and oil content, posing significant difficulties in handling.

What is Eco-Mix, and what sets it apart from other products on the market?

We are currently launching “Eco-Mix” which is an agricultural soil amendment partly containing biochar made from olive mill waste. What sets our Eco-Mix apart from other similar products is its use of high-quality biochar and other sustainably sourced ingredients, all of which are natural, organic, and eco-friendly. Importantly, our product is suitable for use in organic farming. None of our ingredients are synthetic or mined. Our biochar, derived from olive mill waste, boasts exceptional richness in potassium and other beneficial elements, establishing it as a remarkable soil enhancer. Biochar plays a crucial role in enhancing water retention, promoting natural microbial activity, reducing erosion, and ensuring nutrient stability. These attributes collectively contribute to the cultivation of more drought-resistant plants and trees, fostering healthier soils and enhancing overall yields. Taking this high-quality biochar a step further, we blend it with sustainably sourced, ecologically friendly ingredients to craft a distinctive Eco-Mix soil amendment.

This year, the startup aims to make up to 50 tons of biochar available for pre-sale. © Amata Green

Describe the environmental benefits and impacts of using biochar.

The impacts and benefits of using biochar in agriculture are numerous. In addition to providing relief to farmers dealing with depleted soil, erosion problems, and coping with drought conditions, Spain suffers from toxic algal blooms in drinking water reservoirs and coastal aquaculture. As seen in the Gulf of Mexico's "Dead Zone," where nitrogen and phosphorus are washed into the Mississippi River from US farmland runoff, farming inputs do not stay confined to the land where they have been applied. This runoff triggers algal blooms that choke off the oxygen supply in the water, making it impossible for marine life to survive.

We believe that if every farm in the middle of the US were to add biochar to their soil, these agricultural inputs, including topsoil, would stay in place and not leach into freshwater systems—thus, restoring the Gulf of Mexico dead zone. In fact, our belief in biochar is so strong that, though it may sound audacious, we contend that, in theory, if every farming operation worldwide were to transition to organic/regenerative growing practices, we would not only halt climate change but also reverse it!

How do you intend to assist the European government in attaining its sustainability objectives?

Under the Green Deal's Farm to Fork strategy, the European Commission has set a target of at least 25% of the EU's agricultural land to be organic farming by 2030. To meet this objective, farmers need alternatives to chemical inputs, and Amata Green's Eco-Mix is the ideal solution. Furthermore, the European Union has set objectives to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and has established a new target for 2030, aiming to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55%. Each ton of our olive mill waste biochar will reduce atmospheric carbon by approximately 3 tons. This reduction will be substantial once we scale up our own biochar production facilities.

What are your goals for the next months during the RootCamp accelerator program?

We are ramping up the production of our Eco-Mix and make it available in larger quantities to farmers in Spain, Portugal, and neighboring countries. Currently, we are welcoming angel investors to join in and be a part of this product launch.  Additionally, we are seeking investors or minority partners to assist us financially in next year's launch of our pilot biochar production facility. Our Eco-Mix is currently available to local Spanish farmers in small quantities and will be accessible to neighboring countries in large quantities in the next few months. 

If you're eager to meet the founders in person, be sure to save the date: February 7th for Batch#5's Partners & Mentors Day and RootCamp Ecosystem Party in Hannover. Don't miss out—secure your spot by registering here!

Topics: Startup Bios Interview
5 min read

Unlocking the potential of pineapple waste: Meet circular economy startup eco:fibr

By Linh Pham on Dec 8, 2023 3:56:10 PM

Our acceleration program goes into the next round. Get to know our first startup of RootCamp batch #5. Explore the innovative strides of eco:fibr in our interview, where we discuss their pioneering approach to repurposing pineapple waste into eco-friendly pulp. The startup from Hannover was founded in 2022 by Merit Ulmer, Julian Kolbeck and Michelle Spitzer. Up to the time the startup was founded, they worked on all developments in the technical process and the business model while studying on a voluntary basis. Explore their impact, circular economy contributions, scaling goals, and commitment to foster diversity in the startup scene.

Your motto revolves around "turning waste into purpose" by producing pulp from pineapple waste. How does this innovative technology work?

At eco:fibr, we've pioneered a sustainable solution and circular processto address the environmental challenges posed by pineapple cultivation. In Costa Rica, we repurpose pineapple plant residues, effectively tackling the disposal issue and producing eco-friendly pulp. Through ongoing research, we've optimized our extraction process, prioritizing sustainability. We've developed a process that avoids harmful chemicals and solvents altogether.

This is how the pulp from pineapple waste from eco:fibr looks like. Photo: eco:fibr

In what ways does eco:fibr contribute to the circular economy?

We utilize previously unused waste material, specifically pineapple plants, from which we extract the pulp. This extends the value chain of the pineapple plant. We sell the pulp to customers in the paper industry, thereby conserving resources like wood. This practice ensures trees can be used for long-lasting products or, ideally, not cut down at all.

The team utilizes a byproduct from pineapple cultivation, which is usually burned nowadays in Costa Rica’s agricultural fields. Photo: eco:fibr

What impact has eco:fibr had on the local communities in Costa Rica in terms of economic sustainability?

This is a very exciting question that we are also currently addressing.  Collaborating with our partner plantations, we're in discussions about the chemicals traditionally used for drying and how our process can conserve them. We aim to assess the positive impact on nature and the well-being of local communities. Moreover, by preventing the burning of plants in fields, we can prolong the storage of CO2, resulting in substantial environmental benefits. We anticipate a significant positive impact on the environment.

Can you share some insights into the environmental benefits of using pineapple plant waste compared to traditional wood pulp in paper production?

Our extraction process offers considerably greater resource efficiency for the environment compared to the conventional craft process used for wood pulp. This is due to several reasons: lower operating temperatures and the absence of chemicals containing sulfur or chlorine. Furthermore, our raw material doesn't require cultivation. Unlike wood, which is often grown in monocultures, our approach avoids the negative impact on biodiversity.

You are not an unknown startup in Hannover. How does eco:fibr benefit from Lower Saxony's startup ecosystem? 

We've greatly benefited from the startup ecosystem in Lower Saxony. Alongside the awards and grants we've received, we're frequently invited to events and have the opportunity to share our perspective as speakers. This ongoing engagement allows us to continually expand our community and find the support we require.

As someone deeply engaged in initiatives like organizing the “Stammtisch for Female Founders in Hanover” and participating in CreateF - The Female Founders Show, what measures do you think are essential to enhance (gender) diversity within the startup scene?

Visualizing role models and organizing networking events are two methods used to encourage more women to start their own businesses. However, a central issue is the significant disparity in capital allocation between women and men. Female founders face more critical scrutiny regarding their investments compared to male founders. Additionally, far fewer women are involved as business angels.

Why did you apply for the RootCamp acceleration program?

Impressed by the quality and diversity of startups in your program, coupled with excellent feedback, we recognize challenges where RootCamp and its network could serve as a robust partner. Specifically, we seek support in developing efficient harvesting technology for optimizing pineapple operations in Costa Rica. Additionally, exploring potential use cases for our waste streams, such as creating fertilizers, pesticides, oils, and proteins—remains a priority for reintegrating them into the cycle.

You recently announced that the EU is supporting you with a grant of €800,000. Congratulations! How does eco:fibr plan to utilize this funding?

Having completed our laboratory phase and received positive feedback from potential customers during initial tests, we are now gearing up to scale our process into a pilot plant on an industrial scale. The European Fund is enabling us to accomplish this crucial phase. With these resources, we aim to scale our process and make necessary preparations to commence construction of the first production plant in Costa Rica by 2025. 

RootCamp is delighted to support eco:fibr's mission and invites all AgTech and Bioeconomy startups withto apply for the next batch of the RootCamp acceleration program. Don't miss this opportunity to join a network of experts, investors, and corporate partners while accelerating your impact. Applications are open until April 23rd. Additionally, mark your calendars for our Demo Day on April 10th, where you'll have the opportunity to meet the founders.

Topics: Startup Bios Interview
7 min read

RootCamp Demo Day showcases innovation and talent of batch #4

By Gaia Amatteis on Sep 15, 2023 9:35:31 AM

After 12 weeks of dedicated effort, the long-awaited moment arrived. We proudly hosted the 4th Demo Day in our headquarters. This year's Demo Day for Batch 4 brought together various stakeholders. Gathering a diverse audience that spanned from local startups and investors to corporate representatives, the event placed a spotlight on the values of innovation, collaboration, and the potential for cross-industry synergy. This event was organized in collaboration with esteemed partners like K+S, KWS, hannoverimpuls, GAFS, DLG, NBank, and Startup Niedersachsen. 

Topics: Startup Bios Interview
4 min read

Startup seedalive transforming AgTech with 4-hour seed germination prediction

By Linh Pham on Aug 24, 2023 4:26:30 PM

seedalive, a pioneering agTech startup from RootCamp Batch #4, has harnessed the power of technology and biology to revolutionize seed quality testing. Based in Osnabrück, Germany, the startup has developed a new, efficient, and reproducible method to predict the germination of plant seeds. seedalive founder Jens Varnskühler shares insights about the product and vision in this interview.

Topics: Startup Bios Interview
4 min read

AgriFood startup Aquanzo cultivating sustainable solutions for aquaculture

By Linh Pham on Aug 18, 2023 1:48:46 PM

With a steadfast purpose to combat the pressing challenge of marine ingredient scarcity, Aquanzo has embarked on a transformative mission to reimagine the cultivation and utilization of marine zooplankton. Last month, the Scotland-based startup, which aims to farm Artemia in land-based systems for the aquafeed market, secured a €1.4 million funding boost to enhance their production capabilities. Artemia, commonly known as brine shrimp, are crucial for providing essential nutrition in aquaculture.

The startup believes the solution to supporting aquaculture is to farm artemia In this interview, we unravel the layers of Aquanzo's pioneering methodology, delving into their tech-infused solutions.

The startup was founded in 2022 and consists of an interdisciplinary team. Photo: Aquanzo

Describe the problem you are addressing with Aquanzo.

Aquanzo was founded with the goal of tackling the pressing issue of marine ingredient scarcity, particularly in relation to fishmeal used in animal feed production. We recognized that the traditional reliance on marine sources for these ingredients is unsustainable due to overfishing and environmental concerns. This scarcity of marine ingredients poses a significant challenge to the animal agriculture industry, which heavily depends on these resources for optimal animal nutrition.

Our innovative solution involves the development of cutting-edge technologies to cultivate marine zooplankton in a controlled, land-based environment at a large scale. By harnessing the power of agricultural byproducts, we're able to create a closed-loop system that not only addresses the scarcity issue but also contributes to the efficient utilization of existing resources. This approach aligns perfectly with the principles of sustainability and environmental stewardship, as it minimizes the strain on marine ecosystems while maximizing the potential for nutrient recycling.

How does Aquanzo's land-based zooplankton farming work, and what techniques ensure high production and environmental sustainability?

By developing a tailored farming system to grow small marine zooplankton (artemia is less than 1 cm long) at high density, we can transform agricultural byproducts, such as ricebran, into high-value animal marine ingredients with unique taste and smell enabling modern aquaculture diets to use high incorporation of cheaper but less attractive ingredients to perform better. These byproducts, which would otherwise go to waste, are transformed into high-value marine ingredients through our tailored farming system. Our mission is to domesticate and farm artemia as a feed, at low environmental footprint, for optimal fish and shrimp nutrition and help make the aquaculture industry more sustainable. 

What are some challenges you have faced in developing and scaling up the farming of zooplankton?

One of the primary hurdles has been the intricate task of honing the product-market fit to ensure optimal alignment with the most critical needs of our target customers. This involves deeply understanding the core "jobs-to-be-done" within the aquafeed industry and tailoring our offering to address these pivotal pain points effectively. As we strive to meet the growing demand for sustainable marine ingredients, we must fine-tune our production system to ensure consistent, high-quality yields. Achieving this balance while maintaining environmental sustainability requires innovative engineering, precise control over cultivation conditions, and the integration of advanced automation technologies.

How does Aquanzo engage with stakeholders within the aquaculture industry?

Aquanzo actively engages with stakeholders across the entire aquaculture industry and the environmental conservation community, fostering collaborative efforts to promote sustainable practices and responsible marine protein farming. We are in contact with stakeholders at all levels of the value chain, from agricultural byproduct producers to aquafeed companies, fish farmers, fish processors and retailers. The feedback is very encouraging, and the appeal to conserving (or improving) marine ingredients' uniqueness for animal nutrition while reducing the environmental impact is attracting interest from most downstream groups. 

We have set up a laboratory at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh with a recirculating aquaculture system that can produce Artemia biomass that is dried, ground into powder and used for in vivo testing on fish and chickens.

Why did you apply for the RootCamp startup program?

We applied for the RootCamp startup programbecause it stands out as a lead accelerator in the EU AgriTech landscape. Recognizing the significance of aligning with top-tier programs, we sought to integrate RootCamp to elevate Aquanzo's growth trajectory with a high-quality and impactful platform. You can get to know us and our technology at the RootCamp Demo Day. We are happy to engage in an exchange with the AgTech community in Hanover.

'

As we eagerly anticipate their participation in the upcoming RootCamp Demo Day (register here) on August 30th, the broader AgTech community can look forward to engaging with Aquanzo's vision and learning from their journey toward a more sustainable aquaculture future. 

Topics: Startup Bios Interview
4 min read

Taste the future: Exploring cultimate foods' breakthrough in hybrid meat

By Linh Pham on Aug 10, 2023 4:00:50 PM

Berlin-based startup Cultimate Foods sees the future in hybrid meat substitutes. The founders are developing a breakthrough ingredient based on cell-grown fatty tissue that will be used to create hybrid meat products. The startup raised 700 thousand euros in funding last year led by Big Idea Ventures, ProVeg International and Realum.cloud and launched its own laboratory in Göttingen (Germany). In this interview, founder Eugenia Sagué delves into the concept of hybrid meat and its benefits for agriculture. 

Describe for our readers your hybrid approach towards cultured fat.

Culminate Foods is a biotech company that utilizes state-of-the-art cell culture technologies to produce animal cell-cultivated fat without the use of animals. Our cell-cultivated fat will be sold as a B2B ingredient to manufacturers of alternative meat, enhancing the taste and juiciness of their products. Fat is the primary determinant of a food's flavor, taste, nutrition, and even texture. Its quantity correlates with consumer preference and product quality. By incorporating our ingredient, alternative meat producers can elevate their creations in terms of taste, flavor, and mouthfeel. Additionally, our cell-cultured fat is a versatile technology that can be applied across various food types. 

Culminate creates a game-changing cultivated fat technology to provide alternative meats with authentic taste and texture.

We firmly believe that by contributing to the improvement of alternative meat products, we can reduce the reliance on animals and mitigate climate change. Since the science required for fully cultivated meat as an accessible product is still years away, the initial impactful products will be "hybrids," combining plant-based proteins with cultivated ingredients. A cultivated fat product like ours will enhance the popularity of plant-based items by bridging the taste gap and laying the foundation for the future of cultivated meat.

What are the key benefits of cultivated meat compared to traditional animal farming in terms of animal welfare, public health, and global food security?

Cultivated meat production requires fewer resources than traditional livestock farming, including land, water, and feed. As a result, it holds the potential to mitigate its negative impacts by generating lower greenhouse gas emissions, thereby addressing climate change. By directly producing meat from cells, cultured meat also has the capacity to significantly reduce animal suffering. Production occurs within controlled environments, which could minimize the risks of contamination and foodborne diseases.

How do you plan to navigate regulatory hurdles and gain consumer acceptance for your products?

Consumer acceptance (or willingness to try) of cell-cultivated products has been increasing worldwide in recent years, even though it will only be fully assessed once the first cell-cultivated products enter the market. Furthermore, many consumers of plant-based products are one-time consumers primarily due to taste preferences. Culminate's cell-cultivated fat aims to replace plant-based fats and oils, revolutionizing the plant-based market with hybrid products to achieve broader consumer acceptance.

For instance, in collaboration with other relevant companies and research groups, we are participating in European projects studying consumer acceptance of cultured meat. Moreover, we consider it our responsibility to actively communicate the benefits of cellular agriculture in terms of sustainability and animal welfare.

Concerning novel food regulations, we maintain close contact with the most relevant players and entities, such as Singapore and the US, and have initiated the necessary processes. In the EU, we closely monitor recent developments and aspire to participate in defining the necessary steps not only for our company but for the subsequent companies in the field.

As the cultivated meat market continues to expand with the emergence of companies in Europe and beyond, how does your startup, Cultimate, differentiate itself?

Cultimate's in-vitro technology precisely replicates the lipid profile of intramuscular fat, which manifests as delicate marbling within the muscle tissue of premium-quality meat. The quantity of intramuscular fat is directly linked to the product's quality, exerting a significant influence on its flavor, tenderness, and juiciness. High-quality marbled meat not only offers an exceptional dining experience but also boasts elevated levels of beneficial fatty acids, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

What are the next steps for your startup?

We are eager to finalize our investment round, secure additional research grants, and expand our scientific team. These strategic steps will allow us to expedite the development of our product and increase the distribution of samples to our customers.


Meet Culminate Foods at RootCamp Demo Day

If you're as intrigued as we are by the transformative potential of Culminate Foods, mark your calendars for August 30th. The RootCamp Demo Day in Hannover offers a unique opportunity to meet the minds behind this cutting-edge startup. Save your spot and register here

Topics: Startup Bios Interview
3 min read

Startup Artenglück: Empowering sustainability through nature conservation

By Linh Pham on Jul 31, 2023 2:44:06 PM

In 2020, fueled by a passion for both agriculture and environmental conservation, Felix and Lara founded Artenglück. What started as a project to highlight farmers' dedication to sustainability quickly evolved into a thriving startup. Discover more about their journey and innovative approach in our interview with the Artenglück team. 

From farmers to founders. How did your startup journey begin?

Three years ago, we founded Artenglück (German word for "happy species"). At that time, Felix was a Master's student in Agribusiness and a farm manager, while Lara led her own online marketing agency. Initially, our goal was to handle public relations for agriculture and showcase the dedication of farmers to conservation efforts. To accomplish this, we relied on the support of private individuals and companies who financed our initial nature conservation projects, such as the creation of flowering meadows.

As we delved deeper into our work, we realized the challenges faced by our clients in the areas of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), as well as sustainability reporting. Consequently, we began providing support to our clients in these areas, helping them communicate their commitment to sustainability and incorporate it into their reporting practices.

What do you appreciate about the startup ecosystem in Lower Saxony?

We particularly appreciate the community here. The exchange with other startups and companies is very important to us, and here for example at RootCamp we have great opportunities for exchange and can learn a lot from the corporate partners, mentors and alumni.

What positive impact does nature conservation, especially by companies have?

In addition to our flowering meadows, which primarily promote biodiversity, we carry out other nature conservation measures, such as forest afforestation and field bird windows. Overall, our aim is to promote biodiversity and species diversity in different ecosystems. The need for forest afforestation is now easy for many people to understand. In recent years, due to climate change, an incredible number of hectares of forest have died, which many people notice when they visit the forest. Not only is less carbon being sequestered from the air due to forest dieback, but above all, there is a lack of habitats for our native biodiversity. However, we also want to promote other ecosystems, especially in the agricultural landscape, and therefore also carry out nature conservation measures away from the forest, such as flowering meadows and field bird windows, which remain in place for several years and thus create habitats in the long term.

Cooperations with companies create win-win situations for nature and for the companies. The companies can use their commitment for their sustainability report and their employer branding, among other things, while supporting nature in a transparent way. Our promise is that our nature conservation projects are a maximum of 30 km away from the desired location and can be visited at any time.

On the market, there are some providers who offer nature conservation projects for companies and private individuals. How do you stand out?

True to our motto: Do good and talk about it, we not only carry out the conservation projects for our clients in their region, but also support them quite actively in communicating about their sustainability commitment. This turns the cooperation into an investment that can be seen in increased sales, employer branding, image building and strong sustainability communication.

RootCamp Demo Day 2023

Join RootCamp and meet the Artenglück Team on August 30th at the Demo Day in Hanover. After the 12-week program, the startups from our network will be showcasing their projects. The Demo Day will be a unique opportunity for you to get a taste of the international startup scene, network with promising startups, investors and the AgTech community. Register now.

Topics: Startup Bios Interview
4 min read

AgTech startup greEnCAP reinvents plant protection with encapsulation tech

By Linh Pham on Jul 13, 2023 5:24:38 PM

With a mission to disrupt plant protection solutions, GreEnCAP is harnessing the power of encapsulation technology to address the challenges faced by farmers and growers. In this article, we delve into the journey of GreEnCAP, their innovative encapsulation technology, and the positive impact they aim to make on the agriculture industry. 

Describe the problem you are addressing with your encapsulation technology.

Resistance resulting from the repeated use of chemical pesticides has emerged as a significant issue confronting farmers and growers. Moreover, efforts aimed at reducing the reliance on such pesticides in agriculture introduce new challenges for farmers. As a result, these farmers are actively seeking safer alternatives that can effectively address their evolving needs while ensuring sustainable agricultural practices.

How does greEnCAP's encapsulation technology work, and what advantages does it offer over traditional methods?

GreEnCAP has developed a chitosan-based encapsulation technology for formulating natural lipophilic/hydrophobic active ingredients that are challenging to use due to their low water solubility or instability in aqueous mediums. We utilize nano/micro formulation technologies to create fine particles that can be easily sprayed onto the leaf surface, making the hydrophobic active ingredient readily available for action.

Chitosan was chosen as the matrix material based on years of research on the structure-function relationship of this polymer. This extensive knowledge allows us to select the most suitable chitosan for our encapsulation system. At the heart of our encapsulation system are essential oils, which serve as natural antimicrobial agents.

With our encapsulation technology, we harness the antimicrobial activity of essential oils and combine it with the plant-strengthening properties of chitosan in the matrix. This creates a dual-action product that provides both direct and indirect means of protecting plants against attacking pathogens. Our products are entirely natural, biodegradable, and residue-free, making them suitable for spraying even near the time of harvest. The significant advantage lies in the water-based nature of our solution, enabling easy integration into current farming practices.

What inspired you to start greEnCAP?

As scientists, nothing gives us more satisfaction than seeing our own research being implemented and used for the benefit of society. To make it more exciting, we decided to give it a try ourselves. We are fully aware that this is a complex industry to enter and probably a time-consuming one too. Nevertheless, we believe every step taken, even if small, takes us closer to our goal of making food safer to consume, a vision with which we started greEnCAP.

Who is your target group?

Our target group consists of vegetable and fruit growers who regularly spray pesticides on their plants to prevent pathogen attacks. However, the repeated use of these fungicides often leads to resistance issues, rendering these solutions ineffective. We aim to reach our target group through our customers, distributors, and trading agencies, who frequently provide advice to farmers and growers regarding suitable products. Our first product is specifically designed to combat Botrytis, a fungal pathogen that causes molds on strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and various other fruits and vegetables.

What impact do you want your startup to have on agriculture?

GreEnCAP's biodegradable encapsulation technology can have a profound impact on agriculture with various encapsulation opportunities for developing fertilizers, pesticides, and plant growth regulators. As mentioned before, our technology can reduce the risk of accidental exposure to harmful chemicals for farmers and farmworkers during handling and application, while also protecting sensitive active ingredients. The biodegradable nature of the technology leads to the degradation of our products into harmless by-products, thus reducing environmental impact. Overall, we aim to provide our farmers with sustainable solutions that are safe and effective to use, while also being safe for consumption.


Why did you apply for the RootCamp startup program?

We are utilizing encapsulation technology to develop innovative biopesticide solutions. Recognizing the formidable challenges of entering the industry with numerous competitors and a complex regulatory process, we have actively sought an opportunity to join an AgTech-specific accelerator/incubator program. This program can provide valuable support in refining our business model and enhancing our industry access. Upon discovering the RootCamp accelerator program, we immediately recognized it as an exceptional opportunity. The exhilaration of being selected and now being a part of this program is truly fulfilling.

Apply now for RootCamp Batch #5

If you are a budding entrepreneur with a passion for AgTech or Bioeconomy and a vision to revolutionize the agricultural sector, we encourage you to take the next step in your startup journey. Don't miss the opportunity to apply for the RootCamp accelerator program that can provide valuable support, mentorship, and industry access to help bring your innovative ideas to life. Submit your application by August 1st

Topics: Startup Bios Interview
5 min read

Startup Grassa unlocking the full potential of grass

By Linh Pham on Jun 13, 2023 4:07:47 PM

RootCamp startup Grassa from the Netherlands is transforming the agricultural landscape by maximizing the potential of green biomass and creating a sustainable circular economy. In this article, we explore how Grassa's circularity concept works, the environmental benefits of using grass as a protein source, their contributions to a sustainable circular economy, and their future plans for expanding their impact.

CEO of Grassa Rieks Smook from the Netherlands at the RootCamp headquarters.

Traditional livestock farming heavily relies on imported soy as a protein source. How does Grassa's circularity concept offer a more sustainable solution for protein production?

Grassa maximizes the productivity of existing land by utilizing green biomass, which currently has limited use. Through this process, we are able to extract green protein, sugars, minerals, and open fibers. Notably, the green protein derived from this biomass contains 17% more essential amino acids than soy, making it an ideal locally grown, plant-based protein for human consumption and a viable alternative to soy in animal feed.

To establish our green refinery infrastructure, we will leverage the existing harvesting infrastructure for grass, which happens to be the largest cultivated crop in Europe, accounting for one-third of all crops. The extensive harvesting season of grass, coupled with its widespread cultivation, provides us with a readily available resource. By using grass as our raw material, we can make the most of the entire plant, including its fiber component known as opened grass. This fiber product is just as effective as the original grass in terms of milk production, but with reduced emissions of ammonia and phosphate.

By implementing the Grassa process on less than 25% of the current grassland, we can generate a sufficient amount of locally grown protein to replace the need for soy imports entirely. This means that the alternative to soy is already present on the land; it simply requires proper harvesting and processing.

What are some of the key environmental benefits of using grass as an alternative protein source?

At least 50% more food can be harvested from the same area of grassland when utilizing Grassa's infrastructure. By incorporating other forms of green biomass, such as horticulture and sugar beets, we can generate an even greater supply of high-quality protein without requiring additional land usage. These additional food products have a low carbon footprint since they do not require additional land, and they effectively replace imported foods with high environmental footprints, such as soy.

Moreover, the sugars and minerals derived from this process are applied more efficiently, using precision fertilization techniques that prevent spillage into groundwater and minimize waste. The opened fiber, when digested by bacteria, exhibits significantly better efficiency compared to unprocessed fiber. This enhances various applications like composting, fermentation, and biogas production, resulting in improved yields and efficiency.

Regarding the opened grass fiber, cows, or more specifically, the bacteria within the cows, digest the grass more effectively. As a result, the extraction of green protein from grass does not hinder milk production; instead, it enhances nitrogen efficiency and reduces ammonia emissions.

Describe how you contribute to a sustainable circular economy with Grassa?

Circular economy explanation based on the example of grassa's product. Graphic: Grassa

The image above illustrates the circularity of the process. In summary, the proteins that would have been processed by cows in their manure are now extracted before the cows consume the grass. The fibers have been optimized to improve efficiency, allowing the cows to produce the same amount of milk while emitting fewer greenhouse gases and reducing nitrogen content in the manure. The extracted grass protein is then used in human food and monogastric animal feed, replacing the need for soy imports.

Although the animals will still produce manure, this manure will now originate locally instead of being linked to the origin of soy. It is important to bring this manure back to the grassland to complete the circular system. By reducing the amount of cow manure, which contains nitrogen, and incorporating grass protein-based manure from monogastric animals, we can close the nitrogen cycle. This ensures a sustainable and self-sufficient process.

How does the technology behind extracting surplus proteins from grass work, and what are the main challenges you faced during the development process?

Through a natural process of pressing, heating and filtering, Grassa unlocks the full nutritional value of grass. Photo: Grassa

The technology used in extracting surplus involves a process of pressing, heating, and filtering. The key lies in applying the appropriate pressure to the specific biomass to achieve high protein yield and open fibers. Filtration techniques are continually evolving, with ongoing advancements in the field. Currently, the green juice containing proteins still requires heating for extraction, but new filtration methods are being developed to enable protein extraction without this heating step. This non-heating extraction method enhances the functional properties of the protein and reduces the energy requirements for extraction. One of the significant challenges in the process is managing the substantial amount of water involved and addressing the logistical aspects of handling the fresh biomass.

What makes RootCamp interesting for your startup?

Many challenges in the Netherlands are similar to those in Germany. The concept requires all the support it can get, particularly from established agricultural companies. Rootcamp serves as a gateway to German strategic investors for Grassa. Through Rootcamp's partners and network, Grassa has the opportunity to attract German investors, which would greatly facilitate the rollout of the concept in a German context.

Looking ahead, what are your future plans and aspirations for Grassa? How do you envision the role of alternative proteins, such as grass protein, in the global food landscape?

We envision an agricultural system that goes beyond harvesting and processing just the seeds, roots, and fruits of plants. Our vision includes harnessing the nutrients from green biomass as well. In the next 10 years, it will become commonplace to bio-refine a portion of the grass, alongside the traditional practice of silaging the entire grass. This expanded infrastructure will also be utilized to process other biomass, increasing efficiency and adding more value to agricultural practices.

A significant part of the grass and other green protein will be utilized as human food, contributing to the protein transition (Phase 1). The remaining portion will be used as locally grown feed for our animals, supporting the protein transition (Phase 2) in animal farming. Sugars and minerals will be applied precisely where they are needed the most, optimizing their use and minimizing waste. Additionally, the opened fiber will enhance bacterial digestion processes such as composting, biogas digestion, and animal digestion, making them more efficient.

By harnessing the power of green biomass and implementing a sustainable circular economy, Grassa is paving the way for a more efficient and environmentally friendly protein production system. If you are a startup looking to make a meaningful impact in the agricultural sector, seize the opportunity to be a part of the new RootCamp batch. Applications are now open until August 1st.

Topics: Startup Bios Interview