Fresh produce from farm to fork: using tech to tackle food waste
Last year, Marco Snikkers knew that his startup, OneThird, had developed a solution that could save producers, distributors and retailers money while tackling the global problem of food waste. But he needed access to funding to accelerate its growth. In April this year – only eleven months after meeting investors SHIFT Invest at F&A Next 2020 – the Dutch foodtech company has raised 1.5 million euros to boost the development of their fresh produce quality prediction platform.
Marco Snikkers is a natural problem solver. So while working for Ocean Insight – a leader in applied spectroscopy – he quickly recognized an opportunity to use his expertise in optical sensing technology to tackle a genuinely global issue.
“A huge amount of fresh produce is lost in the supply chain due to issues with shelf life. It’s hard for inspectors to make accurate predictions. I realised that if the right technologies could be harnessed, we could make a big difference when it comes to saving food waste. So we decided to launch OneThird!”, explains Marco.
OneThird’s unique prediction technology uses near-infrared sensors to scan fresh produce and combine this with product images and environmental data. The solution then uses AI-algorithms to assess produce quality and provide accurate information about shelf life and taste in a matter of seconds. This means that supply chain actors can adapt routing and pricing accordingly – making sure the right product gets to the right place at the right time.
After receiving pre-seed funding from corporate Halma PLC to validate their technology with customers, OneThird was spun out from Ocean Insight last year to provide access to a wider range of partners.
Virtual networking: from an online meeting to a 1.5 million euro investment
Marco knew it was time to connect with potential investors to allow him and his team to scale. But as the COVID-19 pandemic set in, face-to-face networking was no longer an option. When he first heard about F&A Next – one of the first virtual agrifoodtech summits – through one of the investors he’d already spoken with, Marco knew it would be worth attending.
“Besides the excellent program focused on the impact of COVID-19 on investment decisions, the platform really facilitated interactions between attendees. We quickly connected with several investors who were active in our sector,” recalls Marco.
Sheila Struyck, co-founder and venture partner of SHIFT invest, was a member of the investors panel at F&A Next 2020 and happened to be one of the first investors Marco spoke to. Won over by OneThird’s vision, she invited the team to send over their slide deck. These interactions then led to a successful 1.5 million euro funding round from SHIFT Invest and Oost NL in April this year.
Sheila remembers these online discussions with Marco and the team: “A fully virtual summit was new to us all. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but I appreciated the opportunity to take an active role in this new format. It turned out to be a great learning experience, both as a judge of the Next Heroes session as well as interacting with startups via the event platform. We connected with various interesting startups and OneThird in particular ended up being a good fit for our fund. Now we’re looking forward to attending the next virtual edition of F&A Next with various colleagues.”
During the event, Marco also connected with Carla van Heck, a startup Coach in the agrifoodtech accelerator StartLife and a co-founder of F&A Next. StartLife has since played a key role in connecting the OneThird team to various corporate partners.
“It’s so valuable that we can leverage StartLife’s network and expertise to introduce our technology to the right audience”, says Marco.
Next steps: expanding their team, scaling the solution
With their first funding round behind them, Marco and the OneThird team show no sign of slowing down. “We’ve acquired Impact Analytics – a company specializing in AI – to expand our technical team’s expertise in spectral imaging and analysis. We’re also increasing the number of fresh produce algorithms and accelerating pilots with retail customers to test our solution in practice. We’re definitely looking forward to F&A Next 2021 and connecting with other startups for potential collaborations and investors who may be interested in joining in our Series A, planned for early next year.”
Meet Marco and his team, together with all other innovative startups, corporates and investors, at F&A Next 2021 – this year focused on the impact of innovation on the agrifood industry and consumers – on 26th May.