Looking back & ahead

As one of Startup Fest Europe’s flagship events, F&A Next with some 450 participants from all over the world including 150 start-ups, over 110 investors and 70 corporates, was off to a flying start in 2016. ‘Thanks to the great support by connected investors and enthusiastic start-ups, we managed to develop an inspiring and well attended event, exceeding expectations of many including mine,’ says Rabobank’s Jeroen Leffelaar. Startlife’s Jan Meiling was overwhelmed with the positive feedback, which gave him ‘confidence that the 2017 edition will again fulfil a real need amongst the community of food & agtech innovators.’ F&A Next 2016 made visible and tangible the interdependency between large corporates increasingly seeking to involve start-ups in their innovation strategies and start-ups needing a corporate partner at some stage of their development cycle. ‘This interdependency creates a mutual interest which is really giving a boost to innovation in the food and agriculture landscape,’ says Jan. F&A Next did indeed trigger a broad interest in food & agtech according to Jeroen: ‘from both Dutch and international investors, startups from all corners of the world and from corporates which were pretty lukewarm initially.’ F&A Next progressing to a permanent platform F&A Next’s success in 2016 provided all the motivation and inspiration to start preparing for the 2017 edition. Continued and increased support by Wageningen University & Research and Rabobank fuel the ambition to transform F&A Next into a permanent, ongoing platform for innovation in food and agriculture. The commitment to F&A Next comes natural for both organizations. ‘A food secure future is at the nucleus of our Banking for Food strategy,’ Jeroen explains. ‘We will need to produce more food, with less ecological impact, less water, less chemicals, less arable land per capita. Innovation is key to that challenge. Our contribution as a food and agri business bank, goes beyond “just” providing finance. We aim to open our networks and share our knowledge as well.’ Initiated by among others Wageningen University & Research, ‘Startlife has been incubating Food & Agtech start-ups exclusively for 12 years now,’ says Jan. ‘Having Wageningen University Campus as a venue for F&A Next, is truly inspiring. It’s a manifestation of the commitment of one of the global leaders to innovation in food and agriculture. Many disruptive technological innovations emerge from this campus, even more liaise with it to find their ideal research and business partners.’ Above and beyond the 2016 edition How exactly? Jan: ‘F&A Next 2017 will showcase even more cutting edge business opportunities and we expect participating start-ups and corporates from more than 30 countries. F&A Next is determined to service the F&A innovators community with a premium menu.’ ‘In the 2017 edition of F&A Next, we will host FoodBytes!, a successful pitching platform developed by my Rabobank colleagues in San Francisco,’ Jeroen adds. ‘This will provide international start-ups with a solid pitching platform. On the second day of F&A Next we will address food & agtech themes relevant for investors, start-ups, corporates ánd farmers. Last time we noted that investors and start-ups have limited understanding of what farmers really need. Are the innovations matching their requirements? So we will address the gradual shift to smart farming from various angles. Convergence of food and health are also key themes. We will look beyond the trends by discussing the hype versus the facts, health claims and related legislation. In F&A Next style we will involve many start-ups in the panel discussions, enabling them to motivate their solutions or innovations.’ Apart from being the most relevant annual event in its category, F&A Next is looking into the development of a digital, inspirational, informational & matchmaking platform as well as an adjacent acceleration program for best-in-class advanced new businesses. To be continued!