20+ Food Incubators and Innovation Programs to Jumpstart Your Idea

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Creating a new food-based business isn’t easy.  Some of the major challenges in starting up a new business include capital and resources.  These food incubators and programs below can give budding entrepreneurs vital access to workspace, networking, funding, training, and expert mentoring, especially for food-related ventures.  They can also help to put new innovative products front and center for potential investment from venture capitalists and investors.  Check them out

Startupbootcamp FoodTech

In Their Words:

“Startupbootcamp FoodTech empowers food innovators to become the future leaders of the agriculture and food industries. We are looking for high-growth tech startups operating within all the segments of the food chain from agriculture to restaurants and retail, from food substitutes to drones and robots.”

Webpage: https://www.startupbootcamp.org/accelerator/foodtech/
Funding:

  • €15,000 in cash

Food-X Accelerator Program

In Their Words:
“Food-X is the #1 Food Innovation Accelerator in the World. We help food entrepreneurs bring their products and services to market at super speed. Food-X partners with early stage companies from across the food supply chain, from agriculture through consumer packaged goods, and helps these companies grow fast through [start-up capital, mentorship, network, curriculum, coworking space, and an alumni network]”

Webpage: https://food-x.com/
Funding:

  • $50,000 in cash in exchange for 7-10% equity

Chobani Incubator

In Their Words:
“The Chobani Incubator is a program for companies taking on broken food systems to bring better food to more people. In addition to investment, we give growing food and beverage companies access to our network and expertise in order to scale up their operations and achieve significant growth.”

Webpage: https://chobaniincubator.com/

Funding:

  • $25,000 zero-equity grant

IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge

In Their Own Words:
“The IFTNEXT Food Disruption Challenge competition is designed to help emerging and investment-ready science of food and technology related companies gain visibility and make strategic connections to help advance the science of food and its positive impact on the sustainability of our global food supply.”

Webpage: http://www.ift.org/iftnext/food-disruption-challenge.aspx
Funding:

  • $25,000 cash prize (Future Food Disruptor of the Year Award)
  • $5,000 cash prize (Future Food Disruptor People’s Choice Award) 

The Food Innovation Challenge

In Their Words:
“The Food Innovation Challenge welcomes entrepreneurs aspiring to build and sell their food business idea in a retail packaged goods channel.  The challenge is looking for innovative products in the categories of baked good, snack-type bar, or condiment (i.e. hot filled jam, dressing, sauce and marinade.”

Webpage: http://www.foodinnovationchallenge.com/
Funding:

  • $50,000 seed funding, $67,000 in services (1st Place Prize)
  • $22,500 in services (2nd Place Prize)
  • $13,200 in services (3rd Place Prize)

World Food Programme Accelerator

In Their Words:
“Launched in 2016, the WFP Innovation Accelerator identifies, supports and scales high-potential solutions to hunger worldwide.  The Innovation Accelerator is based in Munich, Germany.”

Webpage: http://innovation.wfp.org/
Funding:

  • $100,000 seed funding

Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize

In Their Words:
“The Rabobank-MIT Food & Agribusiness Innovation Prize, sponsored by Rabobankand supported by MIT J-WAFS and the MIT Food and Agriculture Club, is a premier business-plan competition for university and graduate students. This prize is distinct from other competitions because of its specific focus on food and agribusiness and the access it will provide successful entrants to the broad business community.“

Webpage: http://food-ag.squarespace.com/innovation-prize/
Funding:

  • $15,000 (1st Place)
  • $10,000 (2nd Place)

LAUNCH Food

In Their Words:
“LAUNCH Food is a global open innovation program for innovators, entrepreneurs, or intrapreneurs with big ideas for improving health outcomes by enabling people to make healthy food choices.”

Webpage: https://www.launch.org/food/foodchallenge/
Funding: N/A 

Ectrophelia Europe Competition

In Their Words:
ECOTROPHELIA has the ambition to promote entrepreneurship and competitiveness within the European food industry by implementing a training network of excellence in food innovation and the organization of national and European food innovation competitions “The Student Awards of Food Innovation” a real eye-opener for the food industry.

ECOTROPHELIA achieves the goal of bringing together students, teachers, researchers and professionals of the food sector in a network to think about tomorrow’s eco-innovative food products.

ECOTROPHELIA Europe constitutes a life-size innovation laboratory for universities and students and a pedagogical model recognized by the European Commission. The competition offers a ground for fruitful exchanges between education and research sectors and the business world. For professionals from the food industries, ECOTROPHELIA is a great pool of talent, skill-sets and innovation.”

Webpage: https://eu.ecotrophelia.org/
Funding: N/A

Food+City Challenge Prize

In Their Words:
“The Food+City Challenge Prize is an international competition among business startups encouraging innovation in the urban food system. In 2018 the Prize will be part of the SXSW programming for the first time. Finalists compete for cash prizes and an incredible package of business startup products and services. We encourage innovators, from across the globe, to create businesses and discover technologies that will improve how we feed cities around the world. Finalists work with their mentors for 12 weeks to prepare for Showcase Day presentations.”

Webpage: https://foodandcity.org/prize/
Funding:

  • $30,000 in seed funds and services (Gold Prize)
  • $10,000 in seed funds and services (Silver Prize)
  • $5,000 in seed funds (Bronze Prize)
  • $5,000 in seed funds (People’s Choice Award)

     

USDA NIFA I-FAST Competition

In Their Words:
“The goal is to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from NIFA supported academic research. Selected USDA NIFA I-FAST project teams will have the opportunity to concurrently participate in the educational programs with NSF I-Corps awardees. Over a period of six months the USDA NIFA supported teams in the I-FAST program will learn what it will take to achieve an economic impact with their particular innovation. The final goal of the I-FAST Competition is to facilitate technology transfer of innovations that can make an impact in the marketplace and the global economy.”

Webpage: https://nifa.usda.gov/program/innovations-food-and-agricultural-science-and-technology-i-fast-prize-competition
Funding:

  • $50,000 prize per team (eight teams) 

Emerging Technologies Competition

In Their Words:
“Our Emerging Technologies Competition aims to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative technologies in the following areas:

  • Health
  • Energy & environment
  • Food & drink
  • Materials & enabling technologies

The competition is free to enter and open to small companies and universities, who can apply using our online application form. We welcome ideas, at any stage of development, from across the UK and Europe.

Shortlisted entrants will be invited to present their ideas to a panel of expert judges at the competition final, taking place at Chemistry Means Business 2018 on 15 October in London. This is a high-profile event bringing together start-ups, small and medium enterprises, multinational organisations, and academic entrepreneurs from across the chemistry-using community.”

Webpage: http://www.rsc.org/competitions/emerging-technologies/
Funding:

  • £10,000 cash prize (eight prizes)

Thought For Food Challenge

In Their Words:
“The Thought For Food (TFF) Foundation is the world’s leading platform for next generation innovation and collaboration to answer one of the biggest challenges facing our future: How do we feed 9+ billion people by 2050? We unite a unique group of bold, unconventional thinkers and doers from all disciplines and all parts of the globe to transform food and agriculture.”

Webpage: https://www.tffchallenge.com/
Funding:

  • $25,000 cash prize 

Lemelson-MIT Student Prize

In Their Words:
“The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize honors promising collegiate inventors around the country. The student prize is open to teams of undergraduate students and individual graduate students who have inventions in categories that represent significant sectors of the economy; healthcare, transportation, food and agriculture, or consumer devices.”

Webpage: https://lemelson.mit.edu/studentprize
Funding:

  • $15,000 prize (five categories)

Electrolux Ideas Lab

In Their Words:
“Electrolux today presents Ideas Lab – the new global ideas competition, inspiring creative thinking for homes of today and the future. The competition targets consumers and is open for everyone over the age of 18 to join.

Electrolux will be calling out for creative ideas that inspire people around the world to enjoy tastier, healthier and more sustainable home cooking in the future. Any idea could be submitted; smartphone apps, food sharing programs, kitchen tools, hacks or fully fledged business ideas. Only the contestants’ imagination will set the limit.”

Webpage: http://www.electroluxgroup.com/en/electrolux-ideas-lab-inspiring-the-future-of-the-home-22557/
Funding:

  • €10,000 cash prize

FoodBytes!

In Their Words:
“FoodBytes! by Rabobank is a next-generation pitch competition-meets-networking event that brings together the game-changing startups, investors and industry leaders pioneering the future of food and agriculture. The platform provides a safe haven for entrepreneurs to receive the mentorship, connections and capital they need to grow their businesses.”

Webpage: http://www.foodbytesworld.com/
Funding: N/A 

Good Food Awards

In Their Words:
“The Good Food Awards celebrate the kind of food we all want to eat: tasty, authentic and responsibly produced. We grant awards to outstanding American food producers and the farmers who provide their ingredients. We host an annual Awards Ceremony and Marketplace in San Francisco to honor the Good Food Award recipients who push their industries towards craftsmanship and sustainability while enhancing our agricultural landscape and building strong communities.”

Webpage: http://www.goodfoodawards.org/
Funding: N/A

Specialty Food Association sofi™ Awards

In Their Words:
“For more than 45 years, the sofi Awards have played a critical role in honoring and advancing culinary excellence and creativity worldwide. “sofi” stands for “specialty outstanding food innovation” and the Awards represent the best of the best in the specialty food industry. This year, the Specialty Food Association will recognize 154 winners in 39 categories with 2018 sofi Awards.”

Webpage: https://www.specialtyfood.com/awards/sofi/
Funding: N/A 

BCFN Yes! Young Earth Solutions Research Grant Competition

In Their Words:
“Since the very first edition, BCFN YES! has embodied the identity and the ambition of the BCFN Foundation. Indeed, it brings together young people from around the world, with different disciplinary approaches, and invites them to come up with practical projects to create a better balance between food sustainability and environmental sustainability.

The goal of the contest is to find solutions to the food paradoxes, through innovative, practical and multi-disciplinary ideas.”

Webpage: https://www.barillacfn.com/en/bcfnyes2018/
Funding:

  • €20,000 research grant for one-year investigation

Small Kitchen Summit Europe Startup Showcase

In Their Words:
“Every year at the Smart Kitchen Summit, we like to showcase the most innovative new ideas, products and companies reinventing food, cooking and the kitchen. And now, we are thrilled to bring our Startup Showcase to Europe.

Anyone with a working product that is either a late-stage working demo or actually shipping is welcome to apply free of charge. Those chosen to show their product at the Smart Kitchen Summit Startup Showcase will be awarded a complimentary ticket to our event and a table to showcase your product at SKS Europe.”

Webpage: https://www.smartkitchensummit.eu/startup/
Funding: N/A 

Food Funded Entrepreneurship & Investor Fair

In Their Words:
“Food entrepreneurs and investors convene for a day of educational workshops and live investment presentations to catalyze the funding flow for food ventures.

Featuring the Entrepreneur Lab, with hands-on workshops facilitated by experienced practitioners, followed by the annual Bay Area Food Investor Fair, a forum for investors to meet select food entrepreneurs and see pre-screened investment opportunities. Prior investments have ranged from $25K to $10M.”

Webpage: http://foodfunded.us/
Funding: N/A

Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge

In Their Words:
“The Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge is the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs with food and agriculture businesses. Rural Entrepreneurs compete for $145,000 in startup funds.”

Webpage: http://www.strongruralamerica.com/challenge/
Funding:

  • $25,000 grand prize
  • $15,000 finalists (four teams)
  • $10,000 best-in-show (six teams)

Fish 2.0 Competition

In Their Words:
“Fish 2.0 connects seafood businesses and investors to grow the sustainable seafood sector.  Working through our unique global network, competition platform and events, Fish 2.0 participants collaborate to drive innovation, business growth and positive impact.”

Webpage: https://www.fish20.org/
Funding: N/A

Future Agro Challenge

In Their Words:
“There’s an agricultural revolution underway. And our passion is pushing the envelope until innovative and fundable food, agtech, and agriculture innovations have spread around the globe, from farm to fork and beyond. The Future Agro Challenge is the leading global competition, bringing together the best of the best to make it all happen.

As many countries and regions face global challenges in food security, food safety, food waste and healthy sustainable diets, local and regional solutions right in our backyards are often overlooked. Too many voices go unheard. Are you already integrated with a local network and infrastructure? Our vast network is here to showcase, grow, and expand your vision.”

Webpage: http://facagro.com/compete/
Funding: N/A

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About Author

Bryan Le is currently a Science and Medicine Graduate Research Scholar and PhD student in the Department of Food Science at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is studying the beneficial effects and mechanism of action of flavor compounds found in onion and garlic. He has written and edited articles for the award-winning Science Meets Food blog sponsored by the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association, and is passionate about communicating science to public audiences. Bryan holds an M.A. and B.Sc. in Chemistry from University of California, Irvine. Get in touch at bryanquocle(at)gmail(dot)com, and find out more about his work at bryanquocle.journoportfolio.com

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