Welcome to the EIT Food Startup Manual

EIT Foreword

Like never before, our food system needs bold innovators like you. Years of mismanagement have damaged the food industry and the food we eat. The statistics are all too familiar: more than fifty-percent of the planet is malnourished through over- or under-eating, we throw away a third of all the food we produce, and food production is one of the leading causes of environmental degradation and human rights abuses.

That’s not to mention the fact that many of the businesses behind the food system need to catch up quickly on management structures, culture and diversity; three critical factors which are quickly proving to be the ‘secret sauce’ to a company surpassing its competition in terms of impact and profit. It really doesn’t have to be this way. As some businesses, large and small, are demonstrating, we can build a food system that is good for people and planet; a food system that generates social, environmental and financial profits whilst regenerating and not depleting our future resources.

But we know that if we want to avoid some of the environmental and health disasters currently predicted, we need a well-supported and diverse startup system. Nimble, brave, entrepreneurial mindsets and new ways of doing things are sorely needed to turn our food system around in time, and that’s why at EIT Food, we are dedicated to building and shaping the innovators of tomorrow.

By bringing together the latest and best technologies, the most advanced skills and training programmes and the most disruptive business models we can empower the food industry and society to innovate. Together, we will improve food.

This guide is filled with invaluable lessons on how to build an agrifood company that can transform the food system in a scalable and sustainable way. Best of all, it is written by other agrifood entrepreneurs so that you can learn directly from their challenges, successes and wisdom.

This guide is just one small part of what we offer startups at EIT Food. I encourage you to explore www.eitfood.eu to uncover all the opportunities available to you. From grant funding to business training, from industry partnerships to investments, we have a programme to support your startup’s growth and success.

Dr. A. M. (Andy) Zynga 

How EIT Food Business Creation can help you

At EIT Food Business Creation, we work with a wide range of entrepreneurs, startups and scaleups to speed up the innovations that we know we need for a healthier, more trusted and sustainable food system. This includes:

  • Three specialised flagship programmes designed to support the Launch, Accelerate and Scale stages of the entrepreneur journey
  • Supporting activities which have the potential to be undertaken in addition to, or in preparation for, our flagship programmes*


LAUNCH: Understand your market

For aspiring entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs

Seedbed is a 6-month pre-accelerator programme to transform innovative ideas into market-validated business propositions

  • Participating teams can access expert training and mentoring to identify their core business assumptions and develop a roadmap to validate these with stakeholders
  • Financial support to get out of the building and speak to at least 100 stakeholders, customers and users to test the market and refine product ideas
  • Follow-on support to spin-out/startup a new company or fund feasibility tests with identified partners via EIT Food’s Access to Finance and Support Services Scheme

ACCELERATE: Build your business

For registered startups, (pre)seed with traction indicator

Our EIT Food Accelerator is a 4-month programme delivered at six unique innovation hubs in Europe

  • Build skills, benefit from mentoring and gain exposure to your market, potential customers, investors and media
  • Become part of a rich network of businesses and research institutions, and make crucial relationships that will help you fast-track your progress
  • Access to facilities such as labs, pilot sites, agricultural land
  • Potential for follow-on funding for some start-ups as part of our supporting Traction scheme

SCALE: Grow internationally

For early scaleups, past ideation phase with paying customers

Our thriving agritech network RisingFoodStars Association gives outstanding early scaleups access to knowledge and partners that will propel them further, faster

  • Easy access & personalised introductions to world-leading corporates and academia
  • Opportunities to partner in EIT Food projects
  • Increased visibility
  • Enhanced European reach
  • Tailored support to expand business


Test Farms**: We link agricultural startups with farmers to help them validate and test their products and services and showcase their business to customers and investors*

  • Matchmaking startups with farmers with the required conditions for a successful pilot project (Spain, Portugal and Bulgaria)
  • Demo Day in 2021 for potential customers to buy the solution

Several other supporting activities are available to participants in our Regional Innovation Scheme. For more information, click here.

*Access to these supporting activities will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, depending on funding and accessibility restrictions

**Only available to entrepreneurs / startups / scaleups who apply through the Regional Innovation Scheme, which is limited to applicants associated with a smaller number of countries. See more here.

About EIT Food

EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative which was set up to transform our food system. EIT Food is a European Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC), part of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT), an independent EU body set up to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.

AT EIT Food we believe that we are all responsible for, and connected to, the food that we eat so we all need to work together to improve it. By connecting consumers with businesses, startups, researchers and students from around Europe, we support innovative and sustainable initiatives which improve our health, our access to quality food, and our environment.

EIT Food works with consumers in the change process to improve nutrition and make the food system more resource-efficient, secure, transparent and trusted. Our ambition is to redesign the way we produce, deliver, consume and recycle our food to create a future-proof system which supports a sustainable and circular bio-economy.

A more resilient and innovative food system can only happen if we build in diversity from the outset. This guide will encourage you to design this into your business to ensure that you have the greatest chance of social and environment impact – plus commercial success.

About the authors

We’re passionate about food and sustainability so in 2013, we quit our jobs to find a way to contribute to a better food system. We co-founded SNACT, a brand making fruit snacks from ugly fruit to tackle food waste. This means we have direct experience in having created a successful food company recognized for driving environmental and social change. We built an innovative supply chain rescuing over 220 tonnes of food from going to waste and were the first in the UK to launch innovative compostable packaging. After five years of hard work, we decided to take a step back from the day to day activities of the company and sold part of the brand at the end of 2018.

Our work has been recognized by features in the Guardian, the BBC, Channel 4, The Telegraph. We won awards such as the Best Eco Product in the Global Good Award and were selected for prestigious initiatives like The London Greater Authority’s London Leader programme and the Unreasonable Impact programme. More broadly, we have wider business startup experience having created other green businesses and projects in the past. Whilst our personal food startup experience has been UK focused, we are well connected to startup culture and the sustainability sector worldwide having fostered an extensive network in both of our combined 20 years of experience. We were really excited to be asked to put together this guide and be given the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience in this space.

Ilana Taub 

Michael Minch-Dixon 

Disclaimer and Copyright

This guide is intended to help agrifood entrepreneurs and startups. However, it does not replace seeking professional advice and guidance. As such, although EIT Food has made every effort to ensure that the information in this book is useful, they do not assume any responsibility for the outcome of your business. 

Cover Illustration: Shutterstock / ProStockStudio

Startup Guide design by:

Other illustrations: Shutterstock / ProStockStudio

Written by: Ilana Taub, Michael Minch-Dixon, and Joseph Gridley 

Published by: EIT Food

Copyright © 2019 by EIT Food 

All rights reserved. This guide or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

EIT Food