World’s largest food transporter to support agrifood-tech start-ups combating food loss

In 2017, looking to broaden its investment base, global transport-logistics giant Maersk joined forces with multi-award-winning start-up accelerator Rockstart and launched FoodTrack, an initiative geared towards finding novel technological solutions to food loss across the global perishables supply chain. 

As part of the FoodTrack initiative, Maersk Growth will host a month-long, equity-free start-up support program at its world headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark in June 2018. The company urges agrifood start-ups with technologies that could be used to combat food loss to apply.

Why worry about food loss?

With food loss – the edible produce that’s lost along the supply chain between primary producer and retailer – accounting for a significant proportion of the food produced globally, combating food loss will be a key part of meeting global food security in coming decades.

Currently, estimate experts, around a third of all the food grown for human consumption is wasted. Of that wastage, a staggering 80 percent happens before food and beverage products reach the shelves of retail stores.

“With food waste being a trillion-dollar issue, it is simply good business for everyone in the value chain to address it, and we want to play our part in that,” says Peter Votkjaer Jorgensen, venture partner at Maersk’s venture arm Maersk Growth.

“In addressing the growing challenge of food loss, we believe a value-chain approach towards the food system is required. And with Maersk’s substantial involvement in food transportation, we want to be part of the solution – in collaboration with start-ups.”

A century of transporting perishables

Denmark-based Maersk Group has been involved in end-to-end logistics and transport for more than a century, with food-product transportation constituting a major part of its business. Maersk, which is responsible for transporting 30 percent of all the world’s ‘reefer’ containers, designed to ship perishable goods, is in the ideal position to observe first-hand the ways in which food loss occurs along supply chains.

As part of its alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, Maersk is also committed to addressing supply-chain efficiency and transparency – and nurturing agrifood-tech start-ups with potential solutions to food loss could play a significant role in meeting this goal.

“Start-ups make us think differently about the challenges we want to solve,” says Jorgensen. “The ideal partnership is where start-ups bring their agility and market perspective, and we merge that with our ability to scale.”

Who should apply?

Maersk is keen for a broad array of start-up companies to apply to the FoodTrack program; essentially, anyone with a viable innovation related to combating food loss “from field to distribution” is eligible.

“This is where we see our own strength, and [it is] also the part of the supply chain with by far the biggest loss component,” Jorgensen contends. “Some technologies are likely to go across the entire supply chain, and we do have interest in those as well. The waste that happens at the consumer end is not within our reach.”

Ag supply-chain technologies Maersk is targeting include:

  • innovative methods of packaging and preserving food products; 
  • improved information systems that encourage greater transparency and information-sharing across the supply chain;
  • food condition tracking and analysis, to ascertain spoilage of food or beverage products across the entire value chain; and
  • new market opportunities that enable farmers and stakeholders to redistribute surplus produce efficiently.

What’s in it for participating start-ups?

The start-up program will be focused on “validating how [the participating] business can be accelerated by the global presence, infrastructure and industry expertise Maersk has to offer, potentially ending in an investment from Maersk’s venture arm, Maersk Growth”.

Start-ups chosen to participate will get exclusive access to Maersk leaders across departments, as well as to the company’s extensive international network of suppliers and partners, to help validate their technologies.

According to Maerk, the selected agrifood-tech start-ups “will also gain insight into the technology systems already in use at Maersk, and association with the brand will inevitably open doors in the future”.

Jorgensen sees participation as a win-win for hosts and start-ups. “We want to be the rocket fuel for these start-ups,” he contends, “so together we can create significant impact across our value chain.”

All participating start-ups will have a chance to secure an equity investment from Maersk Growth. Maersk will cover the chosen start-ups’ travel and accommodation expenses, and participating start-ups won’t be required to give up any equity.

“The purpose of FoodTrack is not to offer training; it’s investing,” Jorgensen explains. “It is already quite a commitment for a start-up to spend four to five weeks here in Copenhagen, and we want to ensure we get the right start-ups participating. The decision for the start-ups should be about the value of a program with Maersk, not whether they want to release equity just to participate.”

Apply for Maersk's start-up support program now!

To apply for Maersk's start-up program before the May 20 deadline, click here.

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