Start-ups and Grown-ups even more successful together!

By: Amelia Oei 16 Nov, 2017

On 8 November, more than 140 visitors from the food sector and related sectors attended the ‘Rotterdam seeks food start-ups’ event in the Rotterdam Science Tower. By bringing together this diverse group of students, starters, growers and established entrepreneurs, Rotterdam Food Cluster aims to promote innovation within the food sector. Folk philosopher, Bas Haring, shared his vision on food in the future. Should our production be large-scale or small? Peter Duijvestijn of Duijevestijn Tomaten demonstrated the company’s innovation and approach to new markets through the establishment of start-ups, in collaboration with other entrepreneurs. During the floor dates, we were introduced to Spireaux, Omnigen and Blocklab, while Rotterdam Food Cluster explained what they can do for start-ups and grown-ups. General conclusion of the day: it is vital to encourage cooperation between grown-ups and start-ups if we want to continue to innovate.

Agri & food important for regional economy

In 2016, the export of agri & food from the Netherlands reached nearly 94 billion Euros. This makes the agri & food sector good for 22 percent of total exports and puts us in second position worldwide. Rotterdam is a major transit port for agri & food products. Besides quality agricultural products, the Netherlands exports materials, knowledge and technology. Rotterdam Food Cluster wishes to maintain a high level of know-how and even raise it to the next level. A stimulating innovation climate is, of course, a precondition.

Check out an impression of the event here:

Food production, large-scale or small-scale?

Bas Haring, folk philosopher, wonders how a country as small as ours can produce so much food. ‘We are constantly increasing the efficiency of food production using new technology. Should we pursue this development or are there other ways of producing our food? One option is for large-scale ‘unnatural’ production. The alternative is small-scale ‘natural’ production. The food industry is currently mainly about bulk. I’m advocating a combination of large-scale and small-scale food production. Small companies can provide large companies with dynamic food.’
Bas Haring start-ups

Duijvestijn Tomaten enters new markets with start-ups

The most important tip passed on by Peter Duijvestijn, CEO of Duijvestijn Tomaten, is: ‘Don’t try to go it alone, but work together instead.’ Duijvestijn is working at sustainability and innovation in a number of fields. Duijvestijn consumes more CO2 than they emit, and uses geothermal heat instead of gas to heat the greenhouses. The home-grown concept – the double glazed ID greenhouse – saves 20% water and 50% energy. Duijvestijn upgrades waste flows by creating bio-plastics and cardboard from tomato plant stalks. ‘In 10 years’ time, we’ll no longer be growing tomatoes!’, says Peter Duijvestijn. This is proof of how important innovation is at Duijvestijn. ‘We’ve developed new products, for example: oven-dried tomatoes and a vegetable spread. We’re also looking into possibilities to cultivate vanilla plants in the Netherlands, and/or to see if we can produce a traditional Chinese medicine, made from bitter gourd, to combat diabetes. These are a number of start-ups with which we are entering new markets,’ explains Duijvestijn.
Duijvestijn start-ups

Dates with Spireaux, Omnigen, Blocklab and Rotterdam Food Cluster

During the floor dates, a crossover was made with the other clusters: clean tech, port and health & life sciences.

Food production in the heart of Rotterdam
Spireaux cultivates spirulina with a limited volume of water, CO2 emissions and land surface, making it possible to produce food in the heart of Rotterdam (BlueCity; formerly Tropicana swimming baths). Thanks to the high protein content, this is a healthy and sustainable ingredient for foodstuffs. ‘Our ambition is to produce Spirulina on a large scale and also to manufacture end products. We can certainly use the assistance of grown-ups, to help us up-scale and, also, for funding purposes,’ Tim van Koolwijk, founder of Spireaux emphasises. Would you like more information and/or can you assist Spireaux? Check out

DNA-based nutritional advice
Berry Kriesels, CEO of Omnigen, explains how they provide tailored nutritional advice to top athletes and consumers. ‘We can compile personal nutritional advice based on DNA, metabolism, environmental factors and personal preferences. We’re also looking into business models for partners in the food chain, such as: a weekly food box (personalised version of existing meal boxes), a coaching app, linking of personal data to the closest supermarket, the Smart Kitchen which notifies you when you’ve run out of groceries. All the possibilities and know-how are available in order to market personalised food. Now all we need is the transition to a healthy society.’ Would you like to collaborate with Omnigen on this initiative? Head over to
start-ups Omnigen

Blocklab in search of chain partners in food
Blocklab tests and develops Blockchain ideas together with partners. The basis behind Blockchain is that users can undertake mutual transactions without depending on a dominant, regulating party such as a bank. The chain itself is responsible for the monitoring process. The challenge facing the food sector is to design the logistic chain more efficiently. ‘At the moment, approximately fifty percent of trucks drive around (partially) empty. Food is the most commonly transported product in the EU. This is therefore an interesting market for us to begin with,’ explains Aljosa Beije of Blocklab. The general public is enthusiastic, but many questions remain. How do you know that everyone will play fair? How can you guarantee the quality? Is the system safe? How can you ensure the entire chain is on board? The challenge for Blocklab lies in tackling these issues together with interested parties. More info and participation? Go to

What does the Rotterdam Food Cluster do?
Sharon Janmaat and Adriaan van der Giessen, project managers at the Rotterdam Food Cluster, provided visitors with a brief outline of the food projects in the Rotterdam region. The Rotterdam Food Cluster focuses on three main themes: 1. World Food Park; the transition to innovative types of production, 2. Feeding the City; feeding cities, now and in the future, 3. Food for the Future; preparing the new generation for the future.
‘A number of concrete projects in which we’re working together with companies include Vertical Farming, valorisation of waste food flows, establishment of a Human Capital Pool and Smart Logistics,’ explains Adriaan van der Giessen.
start-ups Rotterdam Food Cluster

Importance of cooperation between grown-ups and start-ups

According to Jan den Heijer, Business Unit Director Food Industry at Verstegen Spices & Sauces, this event is a good initiative: ‘Students and young entrepreneurs often introduce new concepts and approaches. We are pleased to integrate them into our current processes, to prepare us for the future.’

Esmee de Jager, Corporate Communication at The Greenery, gained a great deal of knowledge and inspiration during the event. ‘Start-ups can help us innovate by breaking through our streamlined frameworks and providing new ideas. In return, we can assist start-ups in their up-scaling process.’

Sander Peltenburg & George Brandenburg, founders of Burgs Foods, developed the Cricket burger, which was also served during the informal get-together. ‘We’re following the Get Started programme initiated by ECE and the Rotterdam Food Cluster, which helps us develop a business model. We’re looking for know-how and interested parties who can help us with large-scale production.’

How can we help you?

ECE for starters, growers and established entrepreneurs
The ECE offers new entrepreneurs the Get Started programme. During this 12-week programme, 30 start-ups work to develop and validate their business concepts. The Get Started programme is conducted partly in cooperation with YES! Delft. Besides the Get Started programme, the ECE has other facilities on offer for starters, growers and established entrepreneurs in order to promote innovation and good business practice. Take the ECE campus, for example, 7 storeys of office space for all possible types of entrepreneurs; it is now already accommodating more than 70 businesses. More information on this can be found at Various corporate innovation courses are also organised here.
The next Get Started programme, including the food track, will start in February 2018.

Food inspirational sessions in the Rotterdam Science Tour
In 2018, Rotterdam Food Cluster will organise inspirational sessions focusing on the latest developments and trends in the food sector. Keep a close eye on our newsletter and Facebook!

Are you open to collaboration?
Are you open to collaboration with start-ups? Do you have an innovation issue which you would like to put to start-ups? Or are you looking for a party offering specific know-how and a fresh approach to new markets? If so, get in touch with us, we’ll be pleased to think along with you and connect you to the right people!