MassChallenge Sustainable Food Solutions Challenge

MassChallenge Sustainable Food Solutions Challenge

About the Challenge

Food production for humans & animals, and the associated value chain, accounts for c. 25-30% of total Greenhouse Gas emissions; and according to the IPCC, observed climate change is already affecting food security through increasing temperatures, changing rain patterns, and a greater frequency of some extreme events.

Combining supply-side actions such as efficient production, transport, and processing with demand-side interventions such as modification of food choices, and reduction of food loss and waste, can reduce Green House Gas emissions, and help feed the planet’s projected 9.8 billion population in 2050.

MassChallenge believes startups and corporations can help this effort. Startups can play a unique role in bringing new disruptive ideas to the table. Corporations can play a critical role in scaling these ideas and bringing benefits to society quickly.

In 2020 a group of leading global food manufacturers and producers partnered with MassChallenge to find and collaborate with startups so that together, they could help feed the planet sustainably.

Over 1,200 startups have applied to the challenge, 175 being connected to our partners. Of these, over half were involved in follow-up with our partners - check the success stories segment.

The Startups We're Looking for


In 2023 we will open up the Challenge again; our partners: Bühler Group, Givaudan, Nestlé, DSM, Louis Dreyfus Company, and Südzucker, are looking for startups or scaleups, with proven solutions or technologies in the areas of Sustainable Food & Feed Solutions, Sustainable Supply Chain & Manufacturing, Sustainable Packaging, and Agri Tech.

Benefits for the Selected Startups

Startups and Corporate Partners engage together to drive change toward a sustainable world and lead global impact. This Challenge allows them to work together, create a joint pitch, and scale up innovative solutions, faster than they could alone.

All startups participating in the Challenge will get:

  • A direct pathway to multi-national corporations: If shortlisted by our partners, MassChallenge will introduce you to representatives of the partners, including senior R&D, open innovation managers, sustainability executives, and business unit heads.

  • You will talk to the right stakeholders in these organizations, you will have their full attention from the start, and will explore ways to collaborate with them.

  • The ability to scale your technology with them: After the initial meeting we foresee a detailed sharing of information, most likely covered by a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and then the creation of a joint pilot to evaluate the scaling potential of the product.

  • Startups could then become suppliers to the corporation, partners in some form of venture, or receive investment. Every step is totally at the corporation and startup's discretion, and there is no obligation to proceed unless the startup and corporation wish.

  • Publicity and more connections: each corporate partner will invite one of the startups that they shortlisted to our flagship event, the MassChallenge Sustainable Food Solutions Challenge Day, in
    May 2023. There, the startups invited will present their solutions to all of our corporate partners, resulting in more connections and the potential to work with other corporates. This event will be subject to press releases from MassChallenge and some of our corporate partners, providing visibility to the startups.
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    Eligibility Criteria

    Eligibility (1)We are looking for startups and scaleups that:

  • Have a product or idea at the prototype stage or with a working proof of concept backed by data (ie Technical Readiness Level 5, where the technology has been validated in a relevant environment).
  • Are a strategic fit with our partners. In the application form, startups can note which specific partner(s) are a strategic fit for their solution.
  • When discussing with a partner what’s important is an openness to collaborate and scale your idea.
  • Are from seed to series C+. What’s important is that your product is at least at the prototype stage or with a working proof of concept backed by data. You may already have some sales & traction.
  • This enables us to validate that there is a need for your product and that you’re ready to work with our corporate partners. The next step is to work with the corporate partner to scale your technology.
  • Have Impactful, Viable, and Scalable ideas:
    Impactful: to massively benefit society by extracting value whilst reducing the CO2 footprint & emissions of the entire food value chain;
    Viable: be able to demonstrate traction amongst consumers; manufacturers, and their supply base (including farmers);
  • Scalable: be able to scale at agricultural, manufacture, distribution, or disposal stage of food production.
  • Are from any geography. However, note that our partner corporations are headquartered in Europe, so physical collaboration would be mostly in Europe. Startups should ensure they are able to travel to Europe for discussions. The selection process will be carried out online.

    How the Challenge Works

    Relevant applicants will be presented to partner corporations;

  • Selected startups will be invited to meet with R&D, open innovation, sustainability executives, and business unit heads for further discussion and to evaluate the potential for collaboration;
    We expect that this will result in proof of concepts, partnerships, and investments for several of the startups;

  • In addition to the above, each partner will select one start-up to pitch their joint collaboration idea at the MassChallenge Sustainable Food Solutions Challenge Day in May 2023 where all of our corporate partners will attend. This will be a physical event in Switzerland;

  • It is anticipated that partners and startups will then work together to scale the startups' ideas through the partners’ businesses.

    How to Apply

    For more information and job application details, see; MassChallenge Sustainable Food Solutions Challenge

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