Interview with Federico Ronca from Sweden Foodtech
Learn about Bloomer Accelerator’s personalised approach to supporting entrepreneurs, discover what makes the Nordics’ food-tech ecosystem unique and more.
About Sweden Foodtech
Sweden Foodtech is one of Scandinavia’s leading actors in the food-tech industry. The highly innovative, Stockholm-based platform takes pride in its tech, data, sustainability and health-centric approach. Sweden Foodtech empowers entrepreneurs to reach their full potential by connecting them with established corporate partners, supporting them with innovation programs and providing them with exciting business development opportunities.
About Federico Ronca
Federico Ronca is Sweden Foodtech’s Innovations Programs Director and spearheaded the Bloomer Accelerator program. He was previously responsible for Foodtech Village, the company’s community for food-tech changemakers and entrepreneurs. Prior to joining Sweden Foodtech, Federico Ronca worked as an Innovation Project Manager at TIM #Wecap Accelerator and Assistant to the Chair of Human Resource Management and Corporate Communication at LUISS in Rome, Italy.
Sweden Foodtech proudly proclaims, "The future of food should be nothing but cooperative." Talk us through some of the concrete initiatives that Sweden Foodtech has introduced to foster a more collaborative food system.
Yes, we believe that the future of foods should be cooperative and we had a great opportunity to prove it last year thanks to the Bloomer Accelerator project. Bloomer is an acceleration program for food-tech startups that we have designed and delivered in collaboration with Coop Sweden, one of the biggest retailers in Sweden, and Norrsken Foundation, which works with impact in sustainability.
Given the cooperative DNA of Coop Sweden, being a cooperative in and of itself, we've built an open innovation program based on the opportunity for startups to comprehensively work with such a big partner, thereby getting access to market data, knowledge and partnership opportunities. And we are all very proud to say that six out of the eight selected startups made it into pilot projects with Coop. This is what we want to facilitate and what we want to push at Sweden Foodtech—an open innovation platform where disruptive entrepreneurs (the problem-solvers) can efficiently work together with the big corporations that own the actual access to data, markets and consumers because they can really make the difference.
So, of course, our mission and projects go beyond the Bloomer programme itself and aim to involve more and more players. Together with startups and big companies, we are also engaging with scientists, athletes, chefs and public organisations, like cities and governments, to define how the future food systems will look like.
In what ways does the Nordic food-tech ecosystem differ from that of other regions in Europe?
We believe that Sweden and the Nordics could grow even more as a top food-tech hub for a number of reasons.
The tech sector is already very established here. The Nordic countries have a strong digital infrastructure and a huge human capital that already works in tech. And then there is their entrepreneurial culture—from schools to universities and even private companies, you can find many innovation and entrepreneurial programs trying to teach people how to be entrepreneurial and run their own business. It’s not rare to find people working for big companies and running some startup on the side; it's really part of the culture.
Then there are the available funds and resources, from public grants and public support to private investors that are increasingly looking toward food-tech space. There is a lot of available capital, and investors are currently realising the business opportunities that come from the food industry’s necessity to innovate.
Then come strong food ethics, I would say. In the Nordics, sustainability is a kind of religion; it’s a given point for each company to consider. I’m an Italian who comes from a deep-rooted food tradition. Here it’s actually the opposite; there is not such a prevalent food tradition. That is actually a plus when it comes to innovation because people are more open-minded. You have a lot of early adopters, and that really helps to try new solutions and even food products.
At foodcircle, we are committed to digitalising the food supply chain to promote traceability, transparency and sustainability. What innovative technologies are emerging in these areas within Sweden Foodtech's ecosystem?
I could mention many cool companies, but I’ll stick to three quick examples in this space:
Firstly, there is TrustTrace, a supply chain traceability and transparency platform working to achieve full traceability from source to end-product. They collect, verify and analyse data to ensure material integrity and ESG compliance across production facilities. They are very experienced in the fashion industry, and Bloomer Accelerator marked their entrance into the food industry. They are already running some great pilot projects within the food industry, and I think they have lots of potential.
Then, secondly, there is Innoscentia. As we know today, systems that indicate the freshness of products based on estimations usually cause substantial losses throughout the value chain, both in economic terms and environmental terms. Innoscentia developed analogue and digital sensor-based indicators that divulge foods’ status in real-time in order to prolong shelf life and consumption time and, in doing so, reduce food waste, of course.
A third example, a strong startup here in the Nordics, is Karma from Sweden. The app connects restaurants, cafés and grocery stores with users that are willing to purchase unsold food or meals at a discount. For the users, the app is an easy way to save money and contribute to sustainable consumption. For the restaurants and cafés, uploading their surplus food to Karma is an opportunity to reduce food waste, reach more customers and even sell more.
As Sweden Foodtech's Innovation Programs Director, you recently concluded the Bloomer Accelerator together with your partners at Coop Sweden and Norrsken Foundation. Tell us more about your shared vision of mobilising tech startups to create a more sustainable food system and world.
Well, thanks to programs like Bloomer, which I talked about before, or +Impact Accelerator, which we are currently working on with Danske Bank, WeWork and the Research Institute of Sweden, we help entrepreneurs with great ideas structure business models that actually work and can scale. So when they sign up for an innovation program, we think about the main challenges that the entrepreneurs will have to face in order to run their businesses. Starting from how to validate and sell a product or a solution to how to get access to funds and partners.
There are, of course, some common bases for every startup, but what we know very well is that each company has a specific profile and specific needs depending on the team behind it, the initial access to capital and so on. This is why our approach within Foodtech, together with the partners we work with, is about analysing the real needs of each company that we recruit, trying to customise our learning module offerings, defining which mentor profiles to get in touch with and so on.
Essentially, I think this is very important to consider the teams’ and the business models’ diversity in order to provide the entrepreneurs with the right tools to win their game.
How does your work at the accelerator tie into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals? What do you hope to achieve by 2030?
Basically, everything we do and support is geared in the direction of achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Food is everywhere at all times if we think about it. The food system’s impact, especially if we extend it to areas such as the beverage industry and its water issues, is huge. If we consider the whole chain—from the production to distribution to consumption and all the services around the consumption of food—food actually touches on pretty much all the SDGs. This is why we support startups that work in all directions in all the food sub-industries—from urban farming and precision farming to alternative proteins and food processing, personalised nutrition and health, and even zero waste, as I mentioned before with some solutions.
Ultimately, we believe that the amazing teams and startups out there are really trying to act in all the directions to build a better food system. And we are sure that, in doing so, we will take care of our habitat, our planet.