Home to world-class restaurants like Noma, Denmark is renowned for its culinary excellence. What may be less well-known is our excellence in agrifood and bioresource technologies like biorefining and bioenergy.

Written by TechBBQ

Dec 16, 2020 / 7 min. read

FoodTech For Thought

Home to world-class restaurants like Noma, Denmark is renowned for its culinary excellence. What may be less well-known is our excellence in agrifood and bioresource technologies like biorefining and bioenergy.

As mentioned in our recent blog post, the Danish government, Industriens Fond, and other organizations have been working to create a group of business clusters to further cement Denmark’s status as a leader in many technology sectors. Food & Bio Cluster Denmark (FBCD), with backing from more than 300 organisations, aims to bring more attention to Denmark’s country-wide, fast-growing Foodtech, Agritech, and Bioresource ecosystems.

To learn more, we sat down (virtually, of course) with Claus Mortensen, the Business Development and Incubator Manager at Food & Bio Cluster Denmark. The cluster is headquartered in Aarhus, and also operates in Copenhagen together with Symbion, Denmark’s largest network of startup office facilities. Claus, father of two, holds a Master’s in Innovation Management, is a native of the Danish island of Samsø; together, these experiences have inspired his passion for working with sustainable solutions in the agrifood sector. Before taking on his new role at the newly established Food & Bio Cluster Denmark, Claus worked at the Agro Business Park, one of the founding organizations of the new cluster.

FBCD MEMBER HIGHLIGHT #1:

Nabofarm owns and operates a vertical farm in Copenhagen on a scalable business model.

Food & Bio Cluster Denmark works with, as Claus put it, “Value chain, from farm to fork.” In other words, if it has to do with food being planted, grown, harvested, transported, packaged, sold, or consumed, then the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark works with it. The “food” part of the FBCD’s name is pretty intuitive in this respect; however, the meaning of “bio” may be more opaque to many people. In this context, bio refers to sustainable up- and recycling of biological by-products from the agricultural sector.

This includes solutions working with turning household food waste to biogas and bio-based fertilizers, and also new high value biological materials— like a Danish startup that makes “leather” from discarded apple skins. For Food & Bio Cluster Denmark, “bio” is all about sustainability and contributing to a waste-minimizing circular economy through the production of non-fossil fuel products.

A main role of the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark, according to Claus, is to help the startups, small and medium sized companies, corporates, universities and other private and public member organizations get access to the resources, sparring and Danish and foreign contacts they need to grow and be successful. This ranges from incubator and accelerator programs to institutional research partnerships to office space, providing an all-in-one opportunity for agrifood and bioresource companies in the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark's purview to reach their potential.

FBCD MEMBER HIGHLIGHT #2:

Agrointelli develops and sells the versatile agricultural robot Robotti. They raised €14,5 million for international expansion earlier this year.

However, Food & Bio Cluster Denmark doesn’t just work with startups— Claus emphasized that “there’s huge potential to facilitate corporation between startups, SMEs and corporates in this space.” An effective ecosystem requires collaboration between all of its stakeholders, and the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark acts as a hub for those stakeholders to make the right connections and to “speak the same language” so they can use their knowledge to the fullest. To this end, Claus told us that “The vision [of FBCD] is to create growth and jobs…. To [increase] competitiveness through innovation...all with the Green Transition in mind.”

Working with food and agriculture means that Food & Bio Cluster Denmark must necessarily have an environmentally-friendly agenda, and with Denmark’s open economy this means looking outward as well as inward. Food & Bio Cluster Denmark has network partners in over 60 countries working to share knowledge and technologies around the world, bringing us closer to a greener and more sustainable relationship with our food.

This commitment to the green transition is echoed by the Danish government, which has set ambitious climate targets such as being carbon neutral by 2050. Claus believes that these targets help to provide the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark and their partners with a clear direction and common goal that helps them to progress towards their own ambitions.

One of the last things we talked about with Claus were some exciting new innovations in the pipeline at the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark. He couldn’t give too many spoilers, but he did say that there’s some really cool work going on with everything from alternative proteins (hint: insects), to vertical farming, novel types of spirits, biofuels, and more. Food & Bio Cluster Denmark will also invest resources in 2021 to bring startups and investors with smart money closer to each other.

FBCD MEMBER HIGHLIGHT #3:

Cellugy has developed a bio-cellulose packaging material to replace fossil-based plastic. Cellugy is a former member of Food & Bio Cluster Denmark’s incubator facility in Agro Food Park in Aarhus before becoming a full-fledged member of the cluster.

The main takeaway? Keep an eye on the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark, because once they’re fully operational in 2021 companies of all sizes will have the opportunity to get involved and gain value via activities, one-on-one sparring, and networking throughout the whole value chain. Claus also underscored his desire to meet new companies that want to work with the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark, saying that “[we] are here and our doors are always open. I can speak on behalf of my colleagues that we are motivated by helping others to succeed.”

If you’re interested in working with, or learning more about the Food & Bio Cluster Denmark, you can check out their website here or reach out to one of Claus’ more than 35 colleagues based in six offices throughout Denmark. We think Claus said it best when he closed our interview with this statement: “The future is green, and really really interesting and promising… [and] I’m thrilled to be a part of that!”

Food & Bio Cluster Denmark at a Glance:

  • Membership based non-profit organisation with more than 300 members; Members include large companies like Arla and Danish Crown, world renowned universities like Aarhus University and Technical University of Denmark, but also fast-moving start and scaleups like Beyond Leather Materials, Agrointelli, Soilsense, Nabofarm, Cellugy and Circular Food Technology.
  • 35 business developers and innovation managers in six offices across Denmark. Operates startup incubators in Viborg, Aarhus and Copenhagen.
  • Organizes around 175 events a year for representatives from more than 2000 organisations, facilitates 10 specialised networks and gives 1-1 sparring to 100+ startups a year.
Visit www.foodbiocluster.dk or reach out to Claus at cm@foodbiocluster.dk for more information on how you can get involved.

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