Six food start-ups planting Seeds of Change in Australia

Mars Food Australia

Monday, 19 August, 2019

Six food start-ups planting Seeds of Change in Australia

Six Australian food start-ups have been chosen by Mars Food Australia to participate in the inaugural Seeds of Change Accelerator program, designed to help early-stage food start-ups tackle the biggest challenges to business growth in a tailored four-month program.

A panel of judges selected the final six start-ups from 224 applicants and 15 shortlisted finalists. The selected start-ups will receive a AU$40,000 grant, with help from an extensive support system to solve issues pertaining to their business, ranging from branding, product development, sales or supply chain, and market intelligence.

The Accelerator program also offers a series of face-to-face workshops and advice from within the Mars business and across the wider Australian food innovation network. The selected start-ups include Spiralz Fermented Foods, The Australian Superfood Co., Edible Bug Shop, Your Prep, Grounded Foods and Plant-based Meat.

Based in Tuggerah, NSW, Spiralz Fermented Foods was created by Michelle Amor and Tracey Rochford. The start-up uses traditional methods to ferment without using any starter cultures or preservatives, offering a range of organic, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free products.

Hayley Blieden and Ralph Wollner started the Australian Superfood Co., based in Oakleigh, Victoria. The start-up sells a range of native fruit powders, herbs, spices, fruit and granolas made from native Australian bush foods. Prioritising increasing the awareness of Australia’s Indigenous culture, Australian Superfood Co. sources its ingredients from Indigenous communities and local growers.

The Edible Bug Shop in Sydney is a commercial edible insect farm, manufacturing ‘invisible’ ingredients from insects such as ants, crickets and meal worms. The ingredients provide safe and nutritious ingredients to feed more people sustainably.

Some research draws parallels between gut health and mental health, with bad gut health negatively affecting mental health. Your Prep, a start-up based in Brisbane and created by Matt Boyce, provides dietician-designed, chef-prepared and cooked meal components direct to customers to help increase family time and improve mental health through easy-to-prepare nutrition.

Through their start-up, Grounded Foods, Veronica Fil and two hatted chef Shaun Quade produce plant-based cheese products using all-natural ingredients without preservatives or additives. Their cheese products are allergen-free and low in fat, made using the same cultures and processes as traditional cheese-making.

Plant-based Meat is a start-up created by Michael Fox, producing healthy, sustainable and indistinguishable plant-based meat products. Based in the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, the start-up has developed slow braised beef and pulled pork products from shredded shiitake mushroom stems. As the stems are a by-product of the mushroom production process, the start-up can source large quantities in a sustainable way.

Peter Crane, Research and Development Director at Mars Food Australia and Program Mentor for the Seeds of Change Accelerator, said, “Mars Food is committed to nurturing the next generation of food innovators and dedicated to creating healthier, easier and tastier food for more people.”

Plant-based Meat creator Michael Fox said he is looking to launch in a few months’ time and then scale up. “The opportunity to connect with people experienced in the food industry to help me do that is invaluable. I need to fill some gaps around product and recipe development, distribution locally and internationally, and even with things like labelling laws. Now I’ll have access to the right people who can help me in each of those areas,” Fox said.

Skye Blackburn is a food scientist, entomologist and founder of the Edible Bug Shop. By educating people about the way that edible insects can be farmed as an eco-friendly alternative protein, Blackburn hopes to reduce some of the misconceptions about eating bugs.

“You don't just have to eat bugs if you are stuck in the bush and have nothing else to eat. When prepared properly, and you get over the initial ‘yuck’ factor, bugs are very tasty and are also good for you,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn has developed robotic technology for use in insect farming, and implemented processes to extract nutritional ingredients from insects. “We turn food waste which would normally go to landfill into delicious and highly nutritious food products that can feed more people with less resources more sustainably,” Blackburn said.

Established by Mars Food Australia, in conjunction with Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL), the Seeds of Change Accelerator aims to help businesses develop innovative products and access new markets. The Australian Accelerator is part of a joint US–Australia initiative selecting 12 start-ups to take part in the program: six in the US and six in Australia.

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