OI Forum’s annual competition for food sector showcases innovative solutions to support SDGs

Entrepreneurs from around the world took part in the 10th Open Innovation (OI) Forum’s annual Food, Drink and FMCG competition to pitch solutions to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


On 7 December, 22 entrepreneurs pitched to an influential panel of decision makers from major companies including Mars, PepsiCo, Suntory, Muller, Cargill, Boots, Twinings, Yili and Kerry. The innovative solutions focused on four of the UN’s SDGs central to the food and drinks sectors: Zero Hunger, Good Health and Wellbeing, Responsible Consumption and Production and Climate Action.


Selected finalists were invited to a follow-up session the next day to participate in ‘hackathons’ with Forum members to explore routes to scale and leverage their solutions.


The 2021 winners were:


Overal winner



SwissDeCode SwissDeCode helps farmers and food manufacturers to grow and produce food that is safe to eat by providing rapid food safety solutions.


SwissDeCode uses technology equivalent to polymerase chain reaction testing (PCR), a technique used to amplify trace amounts of DNA located in or on almost any liquid or surface where DNA strands may be deposited. SwissDeCode have removed the need for a thermocycler and the need for instrumentation resulting in a technology designed to detect targeted DNA in concentrations as low as 0.01%, that can be adapted to customer sampling protocols.


Their DNA detection DNAFoil® enables the testing for over 250,000 ingredients across meats, plants, pests and microbes. This leads to the monitoring of food quality and production processes, meaning consumers can enjoy safe and authentic food.  


Highly Commended


Reath [Sustainable Production]

Runner up Reath were highly commended for their purpose-built software for managing compliance and optimisation of circular packaging systems in the sustainable production category.     


Reath captures data about reusable packaging easily and at-scale and uses that data to maintain compliance with regulatory standards like batch codes, to optimise systems. The Reath system has been designed to collect data easily and securely from all sources (e.g., warehouse employees, shop floor assistants, customers), and then lets the organisation use that data to manage and optimise their circular packaging system.


Eighth Day Foods [Hunger]

Following years of research, Eighth Day Foods was formed in 2020 to ensure that food producers everywhere have access to the best sustainable protein and processes so they can create premium plant-based products under their own trusted brands.


They were recognised for their innovative LUPREME® seed alternative which uses a single powerhouse seed to produce meat and seafood alternatives as diverse as user-ready products, clean-label blends or the plant-based protein in hybrid cell-based products.


Figura Analytics Ltd [Health]

Figura Analytics is a start-up business created to help the drinks industry step change its analytical capabilities.


Figuras technology, which targets liquids from syrups, hard and soft drinks and raw flavours, was highly commended in the Health category. Figura uses a nanopore technology to analyse particles suspended in any liquid, with no sample preparation required. Patented flowcells can analyse the size and shape of all particles, creating a digital fingerprint for each specific product, thus flagging any abnormality caused by any contamination (flavour bleed, cleaning agents, bacteria, yeast or mould etc). 


Harvest London [Climate]

Harvest London is a vertical farming company, founded in 2017, which operates a commercial farm in East London, growing fresh ingredients for restaurants, meal kit providers and retailers. The company aims to build a network of large vertical farms across the UK, transforming the sustainability of the food system.


Harvest London were commended for their vertical farming – where crops are grown indoors under LED lights, and irrigation, temperature and other variables are controlled to produce output per square meter many times greater than traditional agriculture, with lower environmental impact.  The solution reduces the damage caused by agriculture and has the potential to substitute imports of certain crops which are not typically grown in the UK due to its climate.                                                                      

Agrinoze [Hunger]

Agrinoze precision irrigation & fertigation system uses real-time plant and soil analysis to grow in various conditions and soil types, maximize crop yield, shorten growth cycles, and save water & fertilizers. Agrinoze’s on-demand system is fully automated and ensures plants receive a precise amount of water and nutrients – on-demand – on a 24/7 basis, ensuring a crop of premium, export-quality fruits and vegetables.


Agrinoze champions a dynamic, soil-based precision farming solution that has been proven to increase the yield of any crop in any type of soil or growing conditions. The end-to-end solution not only provides farmers with insights, but also executes the appropriate responses to changes in weather and soil automatically.


The other 2021 finalists were:

Mi Terro


Connecting Food


Smarter Food Company



Aqua Development ltd

Molendotech Limited

Sphera Encapsulation


Niskus Biotec






About the OI Forum and how to join


Established in October 2010, the Open Innovation (OI) Forum was created to offer a programme of structured support and opportunity for companies from all stages of the Food and FMCG value chain, from ingredients and packaging, through brand-owner, manufacturing and the final link: retail.


The Forum offers the opportunity to learn from experienced practitioners whilst networking with other members of the Food and FMCG business community. Understand strengths and weaknesses related to your business and develop insights into OI opportunities in FMCG. Receive exclusive access to the OI annual report, links with past and ongoing IfM research and the opportunity for real spin off OI collaborations.


A central focus for the Forum is to support members in harnessing external innovations from outside their organisations, including by highlighting exciting new ventures, ideas and emerging technologies from start-ups and innovators. Often this presents an ideal symbiotic relationship with creative start-ups needing to grow by building relationships with bigger clients.


To facilitate these connections, the OI Forum hosts regular pitching competitions like this to provide an opportunity for innovators and technology spin-outs, start-ups and SMEs to pitch their ideas or business to large companies.


Interested in joining us?


For large companies interested in membership, please contact Dominic Oughton at do251@cam.ac.uk


For startups interested in our next pitching event, please contact ifm-events@eng.cam.ac.uk


Related links


About the OI Forum

OI Forum members

2020 pitching competition




Date published

15 December 2021

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