Tesco and WWF launch accelerator programme to make food supply chain more sustainable

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AUTHOR: Fiona Holland

Tesco and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have developed a new funding accelerator programme aimed at startups to help reduce the environmental impact of the retailer’s food supply chain.

The Innovation Connections accelerator has matched innovative startups with some of the British supermarket’s longstanding suppliers to develop new technologies that can future-proof the food supply chain and make it more environmentally friendly.

Having pitched their projects in a bid to be included within the Tesco supply chain, the winning startups will be awarded £150,000 to scale their projects with their partner suppliers.

The Innovation Connections finals, which will decide the recipients of the money from eight shortlisted candidates, will take place later this month. The programme finalists were chosen by WWF and Tesco from 70 different applications. They are:

  • Aurea & Adrian Scripps (apples supplier for Tesco) – are developing full lifecycle crop intelligence for fruit trees, making it easier for farmers to keep track of the health and fruit load for each individual tree. The technology aims to improve yields and reduce the need for fertiliser.
  • CCm, Andermatt, FCT & Branston (potato supplier for Tesco) – are creating low carbon fertilisers which can cut potato production emissions.
  • AgriSound & AM Fresh (fruit supplier for Tesco) – have proposed a technology which uses bioacoustics to monitor pest levels and pollinators in the area. It is hoped it will help farmers protect biodiversity on the farm and increase produce yields.
  • FCT & ProduceWorld (produce supplier for Tesco) – are working on software to help horticultural growers reduce and keep track of their emission levels, develop carbon sequestration on the farm, and find ways to save on costs.
  • Chirrup.ai & Hilton (meat and fish supplier for Tesco) – have pitched monitoring technology which uses birdsong as an indicator of biodiversity in the grassland farming environment.
  • Inspro & Prepworld (supplier of prepared fruit for Tesco) – are aiming to cut down the use of soy feed in egg production by building portable bioconversion units which use insects to turn food waste into feed for chickens.
  • Future by Insects & Hilton (meat and fish supplier for Tesco) ­– are using food waste to grow microalgae which can be used as circular fish feed.
  • Harbro & Muller (milk processing supplier for Tesco) ­– are developing technology which can accurately track nutrient efficiency on dairy farms.

Tesco and WWF initially announced a four-year partnership in 2018, which aims to halve the environmental impact of the average shopper’s basket in the UK and make it easier for customers to eat more affordable, healthy and sustainably produced food.

Tanya Steele, WWF CEO said: “More than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions are driven by the way we produce and consume food, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible for farms to produce enough nutritious food and sustain farmers’ livelihoods at the same time as protecting and restoring the natural resources they depend on.

“We hope the launch of this new accelerator programme with Tesco will bring innovative solutions a step closer and help us achieve our goal of halving the environmental impacts of the average UK shopping basket.”

Tesco and the WWF are also using the launch of the programme to call on the Government not to delay the publication of its response to the upcoming National Food Strategy, which was originally due in early Spring but is now expected this month.

Ken Murphy, Tesco Group CEO said: “The upcoming Food Strategy White Paper is a great opportunity to transform our food system and enhance food security. We hope the paper will set out a process to update outdated regulations that hinder the scaling up of much needed innovations.”

They have also asked the Government to better support the acceleration of late-stage innovations which could reduce the environmental impact of food systems, such as insect protein in animal feed and low-carbon fertilisers.

On top of this, they want new incentives to be developed for businesses and consumers who are early adopters of innovations that could improve the food system.

Murphy added: “To deliver affordable, healthy and sustainable food for all, the entire food sector must innovate fast. That’s why, as well as driving improvements in our own operations, Tesco is collaborating with innovative suppliers and startups. But we also need government support, to help the food industry to scale proven innovations.

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