If the food production of the future is to be sustainable, it requires a wealth of new solutions and technologies. Agro Food Park brings together the entire industry in Skejby north of Aarhus, so they can invent the future together.
The pallet staked with liquorice drinks comes fresh from the bottling plant, and this is the first time the new soft drink has to stand the test in front of potential customers. But that does not make Omar Jarkas’ hands shake: He smiles and confidently invites visitors at the Aarhus Townhall event to taste the goods.
“The feedback has been super positive. They ask why no one has thought of it before and most say it is something they would like to buy. And that was a good sign,” he says.
Jarkas has tried his hand as a tech entrepreneur twice before, but at the beginning of the year, he reinvented himself as a food entrepreneur who develops a liquorice-flavoured soft drink with the company Liqofresh.
“The idea comes all the way from my childhood: I love liquorice, and the first time I visited my parents’ homeland, I discovered that in Syria they have a traditional drink made of liquorice root. And it surprised me: How do they know about it in Syria? I only thought it was in Scandinavia that people loved liquorice,” Jarkas says.
After falling in love with the drink himself, he brought it to Denmark, where he has drunk it for many years. And now he believes that it is time to introduce the Danes to this new kind of soft drink in the fridge.
“We love liquorice in Denmark. Now it’s time for us to not only eat liquorice but also drink liquorice” he says.
A united ecosystem in Skejby
Agro Food Park north of Aarhus has not received the same attention as fintech in Copenhagen or robots on Funen. But since 2009, the environment has grown from being a bare field in Skejby to a powerful innovation environment with over 80 companies and 1,200 employees in a Danish position of strength with huge growth potential. An environment Omar Jarkas immediately sought out after founding Liqofresh.
“For entrepreneurs, it is incredibly valuable to be in Agro Food Park. It is a strong knowledge environment where innovation takes place both in the individual companies and across the companies that are located here. The proximity makes it easy for the small companies to enter into a dialogue with the larger and established companies,” Anne-Marie Hansen, CEO of Agro Food Park, says.
The park already counts 50,000 square meters, and another 8,000 are on the way – all dedicated to the work of creating new, interesting foods and finding solutions on how to produce more sustainably in the future. And Food & Bio Cluster Denmark makes sure the impressive ecosystem has the business-relevant content to fit its impressive exterior. Not least aimed at the startup companies in their incubator.
“We meet the entrepreneurs’ needs. With our 1:1 sparring with them, we agree on the efforts needed for them to grow. It can be anything from connecting them with knowledge institutions, finding funding opportunities or testing facilities to the development of their business plan, financial planning and connection to investors,” Kathrine Lykke Kirk, Innovation Manager at Food & Bio Cluster Denmark, explains.
The cluster has more than 360 members, and 40 employees are ready to help with specific industry knowledge and a wide network. In this way, they facilitate a cross-grafting of innovation between the members.
About: Food & Bio Cluster Denmark
- Food & Bio Cluster Denmark is Denmark’s new national cluster for food and bio-resources. The cluster was created to strengthen knowledge-based innovation and knowledge collaboration across the entire value chain – in Denmark and internationally.
- The cluster has over 360 members – from young startups like KlimaMad and DeliDrop over forward-thinking scaleups like AgroIntelli and Fieldsense to industry giants like Arla and Seges.
- The cluster is headquartered in Agro Food Park in Skejby north of Aarhus and operates the incubator here, where 20 startups currently reside. In addition, the cluster has offices in a further nine locations throughout Denmark. Read more at www.foodbiocluster.dk.
Making sustainability profitable
Food entrepreneurship is many things. New soft drinks from Liqofresh or Sparkly Drinks and self-driving tractors from AgroIntelli. Wine gum made from rosé by Sweetkynd and a new method for sustainable cultivation of seaweed on land.
The latter is developed by the startup Pure Algae. Fish farming on land is gaining ground in response to overfishing in the oceans, but there is an accumulation of CO2 and nutrients in the water where the fish live. Here, the company has seen the opportunity to utilize the discharge as a resource to grow seaweed in the same cycle as, for example, land-based fish farming.
“We create circular production, where emissions become a revenue stream. We have made it profitable for aquaculture to be part of the green transition. They should not ask themselves how much it costs to become sustainable. They have to ask themselves what they can earn from it,” Esben Christiansen, founder and CEO of Pure Algae, explains.
Instead of filtering CO2 and nutrients from the water and then discharging it, the startup transfers the water to a bioreactor, where the nutrients are used to grow seaweed. Thanks to the startup’s patented system, they ensure stable and scalable growth of the seaweed, which can then be used for food or animal feed – and thus constitute a stable, additional income.
“We want to revolutionize the traditional way of thinking about food production. Instead of looking at how many resources the production takes, we want to look at how much one can regenerate through production. Among other things, by using the excess resources from fish farming and converting them into food in the form of seaweed,” Christiansen says.