Six reasons Helsinki is the place to grow your foodtech startup

Helsinki offers investment opportunities, research capabilities, and incubation programmes for business ideas in food tech innovation to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

4 min read

Carmen Nguyen

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International startups and investors can find unique business opportunities in Helsinki’s foodtech ecosystem

Helsinki foodtech innovations are already on people’s menus, with many more business opportunities taking root.   

The world’s most innovative technology is being created in Helsinki. Some of it you might expect, like in the communications, energy and gaming sectors, however other creations might come as a surprise. Take food, for instance. 

“Finland’s food and agriculture business is at a ‘Goldilocks Moment’ because of their high productivity, short production chains, and aggressive greenhouse gas reduction target,” explains Sameer Narula, Managing Partner of the investment firm August One. “An opportunity exists for Finnish and Nordic companies to adopt new technologies to combat climate change, increase global food security and reduce reliance on strategically challenging markets.”

What international investors are saying about Finland’s sustainable food ecosystem

Finland is not generally known as an agricultural powerhouse. The Nordic climate and stony soil don’t encourage massive fields of wheat or rice. Yet this is actually an advantage when it comes to innovations in food technology. Instead of focusing on quantity, the food industry aims for quality solutions which can be scaled up around the globe. Finland can play a major role in sustainably feeding the world. 

Narula, a former participant in the 90 Day Finn programme, believes there are excellent business opportunities in foodtech in Finland. His investment firm is currently working on a Sustainable Food Fund. He says Finland has the potential to establish itself at the centre of the European sustainable food innovation ecosystem and explains why: 

  1. Clean and available water resources.
  2. Short and transparent food chain.
  3. Talent, research, and commercial tech expertise.
  4. Nutritional and foodtech competence.
  5. Data-driven, agile, and transparent digital systems.
  6. Orientation towards a circular economy and low/zero waste.

Foundation for success

Sonja Malin, Senior Advisor, Strategic Initiatives at Helsinki Partners, agrees with Narula’s list of Finland’s inherent strengths in future food, but she also wants to stress the strong underlying foundation for innovation in Finland’s capital. 

Finland’s food and agriculture business is at a ‘Goldilocks moment’ because of their high productivity, short production chains, and aggressive greenhouse gas reduction target

Sameer Narula, Managing Partner August One

“Finland is a stable, technologically advanced society which just works,” Malin says. “It’s really a combination of things which makes foodtech innovation so powerful here. Legislation, support from public institutions, research partnerships between companies and universities, our perfect size for pilot projects, even our work-life balance. We also can’t forget the cost of investment. Investors can find fantastic deals in Helsinki!” 

The intersection of research and business

Laura Forsman, is at the centre of foodtech research in Helsinki. She is the Viikki Food Design Factory manager at the University of Helsinki. The Viikki Campus is north of downtown and houses the agriculture, forestry, bio- and veterinary sciences and pharmacy departments. It even has research fields nearby. 

“The Food Design Factory nurtures sustainable innovation in food systems,” Forsman explains. “Researchers and business people can work together to develop their ideas for market. We have scientists, innovators, and even undergraduate students who are building ideas or launching startups from here.” 

The Food Design Factory has the aptly-named Germinator programme for the incubation or even pre-incubation phase of transformative food ideas. Some of the ideas include vertical farming, lab-grown reindeer meat, and using forestry side streams in the food, cosmetic and chemical industries. 

Other novel ideas have already passed the incubation stage and have become full-fledged foodtech startups. Nordic Umami creates umami, or savouriness, for otherwise bland-tasting plant-based foods. Gold & Green specialises in oat products which are already on supermarket shelves. Gold & Green began as a startup but was purchased by a major corporation. Another fascinating company which has received international attention is Solar Foods. They are a spinoff of a VTT Research project and create food from thin air by fermenting microbes to create protein powder. 

Advice for international experts

“It’s not just the technology you can find here which helps food innovation, it is also the history and society,” Forsman says. “For example, Helsinki is perfect for urban farming solutions. We already have commercial vertical farms, greenhouse cultivation is highly developed and consumer behaviour is motivated by sustainability issues.”  

International startups and investors can find unique business opportunities in Helsinki’s foodtech ecosystem. They can look for possible funding, research collaboration, incubation facilities and EU-supported programmes. If you are interested in learning more about Helsinki’s delicious profit opportunities, the best place to start is Helsinki Partners

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