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Tesco turns matchmaker for food pioneers

Pioneering start-ups in areas such as insect feed and low-carbon fertilisers are to receive funding from Tesco to fast-track sustainability innovations in the food supply chain.

The supermarket giant has launched a new accelerator programme in partnership with WWF which pairs innovative start-ups with long-standing Tesco suppliers like Hilton and Muller to help scale up ideas and technologies that can help cut the environmental impact of food and support UK food security.

Tesco said applicants would have the opportunity to apply their ideas in a real world environment, which has historically been a barrier preventing promising sustainability innovations from being adopted at scale.

Winners will receive up to £150,000 in funding support. Applicants include InsPro, whose portable bioconversion units use insects to convert food waste into chicken feed and reduce the use of soy feed in the egg supply chain; and CCm, Andermatt, FCT, a partnership producing low-carbon fertilisers to reduce the footprint of potato production.

Tesco has also called on the UK government to do more to unlock innovation in UK food supply chains and support innovations to market readiness, not just at the seed funding stage. Specifically, it is asking that the government set out timelines and a process for updating what it described as “outdated regulations” that hinder the scaling up of late-stage innovations such as insect protein in animal feed or sustainable low-carbon fertilisers, and to create incentives for businesses and consumers who are early adopters of new food system innovations.

“To deliver affordable, healthy and sustainable food for all, the entire food sector must innovate fast,” said Tesco CEO Ken Murphy. “That’s why, as well as driving improvements in our own operations, Tesco is collaborating with innovative suppliers and start-ups. But we also need government support, to help the food industry to scale proven innovations. 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 We hope the paper will set out a process to update outdated regulations that hinder the scaling up of much needed innovations.”