Dairy-focused CPG Chobani just announced the chosen companies participating in the company’s 2019 Food Tech Residency, a three-month program for startups using technology to solve issues in the food system. Joining this year are Via Separations, a platform for membrane filtration, and Acumen Detection, who makes a pathogen identification system that can detect contagious disease in cows.
While closely tied to Chobani’s popular Incubator program, the Residency differs from it in a few respects. For one thing, it’s much smaller, accepting just two companies instead of the six to eight the Incubator takes. And where the Incubator works specifically with CPG startups in a curriculum-based format, the Food Tech residency brings companies to the Chobani’s facilities to work side by side with with its operations team.
There’s no one specific set of areas Chobani focuses on when selecting companies for the Residency. Rather, the company considers which challenges startups are trying to solve in the food system, the process and product by which they plan to solve them, and how valuable Chobani can be in that equation. “We decided on Acumen Detection and Via Separations because we saw how much knowledge and value we could provide for their growth, as well as their abilities to support Chobani’s initiatives around sustainability and innovation,” the company said in an email to The Spoon.
Once chosen, Residency startups get tailored programming that includes paid trips to Chobani facilities, workshops and one-to-one meetings with Chobani leaders, access to farmers and retailers, and networking opportunities. At the close of the three-month program, startups get a chance to pilot their solutions with Chobani and other food manufacturers.
For the Fall Residency, the company picked two companies to help further the mission of improving the well being of dairy cows and creating value from waste streams on the dairy farm. Via Separations, a MIT spinout based out of Massachusetts, uses membranes to process acid whey, a byproduct of many dairy items including Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, and turn it into a usable food ingredient. Meanwhile, Syracuse, NY-based Acumen Detection has a patented, portable on-farm laboratory that detects mastitis pathogens, which affect cows, in three hours or less. According to Chobani, farmers can save “over $400 per case through early detection.”
Programming for the Residency will be held at Chobani’s factories in Central New York and Twin Falls, Idaho, as well as at the company offices in NYC.
Chobani is one name on a growing list of major CPGs using accelerator- and incubator-type programs to stay closely connected to both food innovation and the startup landscape.