Swedish furniture-maker IKEA is right in the middle of its very first “IKEA bootcamp” startup accelerator, a three-month program the company is running with global cooperative Rainmaking. The three-month program, announced back in May, has been underway since September.
Ten startups were picked from a pool of several hundred applicants. The chosen few arrived in Älmhult, Sweden in September to work closely with IKEA and Rainmaking within the accelerator codeveloped by the two companies. The program runs until December, when the startups will show off their progress with a demo day.
It’s significant that two of the 10 companies chosen are specifically about food tech, and that a third product touches the food sector. IKEA has always been about improving the everyday, whether that’s affordable routes to smarter lighting, energy efficient home appliances, or a range of smart-kitchen devices.
IKEA’s food business is almost as famous as the brand itself. The infamous horsemeat scare in 2013 led the company to change parts of its food business. It axed Pepsi and Coca-Cola products, replacing them with Swedish fruit waters, and, in 2015, introduced a veggie version of its much-loved meatball dish.
And thanks to these startups currently hard at work, new food developments are probably not far away—starting with bugs.
One of the startups, Israel’s Flying SpArk, produces protein ingredients from fruit flies. The ingredient, which comes in powder and oil form, is rich in minerals and proteins, and fruit flies require minimal water and almost no land to farm.
“I don’t know if the future is a crispy bug ball, but I know we are going to work with lots of different partners to bring changes to our food business,” Food Services Managing Director Michael la Cour said at the recent Sustainability Summit.
Insects, of course, are getting a lot of attention of late. Michelin Star restaurant Saison now offers crickets on the menu. Meanwhile, Tesco’s outgoing executive chairman, John Chambers, got a lot of attention after his talk at last week’s Techonomy conference. He believes consumers around the globe will transition to a more orthopteran diet “definitely within 20 years and maybe within 15.”
But it’s not all creepy crawlies over at the IKEA bootcamp. Another startup is Niwa, who makes a connected hydroponic system that completely automates gardening. The technology is compact enough to fit inside a small apartment and can be controlled with a smartphone. The company is currently accepting pre-orders for the product.
Niwa, however, isn’t just another smart-home gadget for consumers. Ambitious growers can opt to build their own system. And Niwa Pro, which is considerably more complex, is aimed at those growing on a larger scale.
The other Bootcamp company deserving a mention is Germany-based Goodbag, whose product aims to eliminate plastic shopping bags. Buy a cute, tote-like bag from the company’s online store, and scan it at the checkout. For every scan you make, a new tree is planted. Bag owners also get access to discounts at participating stores. The bags work in any shopping scenario of course, but grocery stores tend to be monstrous consumers of plastic shopping bags, especially in the U.S.
Getting backing from a mega-company like IKEA shows that these concepts are, if nothing else, growing increasingly important to the conversation around food and technology. If we’re all soon bringing bug powder home in our connected totes and cooking it up with smart veggies, we’ll know IKEA chose its startups well for this inaugural event.