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Edible insects to fermented foods – Mars backs six innovative start-ups

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Mars Food Australia is throwing its support behind six food start-ups focused on innovative projects from supporting good mental health to harvesting indigenous ingredients.

The six small businesses stood out from 224 applications to Mars’ inaugural Seeds of Change Accelerator program in collaboration with Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL).

The accelerator program, which was launched in May, is designed to help fast-track growth of early stage food-focused start-upswith a particular focus on health and sustainability.

Skye Blackburn, a food scientist, entomologist, is taking part in the accelerator program with her business, the Edible Bug Shop, which is Australia’s first and largest commercial edible insect farm and manufacturing facility.

“I’ve developed robotic technology specifically for use in insect farming and implemented processes to extract nutritional ingredients from insects,” Blackburn said.

“We turn food waste which would normally go to landfill into delicious and highly nutritious food products that can feed more people with less resources more sustainably.”

Michael Fox, Plant-based Meat

Michael Fox, co-founder and former CEO of fashion start-up Shoes of Prey, has turned his focus to plant-based meat, with a range of products including slow braised beef and pulled pork made from shredded shiitake mushroom stems.

Based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Fox plans to use the accelerator program to scale up the business.

“I’m hoping to launch in a few months’ time, and then looking to scale up, so the opportunity to connect with people experienced in the food industry to help me do that is invaluable,” Fox said.

“I need to fill some gaps around product and recipe development, distribution locally and internationally, and even with things like labelling laws. Now I’ll have access to the right people who can help me in each of those areas.”

Among the other start-ups is the Australian Superfood Co from Oakleigh in Victoria, which sources native ingredients from indigenous communities to create its food products, building respect for Australia’s indigenous culture.

Spiralz Fermented Foods from Tuggerah in NSW is also taking part. Michelle Amor and Tracey Rochford use traditional methods to create gourmet fermented foods that are free from culture or preservatives, making them popular with those seeking to improve gut health.

Also taking part is Your Prep, a food company with a focus on supporting food mental health and reducing anxiety and depression, as well as Grounded, a Melbourne-based company that has produced a line of plant-based speciality cheeses using all-natural ingredients.

“The world is changing at a rapid pace with consumer needs evolving and new approaches and technologies transforming business,” Peter Crane, research and development director at Mars Food Australia and program mentor for the Seeds of Change Accelerator said.

“We hope this accelerator acts as a catalyst to help forward-thinking innovators bring their purpose-driven food-focused visions to life.”

The Australian Accelerator is part of a joint US-Australia initiative with six start-ups selected in the US and six in Australia.

In addition to a grant of up to $40,000, each of the six start-ups will undertake a tailored four-month program to grow their businesses, with face-to-face workshops and access to a team of expert mentors and advisers from Mars and across the wider Australian food innovation network.

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“We hope this accelerator acts as a catalyst to help forward-thinking innovators bring their purpose-driven food-focused visions to life.”