Chobani said it likes to keep the FTR smaller than the Incubator because it enables them “to better explore potential opportunities to pilot with the startups.” Selected for the fall 2019 FTR are Acumen Detection and Via Separations.
The Incubator is focused on helping packaged food and beverage brands scale their businesses, and 36 food and beverage brands have participated in it since 2016. The FTR is strictly focused on startups with tech solutions to challenges in the supply chain.
Chobani told DairyReporter that the FTR brings the tech startups to its facilities to work side-by-side with the Chobani operations teams, which differs from the Incubator’s greater emphasis on a workshop curriculum.
“In addition to helping emerging natural food and beverage startups grow, we want to solve challenges along the food and agriculture value chain: from waste reduction to food safety to supply chain traceability and more,” Chobani said.
“We bring tech entrepreneurs to the front lines of food manufacturing to enable them to tap into our operations, supply chain, logistics and quality assurance expertise to build innovative solutions to the industry’s biggest challenges.”
Preventing diseases and processing acid whey
The FTR has already completed its first week of programming, and will last for three months. The startup teams do not relocate for the whole time, but rather travel to Chobani’s offices and facilities for one week each month.
“We know they are most productive at running their businesses and implementing their learnings from our visits when they are together with their entire teams,” Chobani said.
When selecting the two startups for the program, Chobani said it scrutinized how they solved their selected challenges and how Chobani can add value to them. After phone interviews, product demos and reference calls, the team chose two dairy-specific startups this year.
Acumen Detection’s products prevent the spread of contagious diseases within dairy herds via early detection, which leads to better quality milk from healthy cows. It helps generate higher profits while consuming less energy per unit of milk production.
Via Separations uses membranes to process acid whey into different food ingredients. Chobani said dairy processors can create new value from the nutritious components of the whey by using the ingredients as a revenue generator for the industry.
“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, innovation, and our Milk Matters program,” Chobani said.
Hope for future startup program collaboration
Following the program, Chobani said it actively evaluates potential opportunities to pilot with the startups, in hopes to improve Chobani’s operations and help the company become more sustainable.
The challenges Chobani is hoping to see these and future FTR startups solve include: making it possible to react to diseases closer to real time, both at the farm and at the plant; reducing the time it takes to get results from key safety or quality tests; providing farmers with opportunities to improve dairy cow well-being; and innovating ingredients and formulations to create additional value from whey streams.
“The future of dairy-focused startup programs will hopefully focus on collaboration amongst the programs themselves, and their respective startups. We are all working toward the same goal of improving the industry and helping all the stakeholders within it,” Chobani said.
“So far, there has been knowledge-sharing between us and other programs and we intend to continue supporting the entire dairy-startup ecosystem.”