Hybrid HeroFestival brings tech & talent together to boost innovation in the Food and Flower industry

Naaldwijk – Last Tuesday the third edition of the HeroFestival took place. Against all odds, the event – a co-creation by HortiHeroes and ImpactCity – was not limited to an online gathering, but took place live as well. In the Louwman Museum entrepreneurs, policy makers, knowledge institutes, startups and scale-ups came together to boost innovation in the Food and Flower industry. Prizes were awarded, along with various sessions with leading speakers, both from within the sector and from other sectors. Futureproof was declared the winner of the HortiHeroes Intrapreneurship Programme and took the grand prize of a €10.000,- cheque home.

More than 100 live participants, divided in four sessions, and 250 unique live-stream viewers enjoyed the inspiring and diverse programme. The first session, TechHacks, investigated the importance of technological development and robotisation in the Food and Flower industry. Because, as Maren Schoormans (Viscon Group) emphasized in his talk: ‘This is a unique Silicon Valley, a cluster of innovation’. A nice example of tangible collaboration in the chain was illustrated by Michiel van Veen (Royal Lemkes) and Bram Verschoor (Eurogroup). Together they launched Argos, a scanner which scans trolleys of products,reads optical codes and measures plant height. A great step towards automated and data-driven order processing.

The Festival continued with TalentHacks, a session which connected innovation with the technical talent which is necessary for the Dutch Food and Flower industry to remain global frontrunners. It is important to make the sector sexy for young talent. ‘This is about people. You can motivate them by who you are as a company and how you treat your people. Give employees a sense of autonomy and purpose’, according to Chris Waalberg, managing partner at Q42.

 HortiHeroes ‘Class of 2020’

Each year, the heroes of the HortiHeroes Intrapreneurship Programme form the radiant centre of the HeroFestival. After months of training and developing their own startup, they went on the stage to pitch their concept. The jury, consisting of Michiel Roelse (Topsector T&U), Tijl Hoefnagels (Rubio VC, InnovationQuarter and FFF) and Joyce Lansbergen (LG Flowers), chose FutureProof as winner out of the five pitches. FutureProof is developing an online tool which helps entrepreneurs get a better overview of their sustainability campaigns, and to share this with their customers and employees. The founders of FutureProof, Klaas van Egmond (Delphy), Rens Peperkoorn (Royal FloarHolland) and William Sonneveld (Havecon), took home a €10.000 cheque to invest in their startup.

Shaking it up with Topsector pitches and Constantijn van Oranje

The day was concluded with the pitches for the Topsector T&U Innovation Prize, and motivating speeches by Puck van Holsteijn, director of HortiHeroes, and Constantijn van Oranje, special envoy of Techleap.nl.

Puck van Holsteijn: ‘We can’t shake hands, but today and tomorrow we can shake up the Food & Flower industry, with an ever-growing community. Our message: we need partners and talent to keep innovating the sector. Because more HortiHeroes = more innovation – more impact.’

Constantijn van Oranje (Techleap.nl) conveyed a message which connects to this seamlessly: ‘If it doesn’t happen in the Netherlands, it will happen somewhere else. Everything you need is available in the Netherlands, you just need to know where you can find it. And don’t focus only on technology. Your tech might be amazing, but that alone won’t build you a business. You need to have a market, customers, and an understanding of your supply chain. Work together with talent, both within the sector and outside it, to achieve this.’

Photo by: © Floris Heuer

Vote for your favourite for the Topsector T&U Innovation Prize

During the HeroFestival, six teams pitched their concept which contributes to further development of ‘unmanned growing concepts’ for the Topsector Innovation Prize, with as grand prize a knowledge voucher worth €25.000,-. In addition to the jury prize, an audience prize worth €1.500,- will also be awarded. You can view the innovations and vote on your favourite via www.impact2025.nl.