On Thursday, 23 June, the fourth Topsector T&U Innovation Prize was awarded. The jury declared Vertigo Technologies the winner, while Planthunters was conferred the audience award. Both winners succeeded in developing an innovative product or service that contributes demonstrably to the optimization of the value chain. The awards ceremony was held during the HeroFestival, seeded by HortiHeroes, in Amsterdam.
Chairman of the Jury Harrij Schmeitz of the Top Sector for Horticulture and Starting Materials (Topsector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen, T&U) was impressed by the entries. 'The theme of this edition was "Improving the value chain in horticulture." Previous editions focused far more on technology in the greenhouse, but optimizing the value chain is also of crucial importance to horticulture. Chain-wide systems and other innovations are precisely what is needed to help the sector move forward. The level of the entries was high. We saw a wide range of problems efficiently tackled by the participants, who came not only from the Netherlands but all over the world. The jury certainly had a difficult time choosing the winners.'
Monitoring and inspecting the freshness of fruit and vegetables are among the biggest challenges faced by growers, distributors, and retailers alike. Start-up Vertigo Technologies developed a sensor that is capable of inspecting the quality of fruit without damaging it. This new detection technology is based on microwaves, which allows you to look inside the fruit, as it were. The jury on the winner: 'Non-destructive fruit sensing is an important added value in several stages of our chain and different crops. Vertigo Technologies has taken a new technology, microwave, to solve quality management in the chain.' This technology is based on microwave measurements that, in a single measurement, quickly define several quality parameters such as ripeness stage, internal defects, and shelf life. This allows the quality of the product to be monitored throughout the chain and adjusted where necessary: from the greenhouse to the shop.
Vertigo Technologies received a voucher worth 25,000 euros for the further development of its solution or concept and/or the resolution of bottlenecks in collaboration with the research staff and students of Wageningen University & Research. In addition, the winner will receive personalized guidance from a T&U innovation broker (20 hours, worth €2,500). StartLife will provide the winning team with a wildcard for its acceleration program for agri-food technology start-ups.
Planthunters won the Audience Prize with a record number of votes. This start-up developed a digital platform for new and unusual plants for growers, exporters, retailers, and consumers on which supply and demand are brought together while maintaining the current chain. Thanks to the Planthunters platform, new and special products are now more easily accessible to everyone. The Audience Prize consists of €1,500 plus participation in the HortiHeroes Start-up Program, which provides access to the network, knowledge, and facilities of HortiHeroes and the World Horti Center. Both winners will receive media exposure worth €1,500 via KAS Magazine.
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