Chobani’s yogurt manufacturing facilities may offer the ideal location to cultivate more than bacteria—with its Food Tech Residency program, the company hopes to guide emerging tech entrepreneurs growing their startups.
Through the Food Tech Residency program, Chobani aims to support startups in food tech and play a role in improving the agriculture value chain. “We want to share our knowledge of the food manufacturing process with entrepreneurs working on solutions for the industry,” says Mitch Rubin, Chobani Incubator Program Manager.
As part of Chobani’s Incubator—a program for mission-driven food and beverage startups launched in 2016—the three-month residency offers companies access to programming covering challenges and opportunities in the food industry, a US$25,000 grant, and a community of Chobani executives, experts, and mentors. With this community, entrepreneurs can learn about the challenges specific to the food tech and AgTech—and collaborate on innovative solutions to these challenges.
The startups spend a majority of their time in Chobani’s facilities in New York and Idaho researching, experimenting, and implementing their tech innovations. In what Rubin deems a symbiotic relationship, Chobani also provides startups with necessary resources and equipment. “Whatever the founders need, be it blueprints, specs, cost sheets, energy usage, and more, we give them,” Rubin tells Food Tank. “We truly open our doors and serve as a library of sorts.”
“If we can help founders build the best products and services possible, we can make food manufacturing more sustainable and ultimately bring better food to more people,” Rubin tells Food Tank.
The inaugural class of startups, including CinderBio and Skyven Technologies, contributed to a “two-way street of knowledge-sharing,” says Rubin. CinderBio—which makes extreme enzymes for that work faster and better in intense environments—tested their sustainable cleaning enzymes on Chobani equipment. And Skyven Technologies, which uses Intelligent Mirror Array technology to source thermal energy from the sun and supply industrial boilers, identified ways Chobani could use the technology to reduce their fuel consumption.
“Allowing fresh, new perspectives from the founders into the conversations with our internal team is essential to making sure we’re considering the optimal ways to operate as a next-generation food manufacturer,” Rubin tells Food Tank.
For Chobani, supporting specifically early-stage startups—even those without experimental or finished products on the market—can help spur innovation in any industry because of their energetic approach to problem-solving. “They are galvanized by ground-breaking ideas and willing to take enormous risks in order to bring their solutions to the world,” says Rubin. After the residency, Chobani stays connected to the startups, encouraging them to keep innovating and apply their technologies to industries beyond food.
This year, Chobani is continuing to search for startups that are driven by a commitment to improve the sustainability of the food system. “We like to see an appreciation for the magical qualities of food—where it comes from, who’s responsible in making it, and how it contributes to people’s wellness,” Rubin tells Food Tank. “We want to work with founders that combine technical expertise with a mission for improving the world.”
Applications are now open for Chobani’s Food Tech Residency for fall 2019 HERE.
Photo courtesy of the Chobani Food Tech Residency program.