Brisbane's Future Food accelerator returns to help local innovators scale globally

Brisbane's Future Food accelerator returns to help local innovators scale globally

Urban farming company Airgarden, founded by siblings Tom (left) and Prue Bauer (right), is one of 10 companies that will be assisted by the Brisbane Economic Development Agency’s (BEDA) Future Food global accelerator in 2023. 

A Brisbane-based food business accelerator that has supported the likes of fermented food staple Kehoe's Kitchen and coffee empire Merlo is back for its 2023 instalment, with plans to help 10 local food suppliers and innovators scale and export to new markets. 

Since 2018 the Brisbane Economic Development Agency’s (BEDA) Future Food global accelerator has assisted more than 400 businesses, generating an estimated $480 million in economic activity between new local job creation, capital expenditure and capital raised.

Participants in 2023 cover a wide range of niches, from dairy-free cheese to aeroponic gardening systems, composting technology to jerky manufacturers, and more.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said supporting local suppliers was crucial to business investment, as well as retaining and creating jobs, in the Queensland capital.

We are committed to ensuring Brisbane continues to be the most small-business friendly destination in Australia,” Cr Schrinner said.

"Brisbane has all the right ingredients for the food industry to thrive: fresh, locally grown ingredients, advanced manufacturing capabilities and port access to some of the world’s largest markets.   

"We want to make sure Brisbane suppliers can grow their impact locally, and scale globally, by connecting with networks and buyers that can fast-track products to the market."

As part of the initiative, businesses participate in an eight-week global readiness accelerator facilitated by industry leading experts and Queensland University of Technology (QUT). 

Past participant Alexander Bell, director of Milton Rum Distillery, said the program had helped him connect with key investors and contacts in the food space.

"BEDA were able to help us build our network and find our collaborators," Bell said.

"It allowed us to turbocharge our growth, so rather than struggling with the challenges of growing a small business all by ourselves, we had access to networks and data we would never have had access to before."

Food, beverage and grocery manufacturing generated $27 billion in turnover for Queensland’s economy in FY21, employing over 52,000 people and producing $7.4 billion in exports, according to a report from the Australian Food and Grocery Council.

Brisbane City Council granted over 8,300 food business licences in 2022, including 548 for bakeries, 264 for mobile food, 615 for food manufacturers and 48 for beverage bottlers.

The figures show industry has rebounded since licence numbers dropped to 7,813 in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet the BEDA Future Food initiative's 2023 cohort:

Airgarden

After discovering aeroponics, an emerging technology developed by NASA that hadn’t yet reached Australian shores, Brisbane siblings Prue and Tom Bauer developed Australia’s first locally made retail aeroponic gardening system to make gardening simple for everyone. Airgarden utilises aeroponic technology to grow plants three times faster, yielding three times more produce with no soil, and cutting water use and space by 95 per cent. The business currently provides solutions direct-to-consumers and residential properties, schools and commercial operations, retailers, and distributors around Australia.

Beutific

Founded by Paulina Mahini and a team of professionals with over 50 years of experience in scientific formulation, product research, design and development, Beutific offers consultation and product research for skin care and nutraceuticals.

Dairy Free Down Under

Founded by husband-and-wife duo Jenny and Kevin Flanagan, Dairy-Free Down Under creates vegan cheeses and sauces, from “mozzarella to parmesan”. With more than 30 years of food manufacturing experience, they work with some of Australia’s best known supermarket chains, such as Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, and IGA, food service channels and supply overseas, exporting to approximately 12 countries.

FareShare 

FareShare, whose Brisbane offering is heading up by Fiona Maxwell, rescues food waste and, with the work of volunteers, transforms it into healthy, nutritious meals to feed people who are food insecure. Operating one of  Brisbane's largest non-profit kitchens, FareShare's multi-million-dollar facility can allow for 750 meals to be cooked at a time. The entity has recently developed an innovative range of shelf-stable meals designed to be distributed to remote First Nations communities and used in disaster response and crises. The meals are at the pilot stage and will be made through freeze dry and retort technology.

GreenSky Organic

For years, GreenSky Organic founder Sky Hunt saw food as just fuel and shied away from vegetables due to their bitter taste and unappealing texture. But when a persistent cold left her feeling drained and unable to work, she stumbled upon a green smoothie that changed everything. It inspired her to make her own 'veggie pods', launched in 2018 in Brisbane to help busy people care for their health quickly and conveniently.

Jim's Jerky

Manufacturing dried and seasoned meat snacks from 100% quality Australian beef, Queensland graziers Jim and Cathie Tanner founded Jim's Jerky in 2004, but it was in 2015 that their daughter and now CEO Emily Pullen joined to take the family business to the next level. The company now sells to more than 300 stockists around Australia, manufacturing a wide selection of red meat products such as jerkies, biltong, sausages and kids’ meat and vegetable snacks.

Jorgji.com

Owner Ross Fazal started Jorgji systems to save money and save the planet. Australians send over 7.5 million tonnes of food waste to landfill every year, producing methane, the leading gas inducing climate change. Jorgji has developed an anaerobic reactor based composting system that achieve a 90 per cent volume reduction of waste, and eliminates methane with the use of air filtration technology. Units are odourless and space efficient and ideally located at the source of waste generation – back of house at shopping centres, food producers and commercial kitchens.

Lang's Gourmet 

Kathryn and Mark Lang founded the business Lang's Gourmet, which offers 30 all-natural, gluten-free Australian products such as gourmet jams, chutneys, sauces and dressings.

Optivance

While raising her own family, Meredith Beil spent 20 years serving her community as a local pharmacist before pursuing her passion for nutrition, founding Optivance which sells nutrient smoothies for expectant mothers, as well as toddlers. Her goal was simple and continues today: "To create products I would be happy nourishing my own family with". Optivance distributes to more than 300 pharmacies.

Pakko

Founded by Nina Nguyen in 2017, Pakko produces bespoke cardboard packaging for products of all shapes and sizes. With fast lead times and 12 days or less turnaround, all materials are sustainably sourced, eco-friendly and 100% recyclable. The company designed a cutting-edge interactive 3D design platform - an Australian first for an online platform -  where customers can design and get instant quotes.  

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