Wageningen University & Research: Computer chips that can smell and nomadic mushrooms win the AtlasInvest Entrepreneurship Grant

The student entrepreneurs of LumiNose won €35,000 with their “Insect Odour Receptors”: the technology that mimics the sensitive olfactory ability of insects. Furthermore, Urban Funghi, which grows oyster mushrooms in abandoned buildings, won the award for the best social initiative with impact.

Every year, the AtlasInvest Entrepreneurship Grant awards two prizes to student entrepreneurs with impactful ideas. Entrepreneurial students pitch their ideas to a jury of experts to win start-up capital for their enterprises. The winners were announced during the first day of F&A Next, an international event for large companies, start-ups, and entrepreneurs.

“A unique technology”
This year, LumiNose won the Start-Up Award worth €35,000 for the most commercially promising solution in the agri-food sector. The jury’s decision was unanimous. LumiNose won the award for their “Insect Odour Receptors”, a biomimicry technology that mimics the very sensitive olfactory ability of insects. LumiNose wants livestock farmers to use their receptors to monitor the health of their animals. “LumiNose had the best narrative, the most compelling idea that was protected the best and therefore scalable – a unique technology,” the jury stated.


To illustrate the sensitivity, development manager Saptarshi Mukhopadhyay made a reference in his impressive pitch to the WUR study in which bees were trained to smell coronavirus. By combining the olfactory receptor chips with machine learning, LumiNose developed equipment that will allow many livestock farmers to diagnose illness in animals sooner. “We are very grateful for the award,” says the team. “Now we can start the lab work and demonstrate the true value of our chip.”

Cultivating mushrooms on straw
Urban Funghi, an urban mushroom farm in Ede, won the Impact Award worth €15,000. The business grows oyster mushrooms on organic straw. Their “low-tech” setup is energy efficient and sustainable, and the company produces for local restaurants, shops, and consumers. The simple production method also makes it possible to scale up easily: it is easy to install new urban farms in abandoned buildings.

The jury praised how Urban Funghi has created “a fantastic community” around “nomad farming” with “impact on the environment”. The team was very grateful: “The award will provide us with sterilisation equipment that we want to use to tap into alternative waste streams for growing new varieties of mushrooms.”

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