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Founders of Kromkommer and Kipster win prize for sustainable entrepreneurship

Published on
September 24, 2018

The founders of Kromkommer and Kipster were announced the winners of the Mansholt Business Award for Sustainable Entrepreneurship (M-BASE) 2018 by University Fund Wageningen. Both companies were lauded for their sustainable approach to food production and praised for the clear message they disseminate as socially responsible businesses. The prize was awarded during the Wageningen University & Research Mansholt Lecture presented in Brussels.

The M-BASE is awarded once every three years to a successful entrepreneur who leads their business in an inspirational and sustainable way. This year, two companies were honoured with this prestigious prize in order to encourage the growth of young, emerging businesses. Kromkommer and Kipster will share the 25,000 euro monetary prize. Previous winners of this award included Jan Hadders from Dacom and Simon Groot from East-West Seeds. They were awarded this prize for their demonstrable and successful results in making a sustainable contribution to society through their businesses.

Equal rights for all vegetables and fruits

Chantal Engelen, co-founder of Kromkommer, was praised by the jury for her innovative and appealing approach to making the public more aware about food waste. Kromkommer promotes the use of misshapen vegetables and in this context makes ‘wrong the new right’. To encourage this, Kromkommer works together with the entire sector in a positive and inspirational manner through which they try to change the way that the chain thinks about quality. ‘Kromkommer believes that quality should signify a fresh, safe and tasty product instead of physical perfection and uniformity,’ emphasises Engelen. ‘After all, nature is known for its diversity, not its homogeneity.’

Engelen made it to Brussels for the award ceremony just in time after taking part in a successful guerrilla marketing event on Dam Square in Amsterdam. Here, Kromkommer placed a container with 7,000 kilogrammes of misshapen but perfectly edible courgettes. ‘This container represented the amount that a grower has to throw away every three days, because the product is not physically perfect enough to be sold in supermarkets,’ explains Engelen. But if it were up to her, her business will become redundant in the future. ‘If “wrong becomes the new right” and vegetables no longer have to be saved from being frivolously discarded, we have achieved our mission.’

Guerrilla marketing event by Kromkommer on Dam Square in Amsterdam, 19 September 2018. Photo: Judith Tielemans.
Guerrilla marketing event by Kromkommer on Dam Square in Amsterdam, 19 September 2018. Photo: Judith Tielemans.

The first climate-neutral egg in the world

Ruud Zanders, the owner of Kipster, was awarded the prize for his resilience and adaptability as an entrepreneur. Through Kipster, Zanders wants to demonstrate that responsible livestock farming is an achievable reality anywhere in the world. ‘For this we need to force ourselves to take an open approach and to dare to question matters that have come to be considered as standard,’ he explains. The animals on the Kipster farm are fed exclusively with residual streams which are often sourced from waste from human consumption, which eliminates direct competition between animals and people for food.

Using the knowledge that he gained during his youth working in the poultry sector and later during his studies at Wageningen University, Zanders started trade in Roundel eggs early on in his career. To take the next step towards sustainable production, he intensified the collaboration with researchers Imke de Boer and Hanna van Zanten from Wageningen University & Research (WUR). Professor De Boer, professor of animal production systems, is impressed by the way that the knowledge of WUR is applied to practice by entrepreneurs such as Zanders. She even referred to the utilisation of biomass by Kipster in her Mansholt Lecture about the circular agri-food system.

University Fund Wageningen

University Fund Wageningen (UFW) and the alumni office of Wageningen University & Research connect people, ideas and funds to contribute to the growth and success of the university. Therefore the fund invests in intensifying the contact between WUR and its alumni, the business community and relevant social organisations. UFW rewards and promotes excellent education and research at Wageningen University & Research. In order to encourage and reward successful sustainable entrepreneurship, the fund awards the Mansholt Business Award for Sustainable Entrepreneurship once every three years. This award is named after the former Dutch Minister for Agriculture and European Commissioner Sicco Mansholt. The prize is awarded to an enterprising alumnus from Wageningen University & Research or an entrepreneur who works together with WUR who, through their business, makes a social impact on a national or international level through their sustainable approach.