The start-up company Refarmed was one of three start-ups that won E.ON Denmark’s accelerator program #accelerateCPH in 2016. As a result, Refarmed was invited to sit inhouse with E.ON in Copenhagen for three months in spring 2017. During that period Refarmed and E.ON worked intensively to mature and refine Refarmed’s business and investment model. Refarmed is now close to establishing its first sustainable and building-integrated greenhouse solution on the rooftop of Field’s, the biggest shopping center in Copenhagen, with E.ON as investor and energy partner.
Refarmed and E.ON have joined forces to change the way food is produced and distributed to retailers. In the future, shopping centers and hypermarkets will have a high-tech, full-year greenery solution on the rooftop that utilizes not only renewable energy, but also surplus energy and resources from the entire building. In this way, surplus heat, local rain and sewage and composted biomass will be transformed on site into fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, strawberries and fish that will be delivered just in time on the shelves in the super market.
Refarmed plans food production in cooperation with hypermarkets based on long-term sales agreements that will guarantee Refarmed stable earnings.
Close and trust-based partnership
“We did not quite know what to expect when we moved in with E.ON. The program soon developed into a close collaboration, where we were constantly challenged. We were given full access to E.ON 24/7 and we established a very close trust-based relationship, especially to our closest partners in E.ON’s innovation department. It was truly inspiring,“ says CEO and Co-founder of Refarmed, Camilla Enge, about their participation in E.ON’s accelerator program.
Today, some six months after the accelerator internship with E.ON, Refarmed has come far closer to realization of their dream and vision. This is particular due to the partnership with E.ON, who not only has given Refarmed a capital injection, but also has become the concept’s collaborator and energy supplier. The final partnership agreement with E.ON has just been signed and according to Camilla, all previous work has been a good process because of a close and trust-based teamwork with E.ON.
“The way we got access to E.ON, and how they got involved with us, is rather unique. We now know each other in depth. Along the way we have asked E.ON thousands of questions, which they helped us to understand and they also got us to think about our investor strategy and business model. It also means that we have full confidence in the partnership agreement, which we have now concluded, “explains Camilla.
A holistic concept
At the same time, E.ON’s Chief Innovation Officer, Lars van Hauen, has been appointed chairman of Refarmed.
“As an energy company we look at aspects beyond the actual energy part. We are interested in projects with a holistic sustainability focus, where we can also play a role. Refarmed has conceived a promising circular concept with a scope that is also a learning process for us. It is out of the box thinking, and Refarmed has found a new way where everything fits nicely together,” explains Lars van Hauen when asked about the process that has evolved into a commercial partnership.
According to Camilla Enge, Refarmed’s circular approach should not only be regarded as sustainable vegetable and food production, but rather seen as a holistic zero waste solution. Therefore, she believes E.ON is the right partner.
“As an energy company, E.ON has proven to be a strong partner because our vision is centered on reusing resources and producing energy for food production. E.ON has been an important resource of knowhow to draw on in order to get the energy solutions and business model fitting nicely together. Finally, it is also important that E.ON has the financial muscles, which gives us new opportunities.”
Strong combination of fresh food, customer experience and storytelling
Refarmed’s first retail customer is the hypermarket in Field’s, and there are several major customers in the pipeline. Refarmed’s business customers are particularly interested in the strong combination of experience economy, fresh food and the storytelling about circular economy.
E.ON is also excited about the first production unit expected to launch in 2018.
“Especially from our biogas business we have experienced a high demand for the entire experience value of green energy and sustainability. People are very curious and want to understand how resources can be recycled in new ways. Therefore, this concept, besides its sustainable footprint, has an important storytelling value. We look forward to seeing this utilized in other zero waste projects in the future and to working with Refarmed.”
It will be possible to visit Refarmed and their production facilities on the roof of Field’s in 2018.