Berlin’s indoor farming startup InFarm wins Innovation Weekend Grand Finale in Tokyo



See the original story in Japanese.

Innovation Weekend is a periodical pitch competition event organized by Tokyo-based startup incubator Sunbridge Global Ventures. Preliminary sessions were held in New York, San Francisco, Berlin and Osaka this year. The top two finishers of each session were invited to pitch at the final Innovation Weekend Grand Finale 2015 event in Tokyo on December 11th.

Here are the products and the market potential of award-winning startups.

1st place winner: InFarm (Berlin, Germany)


Berlin-based InFarm has developed a production technology for growing vegetables indoors. By renovating a warehouse situated inside the city of Berlin, the company supplies urban communities with locally-grown fresh vegetables. Since vegetables are all organic, they are 40 times more nutritious than other commercialized vegetables.

As the company strongly believes that everyone should be able to consume organic vegetables, it has released a small gardening kit called Microgarden last year. It is made of plastic for users to easily grow their own vegetables at home. In the same year, the company ran a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, successfully exceeded its initial goal and raised 27,000 euros. Users can start growing their own vegetables immediately with seeds that come with the kit. All they need to do is to place the kit by a window. In addition, a plastic sheet of the kit can be recycled after usage.

2nd place winner: Agolo (New York, USA)


New York-based Agolo (formerly known as Ninoh) has developed a curated content publishing platform under the same name. Using natural language processing and a big data analysis engine, the platform automatically sorts out and reedits a large amount of unstructured data, such as reports, articles, social network posts, news updates and images. It allows media site owners to change the method of digesting information as well as to automate the article generation process. In addition, it allows them to handle real-time content-based marketing and contextual advertising.

The company secured an undisclosed sum in a seed round from Dentsu Ventures, a corporate venture capital of Japanese ad agency Dentsu (TSE:4324) in August this year.


2nd place winner: Nomiku (San Francisco, USA)


San Francisco-based Nomiku has invented sous-vide immersion circulators designed for home cooking. Sous-vide cooking is a method of slowly cooking vacuum-sealed food in controlled and low-temperature water, enabling food to be cooked properly without overcooking. Nomiku’s immersion circulators are connected to Wi-Fi to facilitate programming the water temperature based on the temperature recommended by chefs. Furthermore, users can control the temperature remotely via Internet so that they can safely leave home while cooking.

This startup was born out of Shenzhen-based hardware accelerator HAX (formally HAXLR8R) in 2012.


Microsoft Award winner: Liquid (Tokyo, Japan)


Tokyo-based Liquid has developed a new biometric payment system. Traditionally, the fingerprint authentication used 1:1 verification method that took time to identify the input fingerprint from a large number of registered fingerprint patterns. But this company has employed a 1:N identification method using deep learning algorithms. With this method, it only takes a few seconds to identify the input fingerprint. Once users are enrolled in this system, they can purchase with their fingerprints, allowing them to go out without any cash or credit card. By registering the fingerprints from two fingers, the risk of misidentifying the fingerprint is reduced to 1 in one hundred million.

This system is actually used at Huis Ten Bosch, a theme park in Nagasaki, Japan, where visitors can pay at restaurants and purchase at souvenir shops without their wallet, giving them a sense of freedom. It is also implemented at a hotel in Sri Lanka where hotel guests enroll their biometric information at check-in. After that, they can then unlock the key and purchase at partnered stores only with their fingerprints. This startup was born out of the third incubation batch by Docomo Ventures.


Japan Air Lines Award winner: Quatre (Osaka, Japan)


Quatre has built a cross-border e-commerce platform called Pukka. The company observed that many foreign tourists favor Japanese cosmetic products for their high quality. Prior to starting Quatre, the company’s founder Takayuki Yokomachi was a hairstylist. Subsequently he was working at @cosme, a Japanese leading cosmetic products portal. Pukka is now specializing in selling Japanese beauty and cosmetic products to mainland China.

The Pukka website (in Chinese)

Translated by Mariko Kobayashi via Mother First
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Masaru Ikeda