8.3.2024 / News

Finnish food education startup raises €0.5 million in funding and receives invitation to SDG Lab in Davos

18.01.2024

A 2021 study from the University of Turku reveals that 99% of Finnish early childhood education aged children do not eat enough fruit and vegetables on a daily basis*. The simultaneous increase in the consumption of highly processed foods is driving our society towards a number of physical and mental health challenges, as well as environmental problems. We read daily news reports about the increase in mental health problems in children and young people. Juvenile obesity is a global problem, with more than 380 million children globally suffering from obesity**. Type 2 diabetes is on the rise and eating processed food saps our gut microbiome, causing a range of chronic diseases***. There is a societal awakening, but how do we tackle such a fundamental and worsening problem in our eating habits?

This was the situation that sisters Emilia and Tuulia Järvinen discovered a couple of years ago, when they were already working on family food education. The situation had to change, and it would not be forced. They had to come up with an innovation in which children and young people, motivated by their own motivation, would want to learn more about fruit, vegetables and berries and thus add them to their plates. The idea of an app was born, using XR image recognition technologies that engage and inspire children, gamification and play to provide food education in a new environment.

These ideas led to the creation of Vegemi, a mobile app launched in summer 2022, which aims to inspire children, especially those aged 3-8 years, to learn about the link between diet and health and to add vegetables to their plates. In the light of current research, the quality and diversity of the gut microbiome is also highlighted in the prevention of lifestyle diseases and obesity, as well as in strengthening immunity and mental wellbeing. For this reason, a fictional good gut bacteria, Vegemi, was chosen as the main character of the app. Vegemi, a cartoon character who appears in the app, derives superpowers from a variety of vegetables, fruits and berries, based on EU approved health claims about the benefits of vegetables.

Vegemi’s growth has been strong, and today almost three million transactions have already been made on the Vegemi app, such as photo recognition of a fresh vegetable or feeding a digital fruit to Vegemi. The app’s ability to engage families in food education was so clear that the company decided to expand Vegemi into early childhood education. The co-development with the City of Espoo succeeded beyond all expectations and now all Espoo preschoolers have the opportunity to learn with Vegemi’s food education method. The City of Tampere is next in line to launch Vegemi for its Viskar and pre-school children.

“Vegemi is a new kind of app that appeals to children and a method developed around it to inspire children about the health benefits of vegetables and to increase their vegetable intake. The microbiome hero Vegemi and the superpowers of vegetables is an innovative way to bring the health benefits of vegetables into the world of children. It is important that we have new tools for children’s food education and for strengthening the revised Nordic Nutrition Recommendations in the everyday lives of families with children,” said Heli Kuusipalo, Senior Researcher at THL.

Vegemi’s growth strategy is based on building awareness among children and families with children, also on the retail side, and on various national and EU projects that dig deep into the problems our society is facing to improve eating habits. Vegemi’s potential to address societal problems has also been recognised globally and Vegemi has been invited to speak at Davos during the World Economic Forum (WEF). Vegemi will be presented by the UN-led innovation centre SDG Lab as one of the exemplary solutions for implementing the UN’s sustainable development goals, Agenda 2030. “Encouraging children to eat fruits and vegetables is an essential part of future sustainability. I am sure that cities participating in the UN’s Sustainable Cities Programme will be happy to find ways to implement Vegemi’s offer in their schools, hospitals and other places where children are exposed,” commented Ronald Schatz, Founder and CEO of the Global Sustainability Index Institute Foundation.

A round of funding boosts international growth

Vegemi has recently been joined by a number of prominent Finnish and international backers. Among others. Stefan Lindberg, Sophia Ehrnrooth, Matti Kukkonen and from the corporate side, Tradeka Corporations and Heino Group participated in Vegducation’s recently concluded investment round, which raised money to expand Vegemi (Vegducation Oy), which was spun off from Venner Oy into its own company, both domestically and beyond Finland’s borders. “It’s great to see how innovations created to solve societal challenges are attracting more and more interest from investors, who are willing to support companies that are working to build a better future together. Now we need action to make change happen,” said Tuulia Järvinen, CEO of Vegducation Oy.

Tuulia Järvinen, CEO and Co-founder, Vegducation Oy

tuulia@vegemi.com

Laura Holland, Co-founder, Vegducation Oy

laura@vegemi.com

Vegemi was founded in Finland, and also partakes in collaboration with the SSO supermarket chain.

The project is financed as part of the measures implemented by the European Union due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vegemi © 2024