Food tech start-up Sprout Kitchens has been awarded the top honour at FoodBytes!, a dynamic food and ag pitch competition bringing together food and agri tech entrepreneurs alongside potential investors and industry thought leaders.

Held as part of Rabobank’s Farm2Fork Summit at Cockatoo Island in Sydney, the FoodBytes! event saw eight finalists chosen from a field of international applicants pitch their business idea on the main Summit stage to more than the 1000 delegates in attendance.

Established in the United States in 2015, this was the first FoodBytes! event to be held in Australia.

As the Judges’ Choice Award winner, Sprout Kitchens were singled out for their industry creativity, sustainable practices, growth potential and social innovation. They were also congratulated by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Maxima of The Netherlands who attended some of the Summit as part of a State Visit to Australia and New Zealand.

Sprout Kitchens co-founder James Jordan is excited about the win and has big plans for the popular platform that has only been running for six months.

“What started as a concept earlier in 2016 and was launched to the market 12 weeks later, has already received good traction in the marketplace,” Mr Jordan said.

“We’re basically a marketplace for kitchen space, which sees us find cafés and kitchens with underutilised space to rent out to other food businesses looking for commercial kitchens.”

The concept came to Mr Jordan through a previous business start-up.

“I started a business delivering on-demand burritos around Sydney,” he said, “and the way we were doing that was by renting out café kitchens at night time to manage the logistics of that business.

“We came to realise that the café space was really the most valuable part of our business so we decided to build a platform where we could aggregate that kitchen space and then other people could build their own food businesses off our platform.”

Manuel Gonzalez, Rabobank North America Head of Start-Up Innovation and Founder of FoodBytes! said the entrepreneurial multiplying effect of Sprout Kitchens was an aspect that appealed to the judges.

“What Sprout Kitchens will be able to do with their platform is enable new entrepreneurs to find a way of developing their product in a professional and safe environment,” Mr Gonzalez said.

“Currently there are food businesses developing their product at home without the equipment they need, but with this service they can hire a kitchen, even for a few hours if they need it.

“There is a need around the world for services like this, where there is better use of assets and I see plenty of opportunities for scalability of this product.”

The Sprout Kitchens team is also excited about the future Mr Jordan said, and has been focussing on strategic partnerships to help.

“Finding available kitchen space has not proved difficult, particularly when we explain our process of vetting customers and providing insurance,” he said, “and we currently have 45 kitchens signed-up with plenty of opportunity for more.

“Our challenge now is to reach people who want to use our space so we have started to partner with Deliveroo and other similar business that can help us in a one-to-many strategy to reach these businesses in a meaningful way.

“We hope to have a presence across the east coast of Australia and we will then look to expand globally.”

As the Judges’ Choice Award winner Sprout Kitchens receive a six-month mentoring program facilitated by McCarthy Mentoring.