A smart capsule – known under #microcapsula – was the beginning of a new approach in agricultural and biotechnological production five years ago, when Marko Vinceković initiated the idea of a personalized nutrition production. Four years later, in 2018, Marko founded Makabi. With Makabi, he not only wants to reduce the use of agrochemicals in agricultural production but also wants to take responsibility as a scientist for social problems.
Scientists must take responsibility.
“There is a huge need to connect academia and society. Academia is a very closed system with all these projects, articles, journals and conferences, but after publishing your research, that’s it. And that is a problem: A lot of scientific research caused social challenges or even problems that we still face today. For example, plastic was a great invention, but it also caused huge environmental problems. Scientists back then didn’t think their invention would cause such a big problem and now science is in responsibility to solve these problems. In my opinion, a scientist needs to be responsible for society and needs to solve problems society has if you can solve them. Your research must connect somehow with society. Only in that way, you can produce new products or solutions which could be applied in everyday life.
That is why I started the investigations about a microcapsule that can be used in agroecological production. In 2018, I founded Makabi, which is very important for a connection between academic research and social use of this research.”
We all need to eat. But we all need to eat healthy food.
“We can detect an extensive usage of agrochemicals like pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers. But this extensive usage has a very negative impact on nature, environment, pollution and also human health.
We all need to eat – But we all need to eat healthy food because food is the source of our health. A large amount of food on the market has chemicals inside. The problem is, we eat this food every day. That is why an interdisciplinary team that I led started to research about fertilizers of certain plant cultures. And that is also why I founded Makabi.”
From Tomatoes and Cannabis to Strawberries: Makabi’s Microcapsules.
“Makabi is working on new formulations for plant protection and nutrition. We are working on microcapsules which are filled with microorganisms and chemical agents, with synergistic effects. In one capsule, we have plant protection, plant nutrition and other mechanisms. We are applying these capsules on different plant cultures and got very good results. In the last months, we had about ten clients from all over the world who tried our formulations on tomatoes, cannabis, strawberries and so on. We produce our formulations mainly for certain clients, who are ecological producers and like to test new technologies on their own plant cultures. So far, our clients got really good results.
Our microcapsules increased the level of secondary plant’s metabolites. We also try to decrease the usage of chemicals in agriculture. We want to make an effort in the production of functional food with many bioactive components, which can have a good impact on human health. This is the main focus of Makabi Agritech that we search and develop.”
Ten people. Eleven Months. One Company.
“My personal background is in the area of polyelectrolytes and surfactants – I am a chemist and finished my Ph.D. at the University of Zagreb Faculty of Science. My main focus is in the field of encapsulation of different bioactive components for plant protection and plant nutrition. I founded Makabi in February 2018. Makabi’s team consists of ten people, all with a scientific background and all having expertise in different fields of biotechnology, food processing, plant nutrition, encapsulation, agroecology and organic syntheses. Some of them were from the same faculty as I was, so we already worked together before Makabi, the others found their way to Makabi later in 2018.
We see ourselves as a search- and development company, which can connect with other partners in areas of biotechnology and agriculture. I am very satisfied because in these past months we learned a lot. Even though Makabi is a really young start-up, we already won some awards: The start-up factory award Connect Zagreb. The award from the private Hochschule Frankfurt, the Climate kick accelerator. During these months, we learned a lot about how to set up a business, form a business plan to economical information about start-ups. I am very pleased that I started this journey of founding a company because I learned so much and helped other people a lot.
We still are looking for partnerships with different companies on the market, which are interested in new technologies and in the area of developing new products.”
The magic will start when you leave your comfort zone.
“It is not hard to set up a company, but everything that comes with setting up a company is hard. For example, there are a lot of administrative problems and problems connected with the economic part of the business. I wasn’t experienced and had to learn a lot about business. You can say, founding a start-up is a good school.
But you don’t need to be afraid of anything. You need to dream your dream. You need to be stubborn. When you work a lot, when you have a good team and a good idea, you will succeed. That is the whole point of founding.
Many people have the same idea. So you need to be the first who will present this idea. This will help you to develop your idea further. You need to be fast and careful of your ideas.
If you are too strict with your plans, but your plans don’t work out, you will be depressed. That is why I don’t have strict plans for my future. Anything that happens, will happen. I think that is a unique behavior of myself. I think, in the end, everything will be great. And if I don’t succeed with this company, I will succeed with another company.
You need to see the good things in life, even if things are bad right now. And you can learn a lot from bad things. I was very scared before founding Makabi, but without it, I wouldn’t have learned all these things. You need to be an optimist. The magic starts when you leave your comfort zone.”