Last Friday (8 September) saw the company take he first prize of US$10,000 after it and four other innovators made a pitch to a jury of industry professionals, investors, and sponsors.
Entobel, which received a grant in 2015 from an innovation program partnership between the ministry of science and technology in Vietnam and the Finnish government, said it is now on the lookout for a Vietnamese partner and investment of US$9m to take its production from pilot to commercial level.
When we caught up the co-founders and directors of that Belgium headquartered firm, Alexandre de Caters and Gaetan Crielaard, in March this year, they said their ambition was to achieve 100,000 tons a year of insect meal production by 2025.
Insect rearing on organic biomass and processing is the core activity of the company. Production is based on the Black Soldier Fly. Alongside meal and oil, its product portfolio includes live and dried larvae and organic fertilizer.
German company, Hermetia, is its technical partner. However, Entobel’s production is based in South Vietnam. It started operations there in 2013:
“Our pilot plant, with a capacity of 60 tons of fresh larvae a year, has been running for two years."
“Entobel has acquired relevant and sound production principles from its German partner Katz Biotech - Hermetia GmbH, a pioneer in insect rearing and processing in Europe. The whole process has been adapted to the Vietnamese market. Our technology is cost efficient, easily transferable and has low capital intensity,” said de Caters and Crielaard.
Entobel is looking to market its organic fertilizer there as well to support the development of organic farming in Vietnam.
The company claims its insect meal is cost competitive with fishmeal: “We focus on geographical areas with a tropical climate and competitive labor forces. We believe that is a critical factor to achieve lower production costs."
Vietnam was chosen as the company’s launch market because the Southeast Asian country relies heavily on imports to meet its feed demand and feed prices are, on average, much higher than in neighboring countries.
Moreover, with an agricultural sector and a population expected to grow at a very high rate in Vietnam, organic by-products generated will increase accordingly and ensure a steady biomass supply for its production, said Entobel.
The company is targeting segments such as aqua and poultry feed along with pet food. “Our insect meal has been shown to increase feed intake in several aqua trials,” said the co-founders.
The organizers of the Challenges were the Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal, Fresh Studio and Solidaridad. The event, they said, was aimed at bridging the gap between innovators and impact investors in the aquaculture sector.
“By 2050, aquaculture production will need to grow by another 70 million tons to meet the world’s seafood demand. The consumption and dependency on seafood for well-being has never been this high. Aquaculture presents a significant opportunity to enhance food security. Vietnam, the fourth largest aquaculture producer in the world, has demonstrated its potential, but the emergence of the aquaculture sector raises major concerns in the country. The role of entrepreneurs will be the key to creating necessary innovations for a sustainable aquaculture sector.
However, in order to realize ambitions and innovations for the sector, access to finance and capital is critically important. Finding bright minds and enabling them to realize their ambition by connecting them to finance and capital is the target of the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge.”
Other finalists in the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge included:
- Green Solutions, producing a natural antioxidant preservative (NAP) extracted from avocado seeds that can replace commercial additives used for shrimp preservation;
- ShrimpVet, making the technical value chain of shrimp farming more accessible to Vietnamese farmers;
- Verifik8, a mobile monitoring and verification software platform designed to provide assurances to seafood buyers;
- WERLWind; a low-cost and low-maintenance pond aeration system with a low environmental impact.