The insect producer will represent Bulgaria at the international competition, which has a total prize pool of US $1m. It will have to compete against another 29 startups from around the world.
“The Chivas result triggered a nice wave for us to ride and we'll see where it lands us.
“The impact has been tremendous for us. We have received very positive feedback and local media coverage,” Marc Bolard, Nasekomo co-founder, told us.
Chivas Venture's final will be held on May 24 2018 in Amsterdam.
Nasekomo only got up and running 12 months ago. Production is based on the Black Soldier Fly (BSF).
“We [himself and the three other co-founders] studied all kinds of opportunities around insects and we believe, that in the short and medium term, insects for feed will have the most impact on our economy and our ecology. It is a good thing the EU market is already open to insect protein in fish feed, that is our first target market.
“There is a local market for trout production in Bulgaria, but the big market we are looking at is the Greek one, which is not far from us. Sea bass and sea bream are the main fish species farmed in Greece.”
Nasekomo, which is the only insect meal producer in the south east of Europe, started at the lab scale and is now in the process of shifting to a pilot production model. It is currently closing a first round of financing for that pilot phase, which will process around 10 tons per week and is set to be online in three to six months.
“This will be a demonstration model to attract further investment,” continued Bolard.
Our inaugural face-to-face event, Feed Protein Vision, will assess the impact of insect meal for the sustainability of fish feed. Sign up for the conference here.
Further financial backing is needed to go to the subsequent stage – an automated large-scale factory. “Hopefully, that is where the Chivas competition can help.”
The target for that level of production is between 10,000 and 50,000 tons of insect meal per year. “The tonnage will depend on the input stream we find, the waste source, but this is the scale we are aiming at.”
He said the company has a very clear vision of the technology needed to scale up to industrial production. “But, course, we need more investment in R&D and engineering to design and build this industrial farm. We aim to build it around mid-2019.”
The company is using local suppliers for the pilot scale equipment but is planning to source future designs and equipment from China. “We will go to China this year to see what is happening there, either to find suppliers, a partner or inspiration. They are quite advanced.”
Nasekomo is looking to source locally in terms of wet waste streams. “We are in talks with different large scale operations in Bulgaria that produce a lot of fruit, vegetable waste or cereal by-products.”