Wilbur-Ellis venture arm invests in mealworm production

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© istock
© istock
Beta Hatch, a Seattle, Washington-based insect meal production company set up in 2015, has received backing from Cavallo Ventures, the venture capital arm of US agribusiness company, Wilbur-Ellis.

Founder and CEO of Beta Hatch, Dr Virginia Emery, said Wilbur-Ellis' connections to supply chains and customers will allow it to make the most impact in animal feed and agriculture.

"This round of fundraising will allow us to build a precommercial facility where we can demonstrate the full processing capacity of our system and design a commercial facility. Within a few years, we will be producing several tons of product each day,​" she said.

Beta Hatch grows insects - mealworms - for animal feed and produces insect manure – frass - for fertilizer. It said its mealworms comprise 50% protein and 25% fat.

The company is currently looking at the benefits of transforming spent brewery grain into insect feed for its farm, and evaluating how insect exoskeletons could be used for bioplastics, pharmaceuticals and other sectors.

First feed investment

The investment represents Cavallo’s first investment in the feed industry.

Wilbur-Ellis, which markets and distributes agricultural products, animal feed and specialty chemicals and ingredients, launched its ventures division in 2016.

In an interview with AgFunder​ in March last year, Cavallo outline how it was looking for investments and partnerships that are relevant to Wilbur-Ellis’s existing portfolio.

In the animal feed categoy, it said innovations in terms of animal nutrition, specialty grains, pulses, and fishmeal were potentially of interest.

Investments may result in an acquisition, but Wilbur-Ellis is also happy to remain a long-term investor:

“On acquisitions, we don’t go in with the notion of investing first, and then buying later; we go in thinking this is a great team and we’re excited about the tech they’re building; let’s see if we can help them with distribution.”

Cavallo signed off on a distribution deal between Wilbur-Ellis’ agribusiness division and HydroBio in 2016. That technology player uses satellite imagery analytics to help farmers conserve water and maximize yields.

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