Regional and private funds invest €15m in French insect protein firm

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© istock
© istock

Related tags Insect protein Feed protein vision Protein

InnovaFeed, an Evry, France-based biotech company producing insect-based protein for the feed industry, has raised €15m in funding.

The round was led by Alter Equity with participation from Finovam Gestion, IRD Group’s Nord Création, and Siparex-managed fund Nord France.

We heard from Maye Walraven, marketing and business development at InnovaFeed, and one of the company’s co-founders, Guillaume Gras, about the capital raising and the firm's future strategy.

“This is our second round of investment. Our first round was in 2016, which enabled us to fund our first factory, located in Cambrai, in the north of France, and operational since October [with 1,000 ton per year capacity]. The €15m we secured in [the latest round] will go towards the construction of our second industrial site, which will have capacity of 10,000 tons per year.

“[The round was] a mix of investors and debt. In terms of the investors, there are some private funds such as Alter Equity. We found the funds that we collaborate best with are the ones that have a similar vision in terms of sustainability and in terms of their values. We are also being supported by some regional funds, which, obviously, have an interest in developing the regions in which we are implementing our production sites,”​ said Walraven.

Location of new factory

She said the company is still in the process of selecting the location of its second factory.

“We are down to three sites and we should finalize our decision in the coming weeks. The factory will either be located in the north or the east of France. The reason we are looking at different sites is that we use co-products from the agriculture industry as substrates for rearing our insects. Right now, we are looking at three different companies that could become our partners, where we could co-locate our future site next to. [The idea is] that we could benefit from synergies in terms of processes, and use their by-product as our feed.”

The by-products InnovaFeed uses as substrates, she said, are fully cereal-based; typically they could be co-products of the sugar beet or starch processing industries.

The suppliers of such substrates see many synergies in terms of heating and logistics in terms of co-location of their site with InnovaFeed’s factory, said Walraven. “Co-location is also positive for us in terms of footprint and costs. A bit of a win-win.”

FeedNavigator is hosting Feed Protein Vision​ early next month. The face-to-face event will look at developments in insect protein for feed as well as a raft of other innovative technologies aimed at widening the range of available protein sources for fish, poultry, pig and dairy farming as meat and fish consumption grows. REGISTER NOW​ ​for Feed Protein Vision, 6-7 March, Amsterdam.

Auchan trout tie-up

InnovaFeed, which was established in 2015, produces and markets meal and oil extracted from the Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia Illucens larva​, as well as fertilizer made with insect droppings.

Last October, it announced a tie-up​ with French supermarket chain, Auchan, whereby that retailer’s listed trout farmers would use meal incorporating InnovaFeed's insect protein in their production.

The farmers, located in Brittany, have been integrating the meal into the diet of their farmed trout, said Gras.

Things are moving well. We are looking to launch the insect fed trout as soon as possible,” ​he continued.

The plan is to replace all of the Auchan own brand trout in the next year with the insect fed trout and, the following year, to do the same transition with salmon. Whether that means working with Norwegian or with Scottish salmon farmers is “something we are still in the process of figuring out,”​ said Walraven.

“Current capacity at InnovaFeed is sufficient to do the transition on trout with Auchan in France​,” she added.

Positioning of insect protein industry 

Both stressed that InnovaFeed is not looking to replace fishmeal but to complement it.

“It is no secret that wild capture fish stocks are limited and won’t be sufficient to address the growing aquaculture sector, but it does not mean we are looking at replacing fishmeal."

She and Gras said it is critical that the standpoint of the insect industry should be that, through producing insect meal, it is adding to the basket of protein ingredients available for the sector, and not trying to supplant existing sources.

It is not about championing one protein source and disparaging others, they continued.

In the past week, they said some debates have positioned insect protein as a shift away from current practices of the aquaculture industry.

However, they said that InnovaFeed believes, on the contrary, that the insect sector’s development is in “full alignment with the aquaculture industry’s innovative mindset and commitment to sustainability.”

In fact, the company sees the emergence of the insect industry as “a direct result of the aquaculture industry’s effort to identify sustainable sources of protein in the face of an increasing demand from consumers and limited natural resources.”

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