Strategic local investors, as well as Western European investors, took part in this round, said the Belgian co-founders of Entobel, Alexandre de Caters and Gaetan Crielaard.
The backers were attracted by the potential of Entobel to produce large volumes of insect protein, branded as H-Meal, at a competitive price with other standard protein sources, said the co-founders. Those investors prefer to remain anonymous though, they added.
Entobel has raised US$1.8m in funding altogether, Crielaard told FeedNavigator.
The insect feed producer is in the process of completing the setup of its commercial factory in Vietnam, which is set to have capacity of 1,000 metric tons (Mt) H-Meal/year. The semi-automated factory will be ISO22000 and GMP certified, and the next few months will see the first commercial batches becoming available. Entobel said it expects the plant to reach full capacity by year end.
Benefits of operating out of Vietnam
The company made the strategic decision, some six years ago, to set up principal operations in Vietnam, citing favorable conditions there for insect rearing from the favorable tropical climate, as well as a competitive and qualified workforce, which it said allows it to reduce its capital and operational expenses.
From a sustainability perspective, energy consumption is kept low due to Vietnam’s climate - that means the company does not have to artificially generate the rearing conditions needed for BSF larvae. Also, being located in Southeast Asia (SEA), a major hub for aquaculture production, allows efficiencies with transportation, said the insect feed producer.
The Vietnamese location also gives Entobel access to an estimated 70m tons of agricultural by-products that the country generates each year. The novel protein supplier said it complies with EU standards regarding insect feedstock, sourcing only traceable plant-based by-products. It said over 100 raw materials were tested at its pilot site in order to determine the most efficient and cost-effective insect diet.
When asked to disclose the exact agricultural by-products the company is using to feed the larvae, Crielaard, however, remain tight lipped but said the idea is for the larvae to be fed the same diet all year round to ensure consistency and stability of the end products. “All ingredients we use have high traceability and are available in large quantities at several supplier sites.”
Entobel H-Meal is a 60% protein ingredient made from Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae. The meal, said the company, has been tested by international feed companies and proven to be a viable alternative to fishmeal.
“Trials have shown an increased feed intake on diets containing low inclusion rates of H-Meal (1 to 5%). H-Meal performed better than several hydrolysed fish solubles and other products used as attractant - squid or shrimp based for instance. Those trials were performed on shrimp and snakehead,” said Crielaard.
Entobel is planning to build a 10,000Mt H-Meal factory in Vietnam in 2020.
Crielaard said the company would need to raise further capital to support that intiative: "We are looking for strategic partners or investors to join for the next round, which is likely to happen this year, as we are now on track with the 1,000Mt model. We will build [the next factory] on a new site strategically located near raw material sources to limit transportation costs. The 1,000 MT model will then become our trial and training center.”
Entobel is also looking to expand into other countries in SEA and Latin America: “We believe the production system we have built is very capex and opex competitive in tropical regions. SEA is a great hub for us and we can replicate our production model in the region. Latin America is of interest as well.”