The start-up’s production is based on black soldier fly (BSF) larvae. While the R&D and sales side of nextProtein operates out of France, production takes place through a subsidiary in Tunisia.
The financing was led by a group of investors coordinated by Blue Oceans Partners, including Telos Impact and RAISE Impact, with support from Mirova, an affiliate of Natixis Investment Managers, through the Althelia Sustainable Ocean Fund, Kepple Africa Ventures and Aucfan Incubate Inc.
“We wanted to be surrounded by investors with a long term and sustainable impact vision,” said nextProtein CEO, Mohamed Gastli. He co-founded nextProtein with his partner and fellow Tunisian, Syrine Chaalala, in 2015.
The company continued to operate and sell during the COVID-19 lockdown, and the funding round was finalized during the period as well. “Investors understand even more now that supporting strategic companies, those involved in agritech or agrifood, is critical.”
The latest funding will go towards extension of the facility in Tunisia’s Cap Bon region. “It will allow us to triple the surface of the current plant. Then, in the next three years, there will be a second and a third plant elsewhere, either in Asia or Latin America,” Gastli told us.
The capital raised will also go to bolstering nextProtein’s workforce and accelerating its research and development program.
Low cost manufacturing model
nextProtein’s production location in North Africa enables low cost manufacturing, particularly on the energy input side but also in terms of sourcing readily available and inexpensive plant-based substrates, said the CEO.
With those production operations outside the EU, the company recently managed to secure approval for its products under the EU Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES), allowing it to export its insect feed ingredients to all member countries of the EU.
“That was a very difficult process. We got the certification in February 2020. We will start shipping product to European clients this summer,” commented the CEO.
Canadian insect protein company, Enterra, received similar approval back in 2018.
Since 2015, nextProtein has attracted funds from a wide range of high-profile investors including Xavier Niel’s Kima Ventures, Khaled Helioui, an early investor in Uber, Deliveroo and OpenClassrooms, and Cyril Grislain, an investor in Stripe, Devialet and Headspace.