Investment in insect production hits a new level

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/metamorworks
© GettyImages/metamorworks

Related tags: BSF, mealworm, CO2 emissions

A French insect innovator gets millions in financing from global investors, while the UK government rows in behind BSF farming.

The insect feed production investment trend continues unabated, with the announcement of a massive spike in capital for French mealworm producer, Ÿnsect, and the UK government giving financial backing to a Black Soldier Fly (BSF) based demonstrator farm in the UK, to the tune of £10m (US$12.9m). 

Farine Protéines d'Ynsect 2 Copyright Ynsect
Ÿnsect protein meal © Ÿnsect

Ÿnsect today reported substantial financing from various global investors, with the company saying it has extended its Series C funding by US$224m; in 2019, the company attracted investment totaling U$148m, so the financing it just announced brings its total Series C funding to US$372m.

The new funding comes from Astanor Ventures (Series C lead investor), LA-based, Upfront Ventures, Hollywood star Robert Downey Jr’s FootPrint Coalition, existing investor Hong-Kong-based, Happiness Capital, Supernova Invest, the leading early stage investor in the French deep tech market, and the Armat Group, which is based in Luxembourg.

This investment round takes the French insect protein pioneer to US$425m in terms of total funds raised to date, which the company said is more than the total amount raised by the entire insect protein sector globally.

The capital will allow Ÿnsect to complete an insect farm, currently under construction in the city of Amiens, in northern France, which is due to open in early 2022, as well as grow its product lines and expand into North America by leveraging the support of its first US-based investors, Upfront Ventures and FootPrint Coalition.

It is also looking to grow its presence in the wet pet food sector.

With its first production unit in Dole, France, Ÿnsect has been operating since 2016. It has created a patented process for cultivating mealworm to produce a variety of protein and fertilizer products. Its flagship product is ŸnMeal. 

“The new funding and over $105M in sales contracts recognize the dramatic yield and health benefits of the Molitor mealworm,”​ said Ÿnsect, citing several scientific studies it claims have demonstrated that using its products in place of traditional animal proteins has led to a 34% increase in yield for rainbow trout, a 40% mortality reduction on shrimp; a 25% mortality reduction for seabass; and a reduction in skin disease for dogs among others.

It said its process is designed for a circular economy as it generates zero waste meaning everything which is produced is sold. “In fact, the analyses carried out by the Quantis firm show that the Ÿnfarm project is carbon negative, with a sequestered value chain and avoids emitting more CO2 emissions.”

Underpinning its process is patented protected technology, with the company having registered around 30 patents. “To date, Ÿnsect has $105m worth of contracts signed to supply customers including [the wine brand] Torres, Skretting, the largest global fish feed company, and Compo Group, the European leader in plant nutrition for gardeners.”

Making the UK a global hub for BSF farming

The feed insect revolution would appear to be really taking off in the UK; we have documented several research-based insect protein acceleration projects in that market in the past few months. Now UK based insect protein producer, Entocycle, has announced the receipt of a £10m funding package from the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) to help support the construction of the UK’s first large-scale industrial demonstrator insect farm.

Larvae-in-hands-1920
BSF larvae © Entocycle

A research consortium, led by Entocycle, is aiming to deliver a complete demonstrator system for the conversion of food waste into insect-based animal feed and biofertiliser. It will also look to prove that the farming of BSF flies is economically viable, low carbon, and scalable in the UK, while validating its safety and efficacy. 

The project involves a range of organizations from different sectors, including the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC).  

The University of Warwick, Durham University, Tesco, other insect producers, Beta Bugs Ltd and Better Origin, as well as AB Agri Ltd, ISCF Future Food Production Systems, Fera Science Ltd, and Insect Technology Group UK, are also supporting its delivery.

By 2040, the consortium intends to establish the UK as an international center of excellence for BSF farming and the development of related technologies. It aims to deliver more than 100 sites internationally and create 3,300 jobs in the UK.

Entocycle, a company with production based on BSF, was only founded in 2017. It has already attracted funding from a range of investors including Y Combinator, Mountain Nazca, DCVC, Lord David Prior and Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital.  

Keiran-Whitaker-1200 (002)
Keiran Whitaker, founder, Entocycle

Its founder, Keiran Whitaker, said that, through the use of insects, local supply chains can be guaranteed, with the early experience of Covid-19 showing just how important this will be in the future.

Significant reductions to CO2 emissions by using alternatives to the traditional feed ingredients is another goal of the consortium.  

“The positive environmental impact could be huge, helping to support the UK’s transition to a net zero carbon economy and the restoration of our natural ecosystems,”​ said Whitaker.

Katrina Hayter, challenge director of UKRI’s Transforming Food Production challenge, commenting on the project, said: “Our aim is to make the UK a global hub for BSF farming. Successful development and scaling of this technology should lead to a significant boost in recycling of food waste and a reduction in emissions."

Laurence Webb, responsible sourcing manager at Tesco, said the retailer “recognizes the significant potential of insect protein in making many of our supply chains more environmentally sustainable. The ability of insects to efficiently convert low-value waste streams into high-value protein suitable for animal feed means this could one day help to reduce the current reliance of animal agriculture and aquaculture on wild-caught fish and plant proteins such as soy.”

Mark Weir, feed performance manager at Cooke Aquaculture Scotland, added: “We are excited to bring our insight and expertise to the table as a vertically integrated Scottish salmon producer and innovative feed manufacturer.

“We develop nutritionally-balanced diets that support farm-raised fish to stay healthy, grow efficiently and thrive in the marine environment. We achieve this by utilizing feed ingredients from MSC-certified and other sustainable fisheries, combined with continuous improvement in feed formulations and delivery. 

“The prospect of an abundant, locally available, low carbon alternative is attractive and we want to help to prove the concept and work with research organizations to develop this as a practical ingredient that can be incorporated into feed supply chains.” 

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