Demo, accelerate and incubate: FEED-X is ‘taking away excuses to act’ on sustainable innovation

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© Invertapro
© Invertapro

Related tags Insect algal oil procurement SCP sustainable

Aquaculture was the initial focus of FEED-X, under Project X, an initiative working to accelerate the adoption of environmentally sustainable solutions within global supply chains; a subsequent cycle will look to speed up feed innovation in the poultry and/or pet food sectors, says the CEO.

The Project X team is in the process of mapping those supply chains, qualifying which one would need more imminent focus or whether they can be tackled in parallel. 

Pet food’s footprint in terms of oceans and land is huge, poultry's is high in terms of volumes, said Project-X CEO, Marcela Navarro.

The current portfolio of companies that have benefited from their involvement in the aqua feed cycle of FEED-X can be leveraged in this respect: “Most of our current innovators are absolute fit for purpose beyond aqua,”​ she told us.

Those innovators include, among others, Protix, InnovaFeed, Veramaris, NovoNutrients​, and Unibio. Their novel ingredients - from insect meal, to algal oil to single cell protein - are being evaluated by the lead partner in the FEED-X initiative, fish feed manufacturer, Skretting. 

"Ingredients for aquaculture feed form one part of a complex, global value chain, and getting novel ingredients into this value chain can be massively accelerated when you have buy-in across multiple points. This is one of the major achievements and benefits of FEED-X, they are bringing together many players across the value chain to foreground innovations, generate tangible traction in their uptake at scale, and ultimately drive systems change,"​ said Max Swinscow-Hall, CEO, BioKind​.

However, the next phase of the feed challenge will also see new innovators being curated and selected; the new cycle will build on the learnings from the past few years of the Project X initiative, said the CEO. 

Unibio's technology © Unibio

FEED-X is focused on speed, compression of time, de-risking or mitigating the risk of sustainable alternatives to unlock procurement at scale, investing heavily in research,  building supply chain confidence and then start scaling-up innovation.

The ultimate goal of the feed challenge is to move 10% of global feed production – 107 million tons – to the use of sustainable ingredients. But the risks and conditions in the supply chain don't always make it easy for buyers to adopt sustainable feed alternatives, said Navarro.

By looking at the system, by taking a non-linear response, like we do, it is easier to identify intangible risks in the supply chain."

"In our experience we see that significant change can happen effectively only when the entire value chain choses collectively to push in the same direction, we believe that FEED-X is an ideal mechanism to do just that," ​said Alexander Solstad Ringheim, CEO, Invertapro. 

“We take away excuses to act at a coordinated level, through procurement, investment and knowledge. We verify and provide the market opportunity in one program. We don’t just look at the research, we don’t just look at the innovation challenge, or the technical validation, the external verification or lifecycle assessments in isolation - we bring all of those elements together to de-risk the transition.”

NovoNutrients protein meal 2020
NovoNutrients' protein meal © NovoNutrients

The first cycle worked as a kind of demonstrator of that: “The program has been proven if you like​. We now see that the buyers are willing to buy and investors are willing to invest."

The Top 10 innovators under FEED-X, which were selected in September 2019, have made a lot of progress since then, even if COVID-19 somewhat slowed down development, she said. 

“They are moving to test, producing the volumes required, and they are also being supported on the funding side of things - we will see more in relation to that when we close some investment deals, most likely in November.”

"The ‘chicken-egg’ challenge [or ‘beetle-egg’ challenge] of the alternative protein sector is that customers demand stable production capacity before signing a contract, but insect companies need to show customer demand to build and finance the growth of their operations. Through FEED-X, Beta Hatch has been able to establish relationships with customers like Skretting and IKEA who are willing to take the risks of supporting novel ingredients,"​ said Virginia Emery, founder and CEO, Beta Hatch. 

Demo, accelerate and incubate 

The Project X team is creating the mechanisms for the cycles of demonstration, acceleration and incubation to remain in the system, to optimize the identification, curation, selection and adoption of sustainable innovation in supply chains, said the CEO.

“We fundamentally believe in partnerships. We don’t want to be the ones controlling the knowledge. We subscribe to the right knowledge and we pass this on to the different stakeholders in the system. We work with the best universities on the de-risking side, the best consultants with the specific knowledge in the sector, we work with the leading buyers and mission aligned capital."​ 

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