Agronutris raises €100m, looks to industrial scale-up at northern France site

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/John Lamb
© GettyImages/John Lamb

Related tags Insect France Aquaculture

French insect protein startup, Agronutris, has raised €100m (US$115m), including €50m of equity.

The funding will enable the Toulouse headquartered company to deploy its first industrial scale production unit in Rethel in Northern France by the end of 2022 and fund the creation of a second larger site.

This round of fundraising brought together several stakeholders, which the company said are supporting it over the long term on various levels:

  • Through 50% equity: The SPI Industrial Project Fund, managed by Bpifrance, was the lead partner on this operation, as well as Mirova, Nutergia Group, Crédit Agricole Nord-Est and the business angel Bertrand Jelensperger.
  • Through 40% long-term debt with Caisse d’Epargne Grand-Est, Caisse d’Epargne Haut de France and Caisse d’Epargne Midi-Pyrénées, CIC and Crédit Coopératif, as well as a major energy industry group.
  • And through 10% subsidies, which were provided by the French state as part of the France Relance stimulus plan (€8m) and by the Grand-Est region.

Food and feed targets 

To date, the producer has reared three species on a significant scale: cricket, mealworm (Tenebrio Molitor​) and black soldier fly (Hermetia Illucens​), while this summer saw it become the first European insect producer officially authorized to sell insects as human food in the EU.

While looking to specialize on the insects for food business, Agronutris said the commercial scale production facility will initially focus on the rearing and transformation of the black soldier fly (BSF) for the aquaculture and pet food markets. 

Mehdi Berrada, CEO of Agronutris, told FeedNavigator in March that production will be based around three products including Ultra’in, which is made up of dehydrated and defatted black soldier fly larvae, Liboost, a lipidic concentrate obtained through the defatting process applied to the larvae, Fairtil, a fertilizer obtained by the feces of the larvae.

Long-term goals

The site for the French firm's industrial operations, in Rethel, is very much at a European crossroads, close to the Belgian and German borders, with the company saying that a key factor in choosing this location is the access to multiple different sources of insect rearing substrates, including byproducts from the agroindustry. 

Its goal for its first two production sites is to convert 280,000 tons of agricultural agroindustry bio-waste each year, creating 200 jobs in the process.

The longer term objective is to establish nine production sites by 2029, which according to the startup, would have a combined annual conversion capacity of 1.5 million tons of bio-waste.

Partnership with Bühler

In March this year, Agronutris signed a strategic partnership with Bühler​ in relation to scaling up its production.  

Berrada outlined then how the benefits for the French biotech company from the partnership with Bühler were manifold, from collaborating with a partner that has already worked on the implementation of insect rearing factories, to securing an integrated approach to its industrial scale-up, where responsibilities are clearly distributed among a limited amount of partners, an approach that allows its team to focus on its core activity of insect biology.

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