The new 5,000-square-meter NICE in Sofia, Bulgaria, which has been opened to produce insect ingredients for petfood, animal feed and soil fertilizers, saw the first full production cycle at the facility take place in July 2023, resulting in the delivery of the initial batch of protein meal for pet food.
The site functions as a demonstration base where potential investors, partners, and clients can witness the automated insect rearing solutions in action, including Nasekomo’s technologies employed to manage the bioconversion processes from the insect genetic improvement as a result of its JV with France's Grimaud Group called FlyGenetics, through reproduction, egg hatching, larvae rearing, to conversion from biomass to ingredients - protein meal, insect oil, and insect frass, now produced in-house at NICE.
Franchise based expansion
Marc Bolard, co-founder and co-CEO at Nasekomo, told us that “crossing this milestone” of the first full production at NICE represented the “green light” for the project. He also revealed that the company, which is in a funding round with potential investors that is set to finish in the autumn, would be looking to expand the concept via the franchise route.
NICE is designed on the principles of vertical farms with a data-driven and fully automated platform that consists of up to 12 vertically stacked modular beds. It includes a multifunctional robot that performs all necessary actions to run the bioconversion process, an integrated environment controlling system and artificial intelligence (AI) driven automation.
“One of the objectives of NICE is to be a showroom to our future franchisees. It is open for potential partners work with us who are looking for technologies, know-how and expertise to help them grow their project,” Bolard said.
Nasekomo is looking to expand internationally through a franchise model on the bioconversion step of the process, focusing on the EU initially. It has already signed a 50:50 joint project with a partner in the center of Bulgaria, the details of which are yet to be unveiled.
One of the reasons for being able to franchise the bioconversion element of the production, he revealed, is because this is where its technology is more mature and able to “scale up.”
Bolard also revealed that the company is working on a partnership with technology company, Siemens, to develop digitalization technologies for the insect industry with specific focus on the franchise model.
He added that once it reaches critical mass in terms of production volumes, the company will look to enter the aquaculture market.