How a start-up helps achieving food chain sustainability

31 Maret 2020

Founded in 2011, Evry-based Ÿnsect supplies protein produced from farmed insects to be used in fish feed, fertilizer and pet food. Having raised $125 million in funding from private investors last year, the company is currently working on increasing production to 250,000 metric tons of insect protein per year and has signed $100 million worth of contracts with feed, fertilizer and pet food companies.

Using insects as a source of protein is a logical step in increasing the sustainability of global food chains at a time when other sources of protein, such as fish, soybeans and corn, are either becoming depleted or are blamed for large scale soil degradation.

While the company currently focuses on providing insects as feed for industry rather than human consumption, the idea is popular with environmentally conscious consumers. With five metric tons of fish protected for every one metric of insect protein used, Antoine Hubert, one of Ÿnsect’s founders, claims that “the sustainability and natural angle, [is] key for consumers and they really appreciate it”.

In June 2019, Ÿnsect also secured €20 million worth of backing from the European Commission and the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI) to build the sector’s first fully-automated, sustainable, bio-based protein plant. The project, coined FARMYNG, will be based in Amiens, France, and will be able to produce roughly 20,000 tons of insect protein per year when run at full capacity.

The whole production chain is modeled on a circular economy and zero-waste. Molitor larvae consume organic matter and the insects require less space, less water and less earth to grow and is consumed by a vast range of animals. Set to open in 2021, the Amiens plant will use vertical farming techniques to save both energy and space and will bring the EU one step closer to reducing reliance on large scale protein imports.

With the global population set to reach approximately 10 billion by 2050, food production will need to increase by 70% according to the UN. With rising demand for animal protein and its adverse impact on the environment, alternative protein sources will be a key factor in ensuring food chain sustainability.

Image credit: T.K. Naliaka/Wikimedia

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