Bulgarian start-up, Nasekomo, which converts organic waste streams from the agro-industry into animal feed by harnessing the power of the black soldier fly larvae, has raised €4 million in its latest round of funding. Since its inception, the company has secured a total investment of €5 million to develop its technologies.
The VC funds Morningside Hill and New Vision 3, backed by the Fund of Funds in Bulgaria, both led the latest round. Nasekomo will use the money to further expand the deployment of its proprietary robotised insect rearing technology that produces an alternative protein for animal feed. By feeding insects with local agricultural bi-products, the company says its technology contributes to creating an ‘environmentally positive’ local loop.
The new investment will allow Nasekomo to grow its presence on the market and increase its productivity via the use of robotics and data analytics. It will also launch a new selective breeding program to further improve the efficiency of how it transforms waste into insect-based products.
Robotized insect rearing technology to feed fish, poultry, pigs and pets
The company believes its proprietary robotized insect rearing technology and selective breeding programs will enable it to produce premium insect protein meal in volume and at a competitive price to supply European markets. Despite being incorporated only three years ago, Nasekomo is already scaling up its insect rearing facilities currently in operation. Their expansion will enable the company to implement a circular economy on a much larger scale.
“We have spent the last three years developing unique solutions for the insect rearing market,” said Marc Bolard, Nasekomo’s co-founder and technology lead. “Nasekomo has leveraged robotics, AI and big data, which allow us to produce insect protein efficiently. We will not only be competitively producing large volumes, but also addressing the challenges of our world related to animal feed,” he continued.
“Insects are part of the natural diet for many animal species,” added Olga Marcenac, Nasekomo’s co-founder. “They now represent an opportunity to become a sustainable solution to supply the proteins that the world is increasingly consuming. Instead of increasing wild fish catch in oceans and deforesting to plant soy, we can feed insects with local agricultural by-products with extremely limited water consumption, and produce high-quality sustainable proteins for fish, poultry, pigs and pets. This local-loop vertical farming has clear environmental benefits and will build greater resilience of the European food chain. Thus, our business model is not only profitable but will have massive positive impacts on society in the long term.”
“We are thrilled to support an experienced team of entrepreneurs with several highly successful enterprises under their belt,” noted Pavel Velkov, managing partner, Morningside Hill Ventures, which led the deal. “In their newest venture, Xavier, Olga and Marc will change the paradigm of protein production by transforming residual biomass into feed. In these challenging times, we believe it is paramount to invest and grow businesses which address some key challenges within our society, namely climate change and food chain sustainability. In addition to its sustainable development impact, the business provides a great investment opportunity.”
“We were impressed by the shared vision of Xavier, Olga and Marc to sustainably tackle the global problem of ever-increasing protein consumption and the resulting supply-demand gap that puts a tremendous strain on the environment and its resources,” added Yordan Zarev, partner at NV3 Fund. “Nasekomo brings AI-enabled automated solutions to enhance the sustainability of the agriculture sector, which has great potential in the region. By integrating robotization into insect farming, we are putting Bulgaria ahead on the sustainable biotech innovation map in the region and globally.”
“We are delighted to have two Bulgarian investment funds, Morningside Hill Venture and New Vision3, supported by the Fund of Funds in Bulgaria as the leading investor in both funds. Several private investors comprised of prominent entrepreneurs and business leaders from the UK, France, South Africa and Bulgaria have also joined the round. Nasekomo’s technology will become the global standard. We are already in advanced negotiations with multinationals to roll out jointly-owned units in Europe and Asia which will produce aggregated 100,000 tons of insect protein by 2026,” concluded Xavier Marcenac, co-founder.
Interest in insect farming among investors continues to grow: A March 2019 report from Meticulous Research in the US placed the value of global insect nutrition markets at just under $1 billion and forecast a value of US$7.96 billion by 2030. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is expected to average 24.4% by value and 27.8% in volume terms.
Read more on the challenges and opportunities posed by insect farming.
Marc Bolard, Nasekomo’s co-founder and technology lead: