Ÿnsect, the ag-tech innovator that specializes in breeding insects and transforming them into premium ingredients for fish feed, pet food and organic plant fertilizers, announced Feb. 21 that it has raised a $125 million (€110m) Series C round to scale up production by building the world’s biggest insect farm in Amiens Metropole, Northern France and develop the company internationally, particularly in the North American market. Led by Astanor Ventures -- and backed by established international funds including Bpifrance, Talis Capital, Idinvest Partners, Finasucre and Compagnie du Bois Sauvage -- this investment is the largest-ever ag-tech funding deal outside of the United States.
With a mission to tap into the natural goodness of insects at mass-market scale to help create a sustainable food system and meet the rising demands of global protein consumption – which is predicted to surge by 52% between 2007 and 2030 – Ÿnsect was co-founded in 2011 by CEO Antoine Hubert, a 36-year-old agronomist, Jean-Gabriel Levon, Alexis Angot and Fabrice Berro, with the aim of becoming the global leader in the market for alternative protein sources.
At capacity, Ÿnsect’s largest farm to date will produce around 20,000 tons of protein annually. Alongside this new facility at Amiens, the investment will also enable Ÿnsect to step up their international expansion programme by opening a new factory in North America.
The majority of Ÿnsect’s existing investors (Bpifrance Ecotechnologies, managed on behalf of the French Strategic Investment Plan, Demeter, Quadia, and Vis Vires New Protein Ventures) are participating in this latest round, which is being led by Astanor Ventures (Belgium), alongside Bpifrance Large Venture, Talis Capital (UK), Idinvest Partners, Crédit Agricole Brie Picardie, Caisse d'Epargne Hauts-de-France and Picardie Investissement (France), Finasucre and Compagnie du Bois Sauvage (Belgium), Happiness Capital (Hong Kong) and a Singaporean family office.
With global demand for premium proteins booming, Ÿnsect farms insects to make high-quality natural ingredients for aquaculture, pet food and plants, while developing an industrial-scale solution attuned to natural ecosystems.
Aquaculture plays a critical role in human nutrition, growing faster than any other protein source for human consumption. Around half of the fish we eat today comes from farmed sources. Yet fishmeal, the primary food source for farmed fish, is in crisis because it’s derived from fast-depleting ocean fish stocks.
As part of their natural diet, wild fish and crustaceans eat insects, which deliver an important source of high-quality protein and polyunsaturated fats. While competitors chose to farm other commodity-driven insects and microorganism species, Ÿnsect doubled-down on the Molitor; small common beetles known as mealworms.
The Molitor is indeed the only insect that can be raised at large scale and the sole species to ensure the delivery of premium unique products: ŸnMeal, extracted from Molitor larvae, which delivers sustainable, premium nutrition for animals and is the only product worldwide with superior and proven nutritional performance and health benefits for – among others --shrimp, salmon, trout, and sea-bass; and ŸnFrass, made from Molitor larvae castings, which is a premium fertilizer that also has proven positive effects on many different plants.
“Ÿnsect is becoming the world’s largest insect producer, whatever the species, thanks to our unique highly scalable and pioneering technology,” says Antoine Hubert, Ÿnsect CEO & Chairman. “Enabled by deep tech, the entire production process – from feeding to controlling the health and welfare of our insects, and from the sensors used for quality control to harvesting mature insects – is automated. We have 25 patents covering our technology, the products themselves and their different applications, giving Ÿnsect the world's largest insect patent portfolio. But ultimately, we need scale to have a significant impact globally, which this investment will allow us to achieve.”
Against a backdrop of a rapidly expanding animal feed market worth $500bn globally (and expected to reach $600bn in 2027) and a $200bn fertilizer market, Ÿnsect now has international commercial traction with customers across Europe and, increasingly, in Asia too, allowing the company to book $70m in orders spanning the next four years.
“By offering an insect protein alternative to traditional animal and fish-based feed sources, Ÿnsect can help offset the growing competition for ocean fish stock required to feed two billion more people by 2050, while alleviating fish, water and soil depletion, as well as agriculture’s staggering 25% share of global greenhouse gas emissions,” says Antoine Hubert. “Our goal is simply to give insects back their natural place in the food chain.”
Astanor Ventures co-founder Eric Archambeau, who is joining Ÿnsect’s board, says: “We are delighted to be leading this investment and continuing our association with Ÿnsect because of the remarkable level of ambition of its founders and the inherent scalability of the company’s production process.
These are key ingredients in a progressive agrifood tech company, which are propelling the team to deliver the impact and systemic change we look for in our investments. We strongly believe that Ÿnsect has what it takes to become a global leader in the alternative protein market.”
Maïlys Ferrere, head of Large Venture Investment and Gilles Schang, deputy director of Echotechnologies fund, explain: “This latest financing round will allow Ÿnsect to be the first player to reach full commercial scale in the insect-based protein industry for animal feed. We are excited to continue Bpifrance’s support, that started in 2014 with Bpifrance’s cleantech-focused fund Ecotechnologies, with Large Venture.”
Matus Maar, co-founder and managing partner at Talis Capital adds: “With the global population expected to grow to nine billion by 2050, current aquaculture and animal feeding practices are unsustainable. Ÿnsect taps into a huge, yet highly inefficient global market by offering a premium and – above all - sustainable insect-derived product through a fully automated, AI-enabled production process. Of the many things that excite us about Antoine and the Ÿnsect team, their 50+ years combined experience in insect farming, physiological entomology and biochemistry, we believe, is unmatched.”
While cat trends continue, the pandemic has added to overall slow-growth treatment of the cat food market.
Premiumization and humanization, as well as automation, fueled continued operation growth in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.