Entocycle, a UK startup providing technologies and services for the insect farming industry, has raised $5 million in a Series A round from a pool of climate-friendly institutional and athlete angel investors.
Why it matters
There is a lot of research that points to the significant growth of the insect protein market, albeit with different projections. This is not surprising given the challenges related to food waste – a typical feed stream for beneficial insects – and the increasing demand for sustainable protein for animal and human consumption. A popular insect, the black soldier fly, has an industry forecast of $3.96 billion by 2023.
New insect farms spring up around the world every year, many of which are covered on AFN’s pages like here and here. But it’s been a long road for even the most well-funded of these farms, with challenges to balance economics with advances in technology and real-world operations, much like we see in the vertical farming industry today.
Entocycle is not a farm; Instead, it’s a tech company aiming to help insect breeders — especially black soldier flies — be more efficient by providing them with a range of precision counting, sorting, and automation devices.
According to Entocycle, it’s difficult for humans to manually manage billions of insects at different stages of their lifecycle, but accuracy is key to running a successful insect farm. For example, accurate animal counting affects how much feed is used, which affects profitability. Forage levels also affect the quality standards and nutritional requirements of takers and buyers, which in turn affects the price that farms can charge.
“We took best-in-class from food production and we took best-in-class from traditional and animal husbandry, which means you need to know exactly how many animals you have in your system. Because if you don’t do that, you can’t make a quality product and then mass produce it,” Entocycle founder and CEO Keiran Olivares Whitaker told AFN.
Who are the customers?
Entocycle’s clientele consists of two main groups. One consists of insect farms and waste upcycling companies looking to increase their efficiency. The other group consists of newcomers to the industry who have shown particular interest in Entocycle’s agricultural construction, design and project management services.
Entocycle’s offerings include Entosight Neo, its flagship product. This includes hardware and software designed for functions such as weighing and counting larvae. According to the startup, inaccuracies in the two processes arise from human error when done manually. If done correctly, the right amount of feed can be determined; Insect mortality rates are reduced; Overall growth will be boosted.
The startup also offers climate-controlled fly rooms, which it claims optimize egg production.
“You know how many insects you have and you know how much food you could feed them. We have shown that you can get up to 25% larger bugs just by dosing the bugs right, because overfeeding the bugs leaves you with some very fat bugs and essentially a lot of expense. If you underfeed the insects, you end up with a lot of very small insects, and that’s not a good end product for the customer,” says Whitaker.
Entocycle is now preparing to commercialize and ship its products. The main markets include Europe and Eastern and Southern Africa. Japan, Singapore and Korea are becoming Asian destinations because of their allegedly strict regulations on food safety or the use of food waste. Entocycle is also eyeing the Gulf region for its massive agricultural projects and waste management priorities.
The startup also wants to serve farmers who will eventually deal with other insect species. Due to its industrial prevalence and the startup’s understanding of the insect’s biological process, the focus was initially on the black soldier fly.
“What we excel at is counting, sorting and automating the delivery of very small removal goods. We see transferring this to other sectors as the next step,” says Whitaker.
What you say
“We want to help regenerate this planet by making food local again because hyperlocalism will come and insects will play a key role not only in a global industry but also in local food security. Because of that, I want us to help this planet by offering our technology and services and actually delivering what we believe is the fastest way for this industry to grow,” Whitaker tells AFN.
“We finally have a solution to decentralize and localize production, solving the world’s food shortages and accelerating the transition to low-carbon alternative proteins all at once,” says Yoann Berno, General Partner at Climentum Capital. “We are proud to lead this round as there is no better insect breeding technology on the market. Entocycle has developed a complete stack of breeding solutions for small farmers and large-scale waste managers that would take years and millions of dollars to replicate.”