A FRENCH insect farmer has secured $125 million from venture capital investors to build the world’s biggest insect farm, to be run by robots.
Ynsect, one of the early pioneers of insect farming, rears a type of beetle for fish feed, as well as for pets and fertilising plants.
The fundraising round, which will be spent on a farm in Amiens, in northern France, as well as a separate factory in the US, is led by Belgium’s Astanor Ventures, alongside France’s Idinvest Partners and Bpifrance, Bloomberg reported today.
The new farm will produce about 20,000 tonnes of protein annually from insects, and will be largely automated.
Machines will feed the bugs, monitor their health and harvest them as one-inch larvae that will then be boiled and processed into a brownish powder. This can be used as an ingredient for salmon, trout and shrimp feed.
Antoine Hubert, who co-founded the company in 2011, said: ‘We tested a dozen species, like butterflies and crickets, before focusing on the mealworm beetle, which is the best in terms of production process and health benefits.’
Farming insects can convert organic residues into feed, helping to fill the protein gap and reduce waste. The EU produces 88 million tonnes of food waste annually.
There are now hundreds of entrepreneurs moving into this burgeoning industry, the majority focused on farming black soldier flies.
A major breakthrough for insect farmers came in July 2017 when the EU passed legislation permitting the use of insects in aquafeed, opening up potentially enormous markets for this protein source.
Picture: Mealworms at Ynsect’s current plant in Burgundy (photo: Ynsect)