The news follows the EU Commission committee vote on Tuesday this week to open the aquaculture feed market for insect derived protein from July 2017.
The backers in the French company, which was founded in 2011, included London based, Future Positive Capital, and French investors, Bpifrance Ecotechnologies, along with existing funders, Emertec, Demeter, Vis Vires New Protein Capital and Business Angels.
“We have been in discussions with those investment groups for the past few months. The fact that a London based investor has come in will allow us to accelerate the extension of our footprint into markets like the UK and North America,” Antoine Hubert, CEO and one of the co-founders of Ynsect, which is located in Evry, near Paris.
The latest round brings the cumulative amount the French company has raised, from private and public sources, to $37m over the last three years, which he said represents the largest-ever investment in the sector.
The team will use the investment, said Hubert, to increase capacity at Ynsite, its pilot center in Jura, France, and to begin preparatory engineering work on a large scale factory that will have the capacity to produce at least 20,000 metric tons of insect protein a year. “We are not disclosing the location of that site just yet, but it is not far from where we are based now,” Hubert told us.
Once Ynsect’s new unit begins production, the team expects several large animal feed players to become customers, as the regulatory bottleneck, which has so far blocked the use of insect protein in fish feed in Europe, is lifted next summer. The company’s initial focus has been on early-adopter fish feed and pet food companies.
“The size of the insect protein market is going to be huge,” said Hubert.
Ynsect’s main product today is Tenebrio molitor protein (TMP), which it said is a de-fatted protein meal made of farmed mealworm larvae.
The company has been evaluating the impact of its meal in fish species like rainbow trout and also in shrimp, with good results in terms of growth and overall performance, said Hubert. Trials are about to get underway with shrimp in Thailand. “And patents are pending,” he added.
New protein sources
On Monday, a $1bn cleantech fund for sustainable forms of protein was announced by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, an initiative led by Bill Gates and others.
They called for alternatives to meat to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, but also argued that producers have to find ways to feed animals differently:
“Much of what we feed farm animals is high-quality protein that humans could eat instead. New sources of animal feed will not only make more protein available for us to eat, but also reduce pressure on land use and the land footprint of agriculture.”