Ynsect is a company leading the revolution in edible insects. Seeing the potential in insects as a sustainable food source, as well as a source of other useful organic compounds, Antoine Hubert and his associates launched Ynsect in 2011. The main focus for the team is to cultivate and process various species of insects for different applications, such as human nutrition, green chemistry and animal feed. We spoke to CEO, Antoine Hubert, about the company, their connection to FAO, and their vision for the future.
1. What inspired you to start up Ynsect?
We wanted, with my 3 associates Jean-Gabriel Levon, Fabrice Berro and Alexis Angot, to contribute to the development of more sustainable agri-food systems, to make our contribution to a “world change”. FAO published a few reports on insects for feed & food topic between 2008 and 2010. We found that was a great idea, as insects are in the natural diet of many animals and also human beings. We realised that there were no existing farming technologies that could supply the feed and food industries at the price and quality that are expected by these industries. We decided then to launch the company end of 2011.
2. Tell us about your R & D process. What insects do you use and how do you process them for their different applications?
Innovation is the heart of our company. We are today 32 persons with half of the team in R&D. We are working in the lab with several insect species, among them: beetles, flies, butterflies, locusts, crickets, etc. We have selected the mealworm as first species to go to the market, for many technical, marketing and economic reasons. Our know-how is double: we develop high scale insect farming technologies based on robotics and big data, and we process insects through mechanical and biological process to get proteins, lipids and chitin derivatives. Protein are dedicated for feed and food purposes, lipids for feed, food and chemicals and chitin derivatives for food additives to cosmetics and chemicals.
3. Ynsect has various applications in the food and nutraceuticals industry. Many consumers in the western world dislike the concept of consuming insects. How will you go about changing their mind and why it is important to do so?
We are fully aware that insect acceptance is low, either for food or body care products. That’s why we are focusing on products for animal feed where acceptance is very high, from farmers to final consumers: insects are natural preys of fish and poultry for instance. Once these products become main stream in the feed industries, we will be able in the future to enter step by step into food and body care markets with proper marketing campaigns.
4. Another application of Ynsect is green chemistry. You mention that insects can be used to develop “flexible biopolymers, like biodegradable plastics” – Could this plastic be used in the food and beverage packaging sector?
Exactly. We have developed bio-based and biodegradable plastic lab proof-of-concept, which could be used for food plastic film for instance. Of course the path is long till we get a competitive product, but we are working on some specific niche markets within the biomaterial industries to enter step-by-step into these chemical markets.
5. One of your partners is FAO – how do Ynsect’s projects fit into FAO’s efforts to promote food security?
We are part of the FAO insect expert committee that was born in January 2012. Insect are parts of global FAO food security programs (with projects founded in Thailand or Congo for example). FAO has been the first to promote worldwide the interest of insects for food security. We are proud to be part to this high level community.
6. What’s your plan for the future? What type of companies are you looking to partner with?
We are currently building the first fully automated insect plant which is based in France, close to the world-known Burgundy wine area ! It will be fully operational mid 2016 and will deliver protein and lipids for European pet food market. We are delighted to work with feed and pet food companies to assess the value of our products and support their legal authorization in the feed industry (currently insect are still not allowed because of animal protein feed ban). We welcome also partnerships with companies which are looking for the upgrade of their byproducts.
7. In one sentence, why is Ynsect innovative?
Ynsect is innovative because it is creating a totally new livestock chain: after beef, sheep, pig, fish or poultry… insects! Everything had to be developed, from animal breeding to equipment design and engineering to insect feed formulation to processing and marketing. This is really exciting!
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