September 6, 2015

Finnish startup fights hunger by producing insects

Finnish startup fights hunger by producing insects

 

Many believe that insects are the future of the global food industry and developing countries especially. Impact Iglu had a chat with EntoCube, an early-stage Finnish startup aimings to end hunger by providing an accessible and affordable way for insect production.

Feeding the expanding population of our planet is only becoming a bigger challenge; there are limits to food production and access to protein that are crucial for our wellbeing as humans. Insects solve this problem in many ways: not only do they require considerably less resources to be fed, their reproduction rate is hundreds times higher than that of a cattle. Insects are a huge source of protein and are low in calories. These facts create entrepreneurial opportunities for improving global food production and consumption. EntoCube is an excellent example of enthusiastic entrepreneurial action based on a mission to end hunger.
EntoCube, started by four students with engineering, business and agricultural background, offers a container-sized production plant for breeding insects. The shipping container maintains optimal temperature and humidity conditions for rearing insects anywhere in the world. No matter the climate or weather outside, the insects can enjoy a perfect mini-climate inside the container. Where once insects were only a seasonal delicacy, they can now be a year-round steady source of nutrition and income.

The guys’ initial idea was to build big production facilities in Finland and then transport insects as raw material to developing countries. “One day, we were walking past a construction yard where we saw containers and we got the idea of producing a shipping container that can be a production facility in itself because it is mobile, standardized in size and can be taken anywhere in the world. Rather than giving a man a fish, so to say, we’ll teach him to fish. And give him the motor boat and fishing rod to do it.” – says Robert Nemlander, one of the co-founders.
EntoCube is an impact startup with a for-profit business model and a strong societal mission. They plan to sell their EntoCubes to communities in developing countries. To make it more affordable to those communities, NGOs, universities and many other partners can be involved in buying and in the distribution process. The container as a product also includes insects and training. In the future, EntoCube plans to offer additional services like process and technical upgrades, co-development and access to R&D, and online services.
“Crickets or other insects produced in the container may be then processed in three forms: whole foods, minced meat and dry powder. And I think the last one is the future in the western world – an unrecognizable source of protein that can be added to flour, bread, pizza bases, tortillas, whatever” – comments Robert.
EntoCube’s plan for the immediate future is to first sell ten containers in the Nordics even though the startup founders admit that this might not be easy: “Finland’s current legislation and general state of mind doesn’t allow for a welcoming and ready atmosphere for our product. But don’t get us wrong, there are people who are interested and we have talked to them. But still, this country is not as ready as the Netherlands, for example” – says Perttu Karjalainen.

The ultimate plan for growth is selling EntoCubes to communities in the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

EntoCube creates impact in various ways. In countries where people consume insects they usually pick them up by hand from fields and are dependent on the season that stretches for only 2 or 3 months. EntoCube makes it possible to produce insects any time of the year in a closed system that is independent and optimized, allowing for better predictability of growing insects and hence, food supply.

Another very important part of the impact is economic empowerment. EntoCube, when put to local communities, creates employment for people in those communities and empowers people on a grassroots level. That is going one step further from giving out food – training people to produce insects, sell them forward and increase their level of life by doing so.

Ending hunger is a gigantic effort, but the guys have the ambition and a huge motivation to move forward. They are now in the middle of the Startup Sauna accelerator program. “Our number one plan is learning. At Startup Sauna, we are constantly challenged and pushed to limits. It’s a big challenge that we are trying to tackle and there are a lot of mountains to climb and we are climbing our first one now”, Robert and Perttu conclude.

We encourage you to give your support for EntoCube by attending the demo day of Startup Sauna spring accelerator programme in June. Moreover, EntoCube is looking for new team members and volunteers – if you are interested, contact the team at hello@entocube.com.

We are insanely proud of the guys and we wish them success for their future endeavours in fighting world hunger!
Find more information about EntoCube on www.entocube.com.

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Written by Roope Kiviranta

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