French insect farming startup Ynsect, Europe’s best funded insect-farming business, has acquired Protifarm — a Dutch mealworm manufacturer.
Ynsect says the acquisition will allow it to fast track its impact in the alternative protein market after Europe’s food standards agency, Efsa, authorised mealworms for human consumption in January.
“The Efsa green light will accelerate commercial traction,” says Antoine Hubert, cofounder and CEO of Ynsect. The company aims to have a full order book of contracts by 2022, and says Protifarm will help fulfil that.
Protifarm’s vertical farm, an hour from Amsterdam, currently produces 1k metric tons of mealworms annually. Ynsect says it aims to increase that to 20k tons by expanding the facility.
Combined with Ynsect’s existing vertical farms, it will mean the company is producing 230k metric tons of insects per year.
“The first markets in human food will be sports nutrition and nutrition for elderly people,” says Hubert.
Ynsect wants to sell its YnMeal product, made from mealworm protein, into the sports nutrition market, and already has a €3m deal with a French nutrition business which it will start fulfilling in 2022.
The company also plans to market its products to older people who find it harder to absorb protein and are in need of additional supplements.
“Protifarm is fully aligned with that idea,” he says, “and they also have new products that go beyond health to more mainstream products like meat replacements.”
Protifarm’s location, in the Netherlands, is also significant.
“The insect sector was historically more advanced in the Netherlands because they were a leader in the pests for zoo animals industry,” says Hubert — and the country also has several universities conducting research into insects for human consumption.
The acquisition also marks the start of Ynsect’s international expansion. Its first two farms are in France, but the company has said it wants to move outwards across Europe, and eventually to the US.
Hubert says the company is analysing opportunities to expand to America at present — though he says there’s no company doing something similar to what Ynsect does, so the move will probably be organic rather than through acquisition.
He does, however, not rule out acquiring other insect companies in the future as a way to move into other geographies.