Insects for the future – Invertapro’s metamorphosis to circularity champion

Investing in circular economy is at the forefront of the European Union’s efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Most businesses today still operate based on a linear ‘take-make-waste’ model. It has never been more crucial to look to and learn from businesses that showcase that circularity is not only the right choice for the environment, but also makes a clear business case. This is how Invertapro came to reimagine what insects can do for a better future by using a resource that is abundant: food waste.

Waste = food

As emissions rise and biodiversity shrinks, Europe is working on becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050. Investing in a circular economy is at the heart of the EU’s Green Deal. As follows, businesses need to break away from the linear ‘take-make-waste’ model and fundamentally rethink the ways in which they operate.

Common practice for companies is to put their efforts into reducing their environmental impact rather than setting climate positive goals from the start. Circular business models however strive for a potentially infinite circulation of materials. As a result, waste as we know it today won’t exist, only useful nutrients. This is what Invertapro is all about.

Insects for the future

Invertapro directly upcycles organic waste to valuable, healthy, and nutritious proteins by rearing and breeding larvae for food, feed and more. The stream for human consumption stems from carefully selected larger larvae. They are sold to restaurants and food producers where the larvae are transformed into mouth-watering foods. Bakehuset’s bread with ground larvae for instance is now be widely available in Norwegian supermarkets.

Smaller larvae on the other hand are sorted out and used for animal feed. Currently, Invertapro works with Skretting to introduce mealworms to salmon feed and with Felleskjøpet to use insects as an ingredient for pet foods. Finally, the by-products are transformed into fertilizer and soil conditioner approved for organic farming. The start-up’s fertilizer, Bløme was awarded ‘Gardening Product of the Year’ in 2019.

Bløme, the first commercially available insect manure fertilizer in Norway

Circularity at its best

In the meanwhile, Invertapro is building further collaborations to achieve full-scale industrial symbiosis. New avenues include access to food waste from the local public waste company and the exploration of additional streams with new actors. Currently the focus is on developing automated industrial-scale production methods to enable capacities that can meet the demand of the food and feed industry. The team is now preparing for a demonstration facility in 2021 and industrial-scale roll-out in 2022.

The Norwegian start-up is pioneering a model of circular economy, offering manyfold benefits for the environment. Compared to meat, insects can be produced with up to 84% less CO2-emissions, 95% less land use and 80% less water consumption. The introduction of insects as feed can help reduce global deforestation and overfishing by replacing sources for feed that are harmful for the environment. Furthermore, the inclusion of chitin from the insects’ exoskeleton has positive effects on plants’ immune system and thereby leads to a reduction in the use of chemical pesticides and in biodiversity.

Rebuilding systems

Starting a company is challenging as it is, exceedingly so when you are entering the land of the unknown that insects represent. While rearing and breeding has been around in Europe for a few years, many aspects of the business remained unknown. In addition, to financial, technical, marketing challenges Invertapro had to ensure compliance with all government regulations. This is how the team ended up contributing  to the development of a legal framework with the Norwegian Food Safety Authority during the first year of operation.

What seems like a lot of effort and a taxing amount of ‘firsts’ for many is just business as usual for Invertapro. The idea started with a strong vision about improving food production by using a resource that is abundant: food waste by feeding it to larvae. Invertapro’s hard work and persistence has been recognized by the Royal Norwegian Society by being chosen as start-up of the year in 2019 and by being selected as one of the ten winners of the Feed-X Challenge by Skretting, IKEA and WWF.

Invertapro is one of the prime examples in our Nordic portfolio that makes us believe that entrepreneurship has much to offer to catalyse systemic transformation. The work goes beyond a single point solution, it involves multiple actors, challenges regulatory systems and offers smart circular solutions that replace harmful alternatives. It’s been our pleasure to support these climate champions throughout Climate Launchpad and the three stages of EIT Climate-KIC Nordic Accelerator. We can’t wait for what’s next on the team’s horizon!

Invertapro’s Co-founder and CEO, Alexander Solstad Ringheim in the automated production facility

 
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European
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