It has been predicted that by 2050, we would have 3 billion more mouths to feed. Coupled with an ever-increasing demand for proteins owing to dietary changes and the rising income of developing countries, global meat and fish production would have to double. Farming such animals requires protein in animal feed, food sources for animals to ensure their growth and an efficient harvest.
But with the dwindling supply of soya bean and fishmeal, two main sources of protein for animal feed, and unsustainable methods of harvesting wild-caught fish, the perennial issue of feeding the world as our population grows has yet to be unraveled.
Insect Feed Technologies is a Singapore start-up that farms insects, specifically Black Soldier Flies to create more sustainable, alternative protein sources for animal feed. The idea was conceived when Sean Tan, founder of Insect Feed Technologies, was working at Enterprise Singapore on startup innovation opportunities in the agri-food sector. He stumbled upon the potential of using insects as an alternative protein source for animal feed. Given the nascency of the industry, he saw room for growth and started Insect Feed Technologies as a way to revolutionise animal feed and solve the problem of food security.
We are using technology and processes to create a natural and sustainable solution to feed the world’s population of tomorrow. As a start-up, we are purpose-driven, resourceful and practical. We crave innovation and constantly challenge the status quo while committing and developing products that make sense.
Black soldier flies are one of the most efficient insects to use for animal feed. Besides having a short lifespan, they are one of the safest insects to farm. Feeding only in its larvae stage, the adults do not have mouths and therefore do not bite and spread diseases like houseflies.
Insect Feed Technologies thus harvest the insects in its larvae stage where it has the highest nutritional content, before drying and processing them into insect meal and insect oils. Containing at least 50% protein, the meal is essentially a block of protein that can be used as a source of protein in feed for animals. Additionally, insects feed off organic waste and this provides an alternative waste management solution which benefits the environment and wider ecosystem as a whole. To sum it up, the insects convert food waste into compost, and the harvested insects are used to feed animals for humans to eat.
Today, Sean leads Insect Feed Technologies alongside 2 of his co-founders, both of whom he met online after initially starting off as a solo founder. “I met both my current co-founders under very random occurrences,” Sean explains. “One had a background in private equity financing and was a true believer of using technology to innovate upon natural processes to farm food, (while) the other had a background in operations in tech startups, and had his hand in angel investing.” Drawn to his enthusiasm and work, both of Sean’s co-founders saw the potential of Insect Feed Technologies and linked arms with him to spearhead and champion its mission.
When asked if there were any particularly memorable experiences his team had gone through, Sean recounts a messy incident of flooded larvae crates.
In the initial weeks when we started, there was heavy rain during the weekend and the wind was so strong it blew some of the canopy off. Rain came in and our crates were flooded. Our larvae either drowned or were crawling out all over our site. We had to pick up one by one as those live larvae crawled and hid inside our carpet grass on the floor. We spent the entire Monday morning picking larvae.
Despite the challenges of navigating the sunrise industry of animal feed, Insect Feed Technologies aims to build Singapore’s first commercial black soldier flies facility that can process 10-tons of food waste a day in the next 8 months. In the next 5 years however, they have their sights set on regional and global expansion. Insect Feed Technologies intends to produce 60,000 tons of quality insect products annually across 8 facilities in South East Asia and Middle-East and grow to a S$150 million revenue company, all the while improving sustainability of our farming industry. “This will keep at least 500,000 wild fish in our oceans per year and over 600,000 tons of CO2 from entering our atmosphere,” Sean analyses.
The desire to create value and further their mission of creating alternative sustainable solutions to feed the world’s population of tomorrow has formed a central tenet for Insect Feed Technologies when it comes to doing business. This is what spurs them to maintain strong and lasting relationships with their partners, including organisations that have operated for more than 3 generations, to government agencies.
Coincidentally, the motivation to drive impact in today’s world is also something that resonated with Insect Feed Technologies when working with StartupX, one of Enterprise Singapore’s Startup SG Founder Accredited Mentor Partners (AMP). “The StartupX team has been very kind all the way to provide us with their experience, networks and resources to grow the company. For startups like us that have limited resources, having such an AMP that believes in the work we do and supporting us along the way has been integral to us still being in business.” Sean says.
“There is always a time for everything (for work and for play).” Sean expressed.
“A piece of advice to myself — To put aside time to cherish and live in the moment, to value relationships above all else because that is what makes this whole journey of entrepreneurship worth it. The joy in succeeding is sweet but the joy in sharing it is even sweeter.”
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