Insect farming has been a small scale affair until very recently. It’s either been an artisan pursuit in countries where insects are regularly eaten, or an experimental niche industry. That is now changing, and to see where the future of insect farming lies, it’s worth looking at the French firm Ynsect.
Ynsect runs a robotic, AI-powered insect farm that produces food for animals and fish. It uses agricultural waste as a feedstock and raises mealworms in what is currently the world’s largest insect factory.
It’s an ambitious company – in a funding round this month, it raised $372 million in investment for the next stage of its expansion. That’s the largest amount ever raised by an agritech firm outside of America, and it will pay for their second factory.
The new factory will be the world’s largest vertical farm, and the first to be carbon negative. It will be zero waste, and it will employ 500 people and produce 100,000 tonnes of insect products every year. These insect products go to pet foods and the farmed fish industry. It’s also the first company to have patented an insect-based fertiliser, which has been tested and shown to be an effect subsitute to chemical fertilisers.
So far Ynsect is not making products for human consumption. Having personally tried every insect-based food on the market in the UK a couple of years ago, I’m not surprised by this. There’s clearly a role for them, but the obvious place to start is with animal feed and this is going to be an enormous growth industry over the next decade.