To feed the planet of tomorrow, we need to massively increase protein productivity today and insect protein is one of the solutions. Ÿnsect contributes to this global challenge by offering an effective, natural, and sustainable solution: producing more food with less impact, in a profitable way with a highly scalable technology we could deploy everywhere on Earth.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Antoine Hubert, President, CEO and cofounder of Ÿnsect, the world leader in natural insect protein and fertilizer production. He also chairs the cooperative insect industry association, the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) and is Board Member of LFD (France Digital Farm). Prior to co-founding Ÿnsect, Antoine worked on scientific projects in environmental risk assessment, biomass, and plastics recycling. He is an agronomy engineer who co-founded NPO WORGAMIC and the company ORGANEO.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Antoine! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up in the French Alps where I was passionate about nature, ecosystems, and insects (especially butterflies)! My involvement in agronomic studies was a natural progression: I followed the links between the earth, nature, and food. The path between agronomy and insects was only a small step!

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Beyond the different fundraising initiatives and their exhausting closing processes, my greatest pride was the day we got the result of an exhaustive life cycle assessment study showing that the value chain of the vertical farm we are building is carbon negative. Across Ÿnsect’s entire food chain, we avoid and sequester more CO2 than we emit. Today, this is proof that we can reconcile the great challenges of our time: feeding the planet, fighting climate change, and preserving the environment.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

The main philosophy of my life is to do anything I could do at my small scale for a better world for everyone. On the last day of my life, I would like to be able to say that I have done everything I can to bring more harmony to this planet, even if it is a relatively small contribution. This is the “hummingbird and forest fire” philosophy: I want to do my part.

In terms of career and management, my philosophy is to always hire people who are more skilled than me. This is the only way to grow your company. Each founder must accept this without ego and focus on the area where he/she is really the best.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Ÿnsect’s goal is to reinvent the food chain by offering food that is natural, healthy, tasty, and sustainable to consumers around the world every day. Ten years ago, we created a new agri-food industry with the crazy idea of breeding and processing insects to contribute to the major challenges of our time: feeding the world’s population, preserving resources and biodiversity, and fighting global warming. Today, this insect market is no longer just an idea: it is our daily life. We are advancing together on unchartered paths, unexplored lands, and thus giving back to the insect the forgotten yet rightful place at the base of the food chain. Our responsibility is to ensure the safety from farm to fork: that of our employees, our products, our consumers of course, but also of our partners.

How do you think this will change the world?

The analysis is simple: By 2050, we will have to increase global food production by more than 70% to meet the needs of our planet’s population. And we need to do this with only 5% more agricultural land. Today, farmed animals consume 20% of the world’s protein, in direct competition with human consumption, while fish, water, and soil resources are dwindling.

To feed the planet of tomorrow, we need to massively increase protein productivity today. As the FAO has pointed out, the insect could be one of the solutions. Ÿnsect contributes to this global challenge by offering an effective, natural, and sustainable solution: producing more food with less. Thus, unlike traditional animal feed:

  • It requires 100 times less agricultural land to produce 2lb of insect-based protein, than to produce the same amount of animal protein
  • The production of insects consumes 25% less water than poultry farming
  • The production of insects does not use antibiotics

Since its creation in 2011, Ÿnsect has been breeding and processing insects into premium ingredients for animal nutrition. We develop innovations to breed insects on a large scale and automate processes to transform insects into raw materials of the highest quality. Our know-how is unique in the world and makes Ÿnsect an essential partner for food industry professionals, research laboratories, investors, and public institutions.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

I believe that the big challenge is accepting insects as part of the human diet. A large part of the world’s population eats insects, but we must be able to prove its properties and its benefits for the environment in order to reach more and have more impact!

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

After my studies, I went to New Zealand for an internship and discovered the richness of using earthworms for waste treatment and anti-waste. When I returned to France, in parallel with my job, I created Worgamic association, the objective of which was to reconnect urbanites to their food and to anti-waste. There, I met Alexis, one of the co-founders of Ÿnsect. We had a program that we were carrying out with the mayor of Paris in the schools where we installed vermicomposters. The association had grown, and we had set up a small “think tank,” which fueled our discussions. This is how, via an FAO report, we discovered insects. Indeed, this report showed that to feed 9 billion people by 2050, it would be necessary to produce 70% more with only 5% more land. The report pointed out that insects could be a solution. We then thought about developing a restaurant first, but in order to eat insects, we still had to produce them. This is how the idea of growing insects came about!

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Time! Twenty years ago, we would have never imagined eating raw fish. Today sushi has become an everyday dish!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I have three that I would like to share:

– I would have liked for someone to tell me that protein regulation was very complicated and very time consuming to handle at the EU Commission level. We could have focused differently on our timeline to market and variety of product offering if we had known it would take more than 4 years to have the rights to sell proteins for fish feed.

– I would have liked for someone to tell me how difficult it is to get permit approval in France and how long it would take: permit approval for our flagship plant in Amiens took more than a year and process was suspended during France’s first COVID lockdown due to the State of Emergency. Luckily, we had a lot of support from French government, otherwise we could have ended up in another country.

– I would have liked someone to tell me how difficult it is to hire people in some positions which are very stretched on the market, especially in data, automation, and industrial positions. I would have anticipated more some recruitment. It is never too early to hire! As soon as you feel you are missing someone in the team, it is already too late, you are losing time in your progress.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

The environment is the very foundation of our actions, a prerequisite, Ÿnsect’s reason for being. We have found ourselves on the concrete and factual elements of balance, solidarity, adaptability, and authenticity. These values determine Ÿnsect today, but we do not want them to remain fixed in order to always remain a driving force in the evolution of society. Being an explorer is part of our company’s conception, our state of mind.

We are constantly looking for balance, our own, but also that of our environments and our stakeholders. We maintain speed and good timing, avoiding agitation and haste. We cultivate boldness and creativity, while remaining focused on execution and driven by a culture of results. We reconcile our ideals with the pragmatism necessary to carry out our activity and responsibilities. We always favor consensus and firmly reject any extreme ideology, any radical or dogmatic stance. Frugality is one of our foundations: always consume the right amount of food to participate in the future of the planet. We think big and we think far ahead, we share the ambition and the desire to become a globally recognized player, a leader, while remaining very modest, particularly in terms of our contribution to the huge environmental challenges: we are doing what we can and we count on partnership and the accumulation of forces. We are realistic scientists who are neither excessively optimistic nor excessively pessimistic.

Like an anthill, we are a team composed of singular but complementary talents working towards a common goal. Every day, we work to reduce the impacts of our activity on our environments. We are committed ecologically, economically, and socially.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

To feed the planet of tomorrow, we need to massively increase protein productivity today and insect protein is one of the solutions. Ÿnsect contributes to this global challenge by offering an effective, natural, and sustainable solution: producing more food with less impact, in a profitable way with a highly scalable technology we could deploy everywhere on Earth.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow us on Facebook: @ynsectcompany

And Twitter: @Ynsect

And our website:

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Ÿnsect: Antoine Hubert’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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