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    36 min read

    [S2:Ep #5] Next gen food and animal feed from insects

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    What are some of the potentially most promising developments in the next gen proteins space ahead in food and animal feed? Watch bright abundant thinkers sharing their intel on this insightful discussion hosted by Tommaso Di Bartolo, founding partner of Awesm Ventures, experts and influencers of global reach, Alex Drysdale, TEDx talker, founder of Crik Nutrition and co-founder of hi!, Marina Rubio Benito, Biotechnologist, PhD Student specialized in fish nutrition and physiology, and Martin Zorrilla, CTO of Nutrition Technologies, explore key aspects of the edible insects’ space and sustainability.

    Virtual Coffee: A Curated panel of industry fellows to discuss how to future-proof traditional markets

     

    In Season 2, recognized world-class Researchers, Scientists, Faculty Members, Senior Executives, Experts, Chefs, Investors and Entrepreneurs from around the globe, engage in strategic exchange of views and share startling intel on viable transformative innovation in Agriculture, Food and Beverage, zooming in the next gen proteins space. 

     

    With Special participation of

     

     

    [Industry Fellows] Virtual Coffee: S2:E5 

    avatar-21

    avatar-25

    Martin

    Alex Drysdale
    Marina Rubio Benito
    JMartin Zorrilla
    TEDx speaker, founder of Crik Nutrition, Head of Product and Co-Founder of hi!
    Biotechnologist, PhD Student specialized in fish nutrition and physiology
    Martin is the CTO of Nutrition Technologies, a Black Soldier Fly production company based in Southeast Asia.
     

     

    Host

    TOMMASO-AVATAR
     
    Serial entrepreneur w/ 2 exits, author, advisor, faculty, investor.
     
    http:///tommasodibartolo.com 
    Tommaso Di Bartolo
     
     

     

    Key points: 

    • Culture, mindset, the ability to test things: the essentials in the food industry
    • Purpose-driven missions in the food industry are taking the world
    • Jackfruit, the multifunctional plant-based protein
    • Breaking through fast foods may be the answer to turn insects mainstream

     

    I prefer 📹 watching the episode's video

     

    I want to listen 🎧 to the episode's podcast


    Episode's 🔖 Transcription


    Tommaso
    : Hello everybody. Welcome to our Virtual Coffee. What is a Virtual Coffee? Virtual Coffee is a curated panel of industry founders that we put together and we discuss how to future proof traditional markets. We are already in our fifth episode on our second season which is focused on one topic in agriculture food which is next gen protein and I would like to introduce them. We have here, first of all, Alex Drysdale Drysdale, TEDx speaker founder of Crik Nutrition and head of product and co-founder of hi!. Alex, again, welcome here at our Virtual Coffee.

     

    Alex: Thanks for having me.

     

    Tommaso: Then we have Marina Rubio Benito, biotechnologist, PhD student specialized in fish and nutrition and psychology. Welcome, Marina.

     

    Marina: Thank you. It’s nutrition physiologist. 

     

    Tommaso: Okay, so this is my big first...you see when is slides if you cannot correct anything. So thank you for making this absolutely important on physiologist, right?

     

    Marina: Yes, thank you for the introduction. 

     

    Tommaso: It is a pleasure to have you here, thanks Marina. And then we have Martin Zorrilla, CTO of nutrition technologies which have the mission to provide sustainable alternative protein products in solution to the feed industry globally. Welcome, Martin.

     

    Martin: Thank you.

    Tommaso: And now dear audience, I would like to kick off our Virtual Coffee with the first question going to Alex. Alex, so you are founder of Crik Nutrition and you guys have developed world's first cricket based protein powder. You were acquired in 2019 and evolved it into high human improvement and you are basically their co-founder and head of product. So, let me pick your brain on this, why did you bet on cricket as an alternative protein versus you could have chosen alternatives like plant based or xxxxxxxxxxx? meats. Please, take it from here.

     

    Alex: To me was kind of a chance encounter, I was just doing the same thing we're doing right now, sipping on some coffee in the morning and scrolling through Facebook at the time and saw an article about cricket protein and it was an investment going into that back in 2015/2014 and it was from a trusted source that I follow and was usually ahead of the wave. I just clicked on the link, I thought it was kind of odd to be honest when I first heard about it, but again, coming from that trusted source. Clicked through to see what it was about and I was just sold into paragraphs on that, I shifted my focus from my previous career to go online and wanted to make a really big focus in products in a sustainable world. This just brought together everything that I had learned from that previous year on e-commerce online business. Then my personal life where I spend all my time and effort learning and improving in fitness and nutrition, and yeah, it just kind of all came together as a perfect storm. I was just looking for that product to try and it turns out nobody was doing it, and I just started making some of my own and I was like “why don't I make this my business, instead of the other things that I was doing that already have some players in it?” and that just jumped right in. It's been a long hard road but we're just keeping close to our vision and continuing to drive forward, 

     

    Tommaso: Alex, from this very first email that you got in, the first impact of this new world towards the moment of decision that you jumped in, how much time did it take you to take the decision and become an intrapreneur in this space?

     

    Alex: When I first heard about it I believe it was early November, coming up to that Christmas season a little bit late I started doing some research and took a couple weeks to get some initial cricket in and then doing my own experiments and making my own products at home. That was about a month process and then once the New Year rolled over I went full in on it in January there. I took until April to have my final working prototype that we were sampling out at different events. So it's probably about a six months total from when I first heard about it until we had a product that I was happy and xxxx? with.

     

    Tommaso: Wow 24 weeks. That's insanely fast. Congratulations on that one. Well, thank you so much for sharing that story. 

    Question to Marina, I would like to pick your brain. 6% per year, we may reach 6% per year is the growing percentage that we can read when it comes down to the agriculture industry, and it's preparing itself for a major source of alternative protein for this anticipated growing population of 10 billion people in the future. What are some of the most important contributions to the protein supply and where do you see those opportunities and maybe constraints within this industry? Please take it from here, Marina. 

     

    Marina: Thank you for the question. So yeah, the aquaculture industry is growing a lot. It's expected to continue to grow. Its supply for protein is really important in supplying fish protein since we are overfishing our oceans, we need to look for more sustainable ways to produce that protein. Fish is super healthy source of protein for human consumption, it's rich in omega 3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are really beneficial for cardiovascular neuronal diseases, etc. One main constraints here are to make the aquaculture industry and the process of feeding all those fish sustainable by not feeding them with more fish coming from the ocean. So, firstly we have a problem of overfishing, and then we need to get more fish breeding to feed those other fish in aquaculture then we wouldn't be making it sustainable. So one of the biggest challenges right now is to find a sustainable way to feed all those fish, working as part of my PhD project in solving some of the problems that other sources of protein haven't fished, like for instance vegetable proteins have a good amino acid balance to support fish growth, but they do have other negative impacts on fish and so right now I'm working on that. And there's a lot of research on looking for alternative sources of protein, insect is a big one. There's also a lot of research to ensure fish are fed the right amount of fatty acid so we don't lose that beneficial combination of omega 3 fatty acids that we find in fish. Yeah, that's about it. 

     

    Tommaso: What do you think are the main challenges in developing this fish protein? What are your thoughts on that?

     

    Marina: So other than the fish nutrition, it's also important to make sure it's sustainable in terms of preserving wild stocks, like for example when there's aquaculture practices that happen offshore, so they have this Neptunes out in the ocean. It's important to control for diseases, for waste, so we don't damage the environment closest to the shore. It's important to prevent for fish escaping, so domesticated fishes do not pose a risk of integration with the wild type in the ocean. And regarding land based operations recirculating aquaculture systems are becoming very popular. When done right, this is a great option, but we have to be careful for waste water so we don't end up again contaminating in last instance the waters in the closest ocean. 

     

    Tommaso: Very interesting. Thank you so much for sharing this, Marina. 

    Martin, nutrition technologies is manufacturing and supply sustainable in sector, proteins, right? So, if you mind sharing with us, what is really unique? What stands out in nutrition technology? What's the unique selling value proposition in debates and maybe then coupled to this question, what is the outlook in your point of view in the near future for next gen proteins? What are your thoughts on this? 

     

    Martin: Yeah, thank you for the question. I'm glad I get to go after Marina’s answer because I think that's the context for nutrition technologies. Our purpose is to create an alternative protein that can supply the agriculture industry and other animal feed industries with more sustainable, more scalable and more price stable ingredients that can be then used to produce what is one of the most sustainable sources of protein for human consumption, which is fish. Nutrition technologies, we're a tropical based country company, so we're based in Malaysia and Singapore with extension to Vietnam. So, one of our unique selling points is that we have designed the system from the ground up to be optimized in a tropical environment. 

     

    The black soldier fly is a tropical species, it comes from South America, it's naturalized around the world, but it does best in the tropics. So, as opposed to other companies working with the same insect we have the benefit of our environment, and we have the benefit of designing our technology from the ground up to function best in these year round tropical conditions, that means we don't have to heat warehouses, that means we don't have to use artificial lights, it cuts the costs of our operations substantially and gives us an innovative edge when it comes to production in tropical areas of the world, which we think will ultimately be the major centers of protein production. We also use a biotechnology process. So, black soldier flies, that the insects that we work with  the larvae stage break down organic matter in a huge amazing range of ingredients things from manure to awful, to vegetables, simple carbohydrates, they can cope with this huge range of material and part of the reason is microbiology. 

     

    So nutrition technologies we essentially believe that the future to insect production in black soldier flies is microbiology and it's something we've leaned heavily into from the beginning, and we've had some amazing results for, essentially, combining biotech microbiology processes used with the insect feeding system within those.

     

    That's part of our unique selling point as a company, and we also are a first mover in Southeast Asia, which is an ideal place to be for aquaculture. Asia has 80% of the world's aquaculture, so it's difficult to speak about sustainability in aquaculture, without speaking about Asia represent most of aquaculture. So we want to be here because this is where aquaculture is happening. It's also a region of the world that imports a huge amount of ingredients, look at soy fish meal. In some countries, when they're using aquaculture feeds, 70% of the ingredients are imported, which is crazy. For poor countries like Cambodia, places like Vietnam, where smallholder farmers represent the agriculture industry, they're using some of the world's most expensive feeds, which just shouldn't be the case, we want to create local sources of sustainable alternative ingredients that can then support the local economies in these areas. 

     

    The second question about the future of the industry, I think it comes down to diversification. So, the insect industry will diversify in many different ways. One of them is, we will diversify the way that we do what we do. The process of feeding, safe waste ingredients to insects to produce protein is a relatively simple step in the process that will become more complex and more nuanced over time to reflect the complexity that exists in nature, and there will also be diversification of companies. People specialize just in breeding people who specialize in particular areas, and I think there will also be diversification of species. We only farm a handful of species for both human and animal feed. And I think that will change. Insects represent most life on Earth. We have over a million describe species, and we are very likely to find more interesting things, the more we look into the diversity of insects and a potential use of this for this industry. 

     

    Tommaso: Very interesting. So, it's really at the beginning of this movement if we so on this next generation of food. Thank you so much for sharing this, Martin.

     

    I would like to kick off now things with our second part of our Virtual Coffee, and this time I would like to kick off things with Marina. So, we have now heard multiple times, you focus on and you are a biotechnologist, you're also an MSc in aquaculture and marine resource management. How do you define sustainable aquaculture, what are the ingredients for that and that in order to basically improve sustainability.

     

    Marina: sustainability will come when the whole process is taking, let's say, a resource from nature. It could be, for example, the plant protein in this case, and it's able to return it without damaging them in the first place, the initial step. So, for example, I think fish is a very sustainable  way of getting protein for human consumption. 

     

    If we compare it with other sources of protein, like beef or poultry, because they are very efficient feeders. So, almost one kilogram of feed that you feed the fish, you're getting back another one pound of growth. So they're very efficient because they're animals that don't require, don't waste so much energy in maintaining the temperature. They live in the water, so the physical effort is not as big as other animals. They don't have this type of emissions, with nitrogen, so much as other animals do, like when we talk about livestock. So, in that regard fish represent a very good opportunity to reach full and sustainable sustainability in aquaculture, we would have to replace most of the fish meal that we are adding into the diet by other sources that do not endanger the ecosystem or source of energy.

     

    Tommaso: I'd be curious to hear your thought process on the alternative protein focused on fish, Marina. What are your thoughts there?

     

    Marina: So, I'm focusing mostly on plant protein. I think it's valuable, we're slowly getting there. So right now fish feeds mainly done with soy protein, a concentrate like soya, is a main source of alternative protein, however that's expensive because it requires more processing of the ingredient. So for example, my research is focused on maintaining the soybean meal, the source of protein, as it is, without any processing. I'm looking for additives to add in the diet that may reduce the inflammation, this ingredient goes to the fish. So, we would be able to formulate more affordable and sustainable diets this way. I also did a small experiment, with a black soldier fly larvae protein. Yeah, that was interesting, but we were adding that not to replace a deficiency protein, but instead as an additive because again the processing steps are expensive, the funding process that is required, reduces greatly also the composition of other beneficial fatty acids. So we were using it as an additive, and it's a very common thing now in aquaculture research to see this challenge experiments where you feed a diet, then you expose the fish to a pathogen and then you see how they respond. We were using the black soldier fly larvae as an oddity, to see if it had a boost in the immune system of the fish. We didn't see many differences, but we had a very short term experiment. So I was wondering if we do a longer term experiment if they're able to combat the pathogen better in terms of antibody production, cytokine, like that, that can regulate the inflammatory process and it doesn't get out of control.

    Tomasso: How long did this experiment take?

     

    Marina: So we fed the diet for four weeks, and then we expose the fish to the pathogen and then we got another four weeks. The fish were quite small, so I would feed for a longer period and then exposed to the pathogen and also living like...

     

    Alex: Which fish species you were working with?

     

     

    Marina:Rainbow trout. Thanks for the question, I forgot to mention. It's very big stages here in Idaho.

     

    Tommaso: Let's switch from fish to insects. We have the pleasure already to be involved with a couple of insects startups. So in your point of view and based on your experience, Martin, where do you see the key areas of innovation and specifically around the insects industry going? What is going to come within the next industry space in the coming years of insects? What's the innovation? What do you see coming?

     

    Martin: Yeah, I think it's a very interesting thought process because the practice of raising insects or protein consumption can be it for humans or for animals is a very young industry. It’s the first time in human history that we've tried to do this, the kind of scale that we're doing it now. I think that it will bring a lot of changes to our food supply chains, and potentially to other elements of society. So, one of the key areas that I think we will see a lot of innovation is, as I mentioned, microbiology. 

     

    What we often point to and when we talk about black soldier flies is the fact that we are mimicking a natural system, you mimic this natural system where we're here in the forest and an animal dies or a bunch of plants are starting to decompose the ecosystem reclaims those nutrients. There's this process of decomposition, where the nutrients returned to the ecosystem and fulfill a different role, and that's the base basic principle behind the use of black soldier flies because black soldier flies can consume what are considered waste products. Now, you know companies like my company, we work with pre consumer food waste, so ingredients that come from food manufacturing facilities, things like that. But the basic process where you take an ingredient that's considered a waste and you add value to it, you upcycle it into a protein source, that's the key that black soldier fly industry focuses on. But I think what will happen is that that process of transformation will become a lot more complex. I think that at the moment, we do the simplest version of it. If you look at what actually happens in a natural ecosystem, it's a lot more complex. 

     

    There are 1000s of species involved in the decomposition of something into something else,  so we're looking at the black soldier fly or insect interest industry and we're saying isn't this cool? it's like looking at someone who is learning to play a new instrument and we're celebrating that, but we're missing the fact that there could be an orchestra. This could be a lot more complex, and a lot more beneficial. So I think the use of bacteria to prepare feed ingredients for insects, the use of bacteria to facilitate the decomposition process  will be a key area of innovation in the future. The other ones, I think are also breeding. So everyone who works in insect feed for animal nutrition works with a wild species. So we're in the infancy as far as breeding and what potential benefits breeding can bring and there are also a diversification in products, so we will be able to work with a broader range of products, protein as part of the equation. 

    In my company we produce three products, protein, the oil and fraps which is inside. bifrost is actually one of the more interesting products, and there are other potentials, the insect cuticle has a component called Titan that has applications in the biomedical industry. I've seen reports of people extracting melanin from insect production facilities, which actually has a very, very valuable product that's also used in pharmaceuticals and biotech industries.

     

    I think because it's new, because it's the first time that we're doing this, we're just starting to understand the way that this can fit into our societies, and the role it can play to create products and create innovations and also, as I said,  there are so many species. We work with one fly species, black soldier flies are meant to loosens. You know, there are 2700 species, just in the genus, so we're just scratching the surface. We don't know what the future can bring because we understand the biology of these organisms to a very limited extent and we're just understanding. 

     

    Tommaso: Very interesting. Alex, let's switch the perspective from going to a customer centric approach, and we hear especially in Western world eating insects is still affected. So what the wrong place the marketing, I mean how can a marketing adventilize this new product and say hey insect is actually good. What are your thoughts on this?

     

    Alex: When I first got into it, and some of the earlier companies, it's a very cricket forward approach as I mean that was like clickbait gets everybody's attention. I mean it worked on myself and I ended up starting a company in the industry, and there's a very good approach at the beginning to start to get attention around it, but we've seen a dip over the past while and I've always been surprised when going and doing speaking events and myself having never tried insects intentionally. I mean, from farming in that so you always get a little bit extra is when you're growing your own food, but I had never tried insects intentionally as food before starting this company, and when I go and do different events, it's well over half the people always have actually dried insects intentionally. So I thought it would be a bigger uphill climb, but it turns out that most people are open to it, especially when you lead with the benefits. First of the product of any insect product. The nutrition alone is what's making over the years found, is what is making people take that leap and try the product in the first place and the sustainability is what first caught my attention and it's just another thing that elevates insects, and with the new company, you can see we've moved away from that cricket centric approach, and we still have the cricket as our main and our number one ingredient that's really, really important because we truly do believe in the nutritional aspect environmental impact of making a switch to insect based proteins. But what we found is that people are totally okay with it, they just don't want your cricket images and insect forward marketing shoved down their throats, whether that's literally or not but they don't want that reminded all the time, but people are very okay with using these products, especially, we've done a lot of work to make sure that the product tastes amazing first and foremost on. It's taken years of refining and product development and every time we do a production run we've improved the product itself and it's making sure that it tastes good and then also creating a brand. You mentioned marketing, that isn't a huge part of it. With the partners I have now and hi!, they've done an amazing job making a really friendly brand and isn't that typical male dominated hypers athlete focused brand that you see in a lot of supplement companies and our goal is to just bring those insects into the awareness of the general public in the Western culture. It's been taboo but people are more and more open to it, and I've seen a dramatic shift from when I started five years ago now to today where most people have heard about it now especially people that are in the health and fitness industry. We're starting to see more of it in the mainstream, and it turns out this, as big as the protein powder market is, the smoothie market and eating protein powder as a snack or as a supplement to just a regular healthy diet versus towards an athlete's diet that is actually a much bigger market. That's kind of what we are looking at just to get you created a product that people will love, and they wouldn't know the difference, or so we can get people used to the idea of eating insects and then that opens it up to regulations and people being more open to allowing insects feed for some of those industries that are going to be huge like animal feed. There'll be a very very important thing for our supply chain and sustainability in the future because insects are such a nutritionally intense product and you know as Rhea mentioned with the rates that they grow and not being cold blooded are sort of being cold blooded not often and they use way less resources and yet some of you do some comparisons especially for the amount of time and energy and space that goes into growing say one cow, or you'll get like 500 pounds of meat, you can get 750,000 pounds of cricket, for example, so it's pretty pretty dramatic. 

     

     

    Tommaso: So you are saying there is a shift happening in the people's mind but at the same time from a marketing perspective, it is smart not to present you know the cricket itself, but you know just to just to lead with the ingredients and how healthy it is and how environmentally friendly, it is also sustainable.

     

    Now, switching into the third and last part of our Virtual Coffee which is taking questions from the audience. Let me switch here Marina, your first question from Kiki from Davis. So Katie, thanks for the question. Katie asking: “assuming suitable site and species selections have been made, what else sets the limits for safe farm fish production in a closed water body?

     

    Marina: Preventing for disease outbreaks is really important. So other instead of, like, using antibiotics, which are really frowned upon these days because nobody wants to know they're eating antibiotics with their fish. Developing a good vaccines and prevention, that's always the best approach would be another important thing to take into account and ensure it is economically sustainable more than anything because it would mean huge losses for the farmer. Nowadays like some of these recirculating aquaculture systems I mentioned before, they are very well prepared for these, with ozone treatment for the water, and UV treatment as well. So those are some of the approaches for prevention. 

     

    Tommaso: Perfect. Anybody wants to add anything to that?

     

    Martin: Ingredients are key to sustainable aquaculture in any location, so feeding ingredients usually, if you cannot do the calculations for sustainability, feed ingredients incur the highest environmental cost, and that's heavily biased towards protein ingredients. So when you're looking at the sustainability of an aquaculture system, they're often remarkably sustainable if they're compared to beef production to poultry, some most animal proteins that we eat, but a fetus is kind of the Achilles heel of the sustainability of the aquaculture sector because if you have to go out and find farmed fish, and then turn that into a feed ingredient for your.. if you have to go out, catch wild fish and use that as an ingredient for your farm fish you're not accomplishing any kind of sustainability benefit compared to wild fish consumption, because many of those wild fish that are used for fish meal are actually suitable for human consumption. So it's a problem that I think the aquaculture industry understands they have, the feed industry understand that they have, and it's something that everyone, a community of researchers and entrepreneurs and traditional feed companies like big companies like Scribing and Cargill are all trying to solve together, because it is one of these things that kind of creates this limit on aquaculture.

     

    Tommaso: Awesome. Thank you so much for extending and doubling down on that. I see here another question so very local here, at least from my area Menlo Park. Laura asking for Alex. Alex, why would the world wealthy nations need to adapt to eat insects? 

     

    Alex: The biggest one that we see is that as nations wealth increases their demand for protein increases as well, like all the traditional protein routes. Even if you go down to chickens which are the most sustainable in that like traditional meat sense, they are much more demanding on the environment and all other resources and we're seeing now you know with the pandemic we're looking at the most efficient way to grow them is in these factory farms that are all over the world and we see now that those create problems and breed pathogens and stuff that have and probably will continue in the future to jump over to humans is where insects we haven't seen that, and there's nothing that has been identified for the species that are being used for cultivation for protein. So that's the biggest one. It's just to supplement the demand for protein that's coming as nations wealth increases. 

     

    Tommaso: Thank you so much, Alex. I have another one actually here. Mark, for you coming from Los Angeles. 

    Jeremy asking Martin:  what are the most important consideration that an intrapreneur needs to have in mind when building a startup in insect protein space?

     

    Martin: A great question. I think that if you're looking at starting in the insect protein space, the things that you should keep in mind,  one of them is the biology, and I'm biased because I'm an entomologist, my background. But, the challenge that you face is that so little is understood about insects compared to any other business that you're starting. So, we understand almost nothing about the nutritional needs of insects, we understand almost nothing about their growth requirements, sex determination, things that are very basic in other sectors are just total mysteries because we've spent the last two 400 years trying to kill insects right, our technology investment has been on how to eliminate them so we're really inexperienced as far as it comes to how to breed and rear them, and that's what you as an entrepreneur need to learn how to do. 

     

    So the big question right off the bat is, you will need very strong r&d right so you will need to iterate on your process continuously. And kind of creating that system of r&d and the type of runway that you need is a key question. Another one I think is also that you have to be very careful about your approach to scale. 

     

    Scale is the biggest challenge in the insect industry, so we are challenged constantly by our customers, by our investors, by our business model to increase in capacity. If you're trying to go into animal feed, no one will take you seriously unless you're producing substantial quantities, hundreds of tons of protein per month. So you have to have a roadmap for how you're going to achieve that scale you have to be very strategic about how you're going to do that and if that plan is sustainable. 

     

    One common pitfall that I think a lot of inside companies falling, is they try to automate too early. I think it's a common mistake because the process that you're creating requires constant iteration and, by definition, automation is also a complex process. So, if you choose your stage in your company's development to try to automate, you say, I'm going to use a robot to feed the bugs at this stage, you're relying on that particular process that you're trying to automate, not changing substantially. But you should assume that every process changes constantly throughout your system until you achieve a certain scale. So I think people lean into automation a little bit too early and then they create limits on themselves, on their system and their ability of the system to change, because changes is really the air we breathe when we're developing insect systems. 

    Tommaso: So r&d fundamental and then the scale but with the angle of don't auto into too soon, to keep it flexible. What are your thoughts on doubling down on the r&d side? I mean the space of discovering and exploring and doing researches are especially known within labs. What are your thoughts and as an intrapreneur collaborating with external labs and creating something together, versus doing it internally?

     

    Alex: Yeah, there's a lot of opportunities, so actually Marina can be great to connect with you over your research with rainbow trout, that for us is a huge one. We don't have the capacity to test our product on aquaculture species, so we already have a huge amount of vertical integration in insects, we breed the species, we process them, we do all these things that for other industries is very diversified and sectorize. So we can't, you know we can't be doing in our r&d facilities growing shrimp rainbow trout or grouper regarding Monday. 

     

    So we rely on external research and we rely on this growing community of researchers around the world who are interested in willing to work with insect products and test them in aquaculture. We have over 50 published peer reviewed studies with black soldier flies in agriculture, but we're only at the beginning, there's a lot more research to do, so we're always looking for partners, we're always looking for opportunities, for product development in that way. 

     

    I think there are other opportunities there, they're places where we can use microbiologists and their skill sets, there are places where we can use engineers IoT systems work really well for insect production, so it's important for us to use that academic community to create collaborative opportunities, and to help the labs around the world grow and develop as well as our role in the private sector. 

     

    Tommaso: Awesome. Thank you so much. Well, if I read it correctly and should recap on that one, yes, you need an IP and internal intellectual property on your own, but yes also to collaboration in order to experiment and figure out things that you can literally do on your own as a startup. 

     

    And we could talk for hours around this topic because it's really making adend and changing the world to be a better place, we are wrapping up things with our current Virtual Coffee. Today's Virtual Coffee and I actually do have one last question for our panelists which is around the topic of innovation. What are the sources of innovation? What are the sources of inspiration? Where you learn from podcasts, people you will follow or study or admire. 

     

    Marina, what is your source of inspiration? Where did you learn about innovation? How to innovate? Maybe you want to mention a couple of sources for our audience.

     

    Marina: Innovation is inevitable to think out of the box when you're facing a problem and you need to think for an alternative way of doing something. In the case of fish, we need to find an alternative source of protein so that we could not continue to over fish or oceans, so like drawing it down to my project, the plant protein alternative was already suggested there. So what I'm trying to do is add some additives, so the innovation is there. I'm just trying to see if adding specific attributes to those sources of protein I am able to increase the digestibility and reduce the negative impact on industry.

     

    I wanted also to mention with regard to fish protein, one of the biggest innovations that's happening right now, which is like away from aquaculture is the lab grown fish. So when you get a biopsy or a sample of muscle cells from the fish, and you bring it to the lab and just grow the females in the lab. I think that's amazing innovation, we might see it in the market in the next couple of years. So, I think that's a big example of innovation in fish protein production. 

     

    Tommaso: Thank you so much. So it's lab oriented experiments that inspire. Alex, what is it you read that inspires you about innovation? 

     

    Alex: For me the way I approach innovation is when you try to force it, it usually doesn't turn out so well. And it's kind of that thing that just pops in your head. It's like that aha shower moment type thing and usually comes from problems that we bought up against and if you try to pick it like from a personal approaches where do you have problems in your life, where do you want more efficiencies to come in and then when you can identify those gears let your subconscious do the work and usually some answers come about and you look further beyond just yourself to see are other people are looking for, this is a bigger problem beyond just my unique situation. And quite frankly, usually it's not with 7 billion people on the planet,  it's very rare to come across unique problems yourself, so that's how we go about it and then for our business and the way we approach business specifically. 

     

    Our goal is to bring insects into the awareness of the general population and how do we use that as an ingredient and create products that people want, where we can actually make an impact in value. 

     

     

    Tommaso: So three things: state generally curious and open, collect information, then do your research and one thing you mentioned, take the showers because then it's basically when you get the aha moments.

     

    Martin, what is your source of inspiration? Where do you learn about innovation? How to innovate? Maybe you want to mention a couple of sources for our audience.

     

    Martin: Yeah, it's something I think about a lot because I do work in r&d and this is kind of a daily consideration of ours. I liked Alex's response a lot. I think it holds true for a lot of people who are working in r&d for companies for us as a company, innovation comes I think from that combination of necessity, where you need to solve a problem, and that relationship of this urgency of a problem, and the speed of movement that you're trying as many things as possible in a short amount of time and that you're open to strange ideas and things that you know will probably not work. 

     

    The willingness to accept that risk is really important. And then mirroring that with a healthy understanding of what is potential, as far as looking at natural systems and ecological functions to understand the role of your process in the natural ecology and what opportunities that may bring that you are not seeing just because you're conducting this in a more industrial setting on a personal level, scientists working in a private company I find that it's very helpful for me to read literature, science literature for the public, because often what we're trying to do is effective science communication, so we're trying to understand something complex that is not necessarily intended to be actionable in a corporate setting or in an industrial setting, and we want to try to create the action from that. So looking to authors that try to do effective science communication is really helpful to both understand the presence of science communication, but also the inspiration that other scientists get when they're looking to solve problems. 

     

    I've two books that I would recommend, this one is a very kind of entomology,  if you do enjoy insects and you want to read more about it as a great book called “Under Bug” by Lisa Margonelli. So it's about termites and the researchers who work with them. Termites and the scientists that study them are creatures and it does a really nice job of explaining uncertainty in science and the way that scientists need to be comfortable in the face of uncertainty. And then another great one is “The triumph of seeds” by Dr. Hansen. It's a fantastic book about the strategies that the plants use when they're in seed dispersal and seed creation, and just the level of detail on that specific kind of ecological function is very inspiring because it shows you diversity around a very specific range of functions, which is very helpful if you're looking to solve complex problems. Things like plants and insects and solving complex problems for 350 million years. So we learned a lot by just understanding them, even if it's not directly related to our day to day work. Going out looking for inspiration in ecological systems is very well. 

     

     

    Tommaso: Thank you so much, Martin, Marina, Alex. I love the conversations and discussions. Ladies and gentlemen here in the audience and assisting throughout the channels, thank you for tuning in. And I always like to wrap up with my quote that I learned to craft over the last 20 years of an entrepreneur myself, which goes like this:

     

    Tommaso: “Never forget where you come from, it keeps you humble. But where you come from, cannot limit you where you want to go.”

     

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