11-05-2022 11:42

Alexander’s basement project about to become a mega business: will make larvae part of your diet

There are already more than two billion people eating insects. The start-up Invertapro would also like Norwegians to join the feast and has Nordea on its team.
Invertapro and Nordea

Why larvae?

"We want to operate in an area where good business and circular economy tie in with something natural. And here insects are bang on. Larvae can be used for food, feed and fertiliser," says Alexander Solstad Ringheim, one of the founders and day-to-day manager of Invertapro.

He continues:

"When it comes to CO2 emissions as well as feed, area and water requirements, insects are in a class of their own. This is quite simply a quantum leap compared to traditional ways of producing protein sources."

About Invertapro

Invertapro is a leading insect rearing and breeding company based in Norway. In 2018 the company was the first in Norway to launch insect products and insect-based plant fertiliser.

In 2019 the company launched a bread consisting of 2.1 per cent dried larvae, which was sold through the supermarket chain Meny. Moreover, Invertapro has launched dried larvae with and without chili as snacks.

In 2022 the company plans to market a number of new products for animals as well as humans.

Read more about Invertapro here!

"Groundbreaking"

The founders of Invertapro have been working with larvae since 2016 when they started with 5,000 specimens in a basement in Voss.

It didn’t take Nordea long to discover the company – admittedly via BIR, Bergen’s intermunicipal waste management company.

BIR is a large customer of Nordea and has in recent years become involved as an owner in start-ups turning waste into resources.

See also: Tech used to solve waste problem

CLOSE UP: Nordea helps Invertapro with everything from capital raising to financing and more general advice. Trude Andersen and Alexander Solstad Ringheim show the Nordea duo, Hans Tysnes and Henrik Dønnum Roe, the larva boxes.

– Early on we were impressed by the Invertapro team and believed that their work within protein production was groundbreaking, says Henrik Dønnum Roe, adviser at Nordea.

Together with Hans Tysnes, he is the relationship manager of Invertapro at the Bergen branch office. They help with advice and financing.

– Invertapro is part of the solution for more sustainable protein production. This market is already large and will grow dramatically over the next five to ten years, says Henrik Dønnum Roe, adviser at Nordea.

But what is circular economy really?

The world’s natural resources are under increasing pressure. That’s why it’s critical for the climate, nature and the environment that the resources are used far more effectively to reduce the need to extract new resources.

In a circular economy, the product life cycle must be as long as possible, and products must be repaired, upgraded and to a larger degree reused. When products can no longer be reused, the material can be recycled and used as raw material in new production. This way the same resources are used multiple times and as little as possible is wasted.

Source: Norwegian Environment Agency

70 tonnes of larvae per week

However, larva production is not initially intended for human consumption. The potential within the feed industry, including fish, chickens and pets, is huge.

According to a SINTEF report from 2017, the emission from 1 kilo of farmed salmon fillet is around 7.0 of CO2 equivalents. The figure is five times higher for cattle.

"Compared to beef, the larva only needs 8 per cent of the feed, 21 per cent of the water and 5 per cent of the area. And the larva only results in 16 per cent of the CO2 emissions per kilo of protein," says Alexander Solstad Ringheim.

According to a news story broadcast by Norwegian television, NRK, on 2 April, the degree of self-sufficiency in Norway is among the lowest in the world. However, the story also draws attention to a resource along the coastline that can feed the population for a long time: salmon.

So Invertapro is focusing on the aquaculture industry, which currently gets large amounts of its feed from abroad. This way the Voss founders can contribute to increasing food security for Norway.

"We are not talking thousands of tonnes but about a market in need of hundred thousands of tonnes of proteins," says Alexander Solstad Ringheim.

"In 2023 we plan to produce 10 tonnes of larvae per week and before 2025 the figure will be 70 tonnes per week. The market is still far from being saturated," he says.

FED ON FOOD WASTE: NorgesGruppen is among Invertapro’s investors. They also contribute organic food waste which is turned into feed for the larvae. – Any organic waste we get ends up as larva feed or plant fertiliser. Everything is used.

Turned professional with the help of Nordea

Invertapro is set to scale up its facilities – something that will happen, but it will take time to reach the full potential. Nordea will continue to help them on this journey as has been the case since 2018.

"Nordea has helped with financing in a demanding and important phase and has been massively instrumental in developing our professional approach to investors. This means that we have been able to raise the amount of capital that we have," says CFO Trude Andersen.

"They are always available by phone, help with resources, give advice and contribute to our business development. Nordea is quite simply a very good partner," she adds.

No human hands are needed when Invertapro breeds its larvae. Everything is controlled by robots which are, among other things, trained through machine learning. Hans Tysnes, Alexander Solstad Ringheim, Trude Andersen and Henrik Dønnum Roe.

That’s music to Nordea adviser Henrik Dønnum Roe’s ear.

"Here in the western part of Norway we do our best to capture the good initiatives hatched along the coastline, and our ambitions to support the green transition are big," he says and continues:

"With major regional branch offices and the benefit of Nordea’s capital and strong competence environment and network, we are quite unique."

Praising Invertapro and today’s start-ups

Among Nordea’s in-house resources are Joakim Bredahl, who is part of Nordea Startup & Growth.

DRAWING ON RESOURCES: Joakim Bredahl works more generally with start-ups and participates in the Invertapro project for Nordea.

"Environmental, social and corporate governance issues (ESG) are something we always take into account when assessing companies we lend money to. What’s slightly unique about start-ups is that this is often the first item in their presentations to us. This was also the case with Invertapro, which has a very green profile," says Bredahl and adds:

"For instance, we give advice on how to raise investor capital, how to set up a business model and when the time is right to look at loan options. And we also help with financing when we think it’s the right thing to do."

With major regional branch offices and the benefit of Nordea’s capital and strong competence environment and network, we are quite unique.
 

Henrik Dønnum Roe, Nordea

How do larvae taste?

The Invertapro founders feel confident about the future and also produce larva products for humans. They are aware that it will take time to get used to the idea but want to change people’s habits by increasing their knowledge over time.  

"Larvae can be eaten as snacks but we also pulverise them. This way they can be used in largely all products as a pure source of protein. Moreover, we are in full control of the entire process," says CFO Trude Andersen.

Day-to-day manager Alexander Solstad Ringheim adds:

"What we’re doing is sustainable, traceable and local. We believe people appreciate that."

What does a larva really taste like?

"It tastes of almost nothing, maybe a bit nutty, but completely neutral in taste. That’s why it can be used for so many things," says Trude Andersen.

Produced in cooperation with Schibsted Partnerstudio

 

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