The need to identify alternative, sustainable sources of protein in animal feed was recognised by both the European Union and the United Nations as a vital topic some years ago. Covid-19 together with the global food security issues and climate change have made the matter an urgency.
Today, more than 33% of global arable land is used to produce feed for livestock production. Replacing plant-based protein with insect protein will enable agricultural land currently used to produce feed crops, to instead be used for growing food for human consumption. In this context, the concept of using insects as a sustainable, alternative source of protein in animal feed has gained considerable traction in recent years. Legislative support for the use of insect protein in aquaculture in 2017 led to a 40 percent increase in investments in the industry in 2018. In Europe, aquaculture accounts for about 20% of fish production and directly employs some 70,000 people. The sector is mainly composed of small business or micro-enterprises in coastal and rural areas.
One of the handful of European exceptions is Innovafeed, a pioneering scaleup producing proteins for animal feed and aquaculture founded in 2016 by Aude Guo, Bastien Oggeri, Clement Ray, Guillaume Gras in Northern France. The company has received €56.8m in funding so far including a grant issued by the EU’s Horizon 2020 scheme for small and medium-sized businesses. I had a chat with Aude Guo to better understand her story as a female founder, the role startups like Innovafeed play in this complex scenario, but also the food challenges we all face today.
Let’s start with a warm up question. What first got you into entrepreneurship?
I was working at McKinsey in 2015 when I started discussing with a colleague about the future of the food system. We believed that finding new ways to sustainably produce protein would be the major challenge of our generation and I found a lot of sense and meaning in this. I met the rest of what would become the co-founding team shortly afterwards and after a few discussions we found ourselves very aligned on what we wanted to achieve and the values and work ethics we wanted to embedded within the company. It was the right moment in my life to dedicate my energy into something which made so much sense and I went for it.
Was it harder for you as a female founder? If so, why do you think that was the case?
It hasn’t been that hard for me but I think I am lucky and that it would have been harder haven’t I
been part of a team to begin with. My associates and then the team we built never made me feel “female” and we have always dealt with our major external partners as a team and are seen as such.I do get once a while biased behavior from some of the people I meet (e.g., people assuming that it’s the male colleague in the room who is in charge and talking only to him),but there again the team would always find a natural and often humorous way to correct it. I think the hard part for everyone is that there aren’t many female co-founders, even less among industrial projects and people don’t know what to expect from them, even less when they have lived with biases for a long time without having the opportunity to be challenged.
if you want to learn more about Innovafeed and the future of food, check the full article published on Eu-Satrtups.com.
Until next time, stay safe and think positive.