Insect mini-farm start-up Better Origin has secured $16m in backing from new and existing investors in its first major venture capital funding round, as the UK-based firm looks to grow its team and scale-up internationally.
The agri-tech business specialises in AI-managed container farms for insects fed on local food waste from supermarkets, with the black larvae then converted into an alternative, sustainable animal feed for livestock and chickens.
By using black larvae as feed for cattle and other animals, the firm claims it can help curb demand for soy-based animal feed, which is commonly linked to deforestation.
Moreover, Better Origin claims its decentralised mini-farms mean the animal feed can be produced close to where it is required, thereby curbing the need for costly, carbon intensive shipping of livestock feed around the world.
The firm signed a deal earlier this year to supply 10 of its mini-insect farms to Morrisons, with the UK supermarket planning to replace soy with insects as chicken feed to produce its free-range eggs.
Better Origin CSO and co-founder Miha Pipan said just one of the firm’s the ‘plug and play’ insect farms could produce the same amount of feed in one square metre of space, as typically produced on 1,500km of soy plantations, while also reduing emissions from supermarket food waste.
“The food chain is fundamentally broken and it’s putting the future of our food security at risk,” he said. “We’ve built a solution that aims to finally fix these flaws from the inside out. Insect larvae are nature’s mechanism to convert waste back into essential nutrients in the food chain. They act as the missing link between waste and food. We reduce waste and increase food production by bringing back this link. We believe our solution is the future of food production and the latest round of funding takes us a step closer to this future.”
Using AI and automation, the small container farms seek to recreate the optimal conditions in nature through which insects consume old food, which is then transformed into essential nutrients for other animals, the company said. Cameras, computer vision, and sensors monitor the conditions within each mini-farm to make sure they are optimal for production, it said.
The Series A fundraise announced today was led by Balderton Capital and also saw existing investors Fly Ventures and Matavallon Venture Capital participate. Fotis Fotiadi, Better Origin CEO and co-founder, said the funding would be used to support further growth of the firm’s business.
“Beyond enabling us to scale up operations and expand our team, the deep understanding and expertise that Balderton brings makes it the perfect Series A partner,” he said. “It was of vital importance when raising our Series A, as it was when we raised our Seed, to find partners that truly believe in our mission and ambition. We’re thrilled that Balderton, alongside Fly Ventures and Metavallon VC, are with us as we take this next stage for our company, for our partners and for our planet.”
Suranga Chandratillake, general partner at Balderton Capital, said he believed Better Origin could “have a transformational effect on food and farming systems”.
“Climate change, the pandemic, political tensions and our growing population have demonstrated time and again how fragile our current systems are,” said Chandratillake. “They’ve also shown how farming currently exacerbates the challenges we face and solutions so far are not leading to the wholesale change we need.”
“Fotis, Miha and the Better Origin team are working to fundamentally change our broken food chain, for the benefit of everyone,” he added.