Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourselves!
Farminsect: We’re Andre, Thomas and Wolfgang and want to revolutionize agriculture with Farminsect. Thomas and Wolfgang know each other from the Manage&More program of UnternehmerTUM. Both had already founded startups before and, after making some changes, were looking for a sustainable business idea together. Thomas (33) studied electrical engineering and business administration and successfully founded the IT startup Cadami. Wolfgang (34) studied agricultural sciences and biology and successfully founded the food startups Braufässchen and Pure Flavours.
Once the idea of Farminsect had been born, all that was missing was someone for the tech side of things. It was an absolute stroke of luck to have Andre join the team through a series of contacts. Andre (27) studied electrical engineering and has several years of professional experience in developing decentralized systems.
Insect production without any previous experience
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Farminsect: With Farminsect, we want to make livestock farming more sustainable and more efficient. We use insects and the concept of a circular economy to produce high-quality protein feed. Production takes place at the farm itself. That eliminates delivery routes and regional residual materials can be used as feed for the insects.
Generally up to 90 percent of soy and fish meal has to be imported into the EU. That makes feed prices highly dependent on global markets. In the last ten years, the prices for feed have more than doubled. Because feed constitutes a significant part of operational costs for farmers, further price increases could force many farmers to give up their farms. Moreover, soy and fish meal are an ecological catastrophe and are destroying our rain forests and oceans.
With our solution, farmers can save up to 20 percent of their feed costs. We support farmers from start to finish. The machine concept is designed so it can be integrated into any operational infrastructure. An intuitive IT platform monitors all key process steps and guides farmers through the production process step by step. That means anyone, even without any previous experience, can successfully get started at producing insects.
“Larva escape” and other setbacks
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Farminsect: Insects have been permitted as feed and food in the EU since 2017. There was some major hype in the beginning about things like insect burgers. That was when we started thinking about where insects could create the most value in the value-added chain. We quickly came across the feed industry. For one thing, the amount needed in the industry is astronomical. Moreover, the demand for protein for feed is currently met by environmentally harmful and expensive solutions. We want to change that by working directly with farmers and developing regional cycles.
Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?
Farminsect: In the beginning, we had to learn how to breed insects, which of course involved numerous flops. All I can say is: “larva escape!”
We applied to participate in a large EU-funded project last year, which required us to establish an interdisciplinary network of farmers and researchers. That was extremely time consuming. But we also learned a lot and can now fall back on a reliable network as our foundation.
We obviously also had to learn more about farmers’ needs. We took several road trips and drove around visiting farmers in different areas. I was somewhat anxious about that particular challenge, but was positively surprised by the open-minded reaction most of the farmers had to our idea.
Pilot production system in the planning stage
Munich Startup: How is business going?
Farminsect: We aren’t on the market yet. We’ve been working with a prototype at TU Munich since last summer. We produce about 110 pounds (50 kg) of insects a week with it.
Our next major goal is to get the first pilot system up and running. We plan to set it up at one of Bavaria’s biggest aquaculture firms in September. The pilot system should produce about ten times more insects per week.
Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?
Farminsect: I think Munich has developed really well as a startup city over the last few years. When we started our project, we received so much support in such a short time that we could really hit the ground running. Munich also really benefits from its strong startup centers such as TUM, LMU, FH Munich and Baystartup. The network to contact investors and business angels in Munich is also very good.
Munich Startup: Coworking or your own office?
Farminsect: At the moment, neither of the two. The research center Technikum at TU Munich with our prototype is much more important than the office. We’re really happy to be able to use the TUM space at the food technology center. We spend about 50 percent of our time there. We also work a lot remotely from home. For meetings, we get together in a coworking space for now.