EcoeFISHent “Meet the partners”: Nasekomo

Nasekomo team
During the past few months we have been in contact with some partners in order to deep dive in their activities and teams. We called it “meet the partner” format, and we hope we will able to do the same for other EcoeFISHent partners! The first one is Nasekomo, our Bulgarian partner specialized in insect rearing.

1. Please introduce your institution and its activities.

Nasekomo is an insect rearing company currently producing insect protein and oil for the animal feed industry, and insect fertilizer for the agriculture industry. Leveraging the principles of circular economy and zero-waste production, we are the first and at present the only insect rearing factory in South-East Europe, located in Bulgaria.
It specializes in technologies and genetics for bioconversion through the Black Soldier Fly insect (Hermetia Illucens), considered as one of the most powerful bioconversion (biotransformation) agents to transform organic waste from agriculture into valuable products.
The products from BSF bioconversion are insect flour and insect oil, which are natural and healthy for the diets of fish, poultry, pig and pets, and represent a sustainable alternative to soybean and wild fish-based feed. Soil fertilizer is the third product form BSF bioconversion leftovers (so called frass) and is highly valued for organic farming.
Ever since Nasekomo was founded in 2017, the team has grown exponentially and now amounts to more than 50 team members, who work in Operations, R&D, Industrialization, Quality Management, Maintenance, IT, PMO, Finances, Business Development, and Administration.

2. What is the role of your company in the project?

Within the EcoeFISHent project, Nasekomo will perform activities related to the development and validation of fishing side-streams and fishing related products bioconversion by larvae breeding for oil, chitin, and fertilizer.
Nasekomo will develop and optimize a series of diets to improve nutrition, growth, and welfare of Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae, while incorporating feedstock from fish processing biomasses as ingredients, whose nutritional and physical characteristics will be used together with fermentation and fractionalization pre-processing to develop larvae dietary mixtures.
Furthermore, based on the developed diets and using under licenses Nasekomo’s insect rearing technology, a local insect bioconversion pilot unit will be set up.

3. Describe briefly the team involved in the project and its tasks.

Marc Bolard is our Co-Founder, R&D and Operations and he is responsible for production and R&D and has 15+ years of experience in the animal production sector.
In Nasekomo, Marc built and launched the process and technology to grow from scratch and scaled the operations to enable EU market deliveries of insect-based products in 18 months.
Marc’s role in EcoeFISHent project will be to lead the R&D and Operations teams.

Mirena Zhelezarova is Research technician specialized in BSF nutrition and has a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology and a master’s degree in Hydrobiology and Aquaculture from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, Bulgaria.
Mirena is part of the R&D team at Nasekomo, specialized in Black Soldier Fly nutrition.

Imad Mhanna is R&D and Process Specialist.
He holds a master’s degree in Bioprocess and Food Engineering from Universite Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France. In Nasekomo, Imad is part of the R&D team, specializing in Product development, continuous improvement, and ingredient application.

Kamen Vasilev is an Industrialization Director.
He leads functional and concept design of processes and equipment for industrial implementation of lab- and pilot-scale developments. Kamen is responsible for building, testing and improvement of prototypes of the future large-scale industrial equipment and for the definition of requirements for the production locations and buildings.
In EcoeFISHent, Kamen is responsible for the setup of the local insect bioconversion pilot unit.

Ioanna Mincheva is Nasekomo Project Manager.
She has a master’s degree in Human Rights and Democratization from EIUC, Venice, Italy, and a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, Bulgaria.
Ioanna has ample project management experience, having managed projects and programs in the fields of innovation, education, digital technology, civil society organizations, the environment and sustainable development.
In Nasekomo, Ioanna is responsible for project management, coordination, and communication activities. 

4. What is your core knowledge, also beyond the scope of the project? And how’s EU funding going to foster its development and marketing?

Nasekomo is the first and, at this time, the only insect rearing factory in South-East Europe, located in Bulgaria.
Nasekomo is currently producing insect proteins and oil for the animal feed industry, along with insect fertilizer for the agriculture industry, in compliance with the principles of circular economy and zero-waste production.
The company is specialized in technologies and genetics for bioconversion through the Black Soldier Fly insect (Hermetia Illucens). R&D is an integral part of Nasekomo’s activities. With a dedicated R&D team including experts in entomology, microbiology, genetics, nutrition, livestock management etc., Nasekomo puts a particular emphasis on new products development, and has established the first BSF genetic improvement company joint venture together with the French Groupe Grimaud.
The R&D team working at Groupe Grimaud focuses on Increasing reproduction rates, production outputs, and fitness rates, producing dedicated larval lines for specific diet ingredients, improving industry sustainability.

Wide application range of insect-based products means an enormous market opportunity and includes pet, aqua and pig & poultry feed sector, soil nutrition (compost, fertilizer, soil remediation material) and technical applications (chitin and chitosan), renewable energy, pharma & cosmetics industry, and prospectively human food sector in the longer run.

Furthermore, Nasekomo develops industrial insect rearing technology, biology & data insights bonded in a unique franchising model to allow newcomers in the industry such as waste operators, agri industrials & feed & beverage processors to set up scalable insect-bioconversion units, unlike the rest of manufacturers, who aim at vertical integration and supply of larger amounts of insect protein.
In this way, Nasekomo will allow them to deploy insect bioconversion at an industrial scale and thus fuel a powerful circular economy model across Europe. The vision of the company is to scale insect bioconversion to thousands of agri-food companies and create a marketplace for premium sustainable protein alternatives.

Nasekomo has started building the network of insect bioconversion plants from Bulgaria with first customer already signed, and aims for 100 plants in 10 years.
The company is currently working on two Horizon2020 projects, funded by the European Commission, as well as on one Norway Grants project and one project funded by the Bulgarian Agriculture Fund. EU projects are valuable for Nasekomo as they enable the company to work with other leading innovators and research institutions in the field, exchange good practices and knowledge and further develop its products and technologies.

5. Given what above, in Your opinion, how’s the project going to reduce the environmental impact of fishing-related activities?

Our mission is to feed the growing population and combat climate change by harnessing the power of insects to transform waste into protein. Our solution is zero-waste, and in mid-term perspective nearly-zero in terms of energy consumption. That way we contribute to the EC priority “A European Green Deal” and the Fork to Farm Strategy, The Protein Plan of Europe.
We are aligned with several UN Sustainable Development Goals: Zero hunger (2); Responsible consumption & production (12); Climate action (13); Life below water (14); Life on land (15).
GHG reduction potential: BSF-bioconversion is among the most powerful sustainable way to upcycle low-value streams and true alternative to unsustainable feed ingredients as soybean and wild catch fish for fishmeal. One ton of protein meal saves 2.5 tons CO2 emissions. Insect protein production compared to soya protein demands 13 times less water and 150 times less land.
Currently, about 4 kg of wild catch fish is needed to produce 1 kg of farm fish. Insects have the potential to substitute up to 50% of the fish meal and thus save the wild fish.

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