Italian startup Ittinsect was one of the five finalists of Blueinvest Day 2021, held in Brussels in January, with a pitch competition for 20 top startups and SMEs in the EU Blue Economy.
Ittinsect transforms agri-food byproducts and insect meal with microbial processes to obtain a healthy substitute to a complete aquafeed containing fishmeal. The company’s co-founders, Alessandro Romano and Giovanna Sidaoui, said in an interview with Aquafeed.com that their objective is preserving the ocean from overfishing. “Yet, in researching the best way to do it, we encountered a series of problems that our clients are facing every day while using traditional feeds: distribution and supermarket chains are putting increasing pressure on a more sustainable farmed fish. Sustainable feeds are often more expensive and can easily compromise the fish's health.”
The company is committing a lot of resources into product development, food labs, testing on various fish species and desk-based research. “From the technical point of view, we are meeting our expectations. In terms of ingredient prices, we are experiencing a big gap in insect meal pricing. For the same product, the price can be up to double from one European supplier to another. We believe this gap is due to the demand created by the pet food industry, which can afford to pay more for “exclusive” ingredients such as insects. The pet industry, however, is pretty small compared to aquaculture feed. We expect insect meal prices to align on the low side once the European supply of insects increases,” the company said.
Ittinsect does not produce insects. “Insect farming is a very specific business that requires very specific technology. We are the link between insects and fish farmers. Aquaculture is the first industry that can absorb the current insect supply, but pure insect powder is not a complete element for fish feed. We have partnered with insect farmers to create a complete feed containing a substantial content of enriched insect meal with all the nutritional requirements fish need,” the company explained.
“Having the opportunity to participate in the Blue Invest Awards as a finalist was a great honor for us. As a young startup, it was very exciting to share the stage with highly technical projects with many years of R&D under their belt. Some of them involved the use of microalgae, microbiota and other future feed sources which could potentially be integrated into the Ittinsect feed formula in the future,” the company said.
In 2020, Ittinsect won many national awards including the Italian chapter of the EIT Food ChallengeLab. The company pitched its project to over 70 investors specialized in the blue economy, and approximately 900 participants attended the pitch session. “This certainly was an amazing opportunity to develop a network of very interesting and highly skilled people from all over the world, with whom we hope to have the chance to collaborate in the near future,” the company concluded.