Interview with Mohamed Dardour, founder and CEO of Entomonutris
Entomonutris has made a success of its appearance on the program “Who wants to invest in my project”. The insect breeding startup raised the biggest fundraiser in the show’s history. This success confirms the ambition of the initiators of this project to become a major player in this sector with a positive impact on the social, environmental and economic level. In this interview, Mohamed Dardour, founder and CEO of the startup, discusses Entomonutris’s appearance on the show as well as the startup’s development prospects.
ALM: Are you currently taking part in the program “Who wants to invest in my project”? What does this competition represent for you?
Mohamed Dardour: The show represents for us an occasion which stimulates the spirit of competition, and it is the best gift for a business manager!
It not only aims to finance projects, but also to commercialize them and make them visible on the market. The most valuable thing the show’s entrepreneurs walk away with is exposure to millions of viewers who may want to buy their product. The second best thing is an investment agreement concluded with investors who have experience and entrepreneurial knowledge, they have a solid network and potential clients, this is their added value for the project. Money ranks low on the list of what candidates are looking for. We had the biggest fundraising in the show’s history through our Entomonutris project, it was thanks to our entire team through our experience, our commitment, and our motivation.
How was your project born and what are its main characteristics?
The idea started when we thought about responding to an urgent need for food published by the FAO which talks about the industrialization of insect breeding as an alternative ensuring food security and animal feed. According to the United Nations, the world population is expected to increase by nearly 30% between 2020 and 2030. The insect industry could meet the growing global demand for protein, insects have very good nutritional qualities, in particular thanks to their high concentration of proteins, essential fatty acids and minerals. Insect-based food products such as insect meal and oil thus serve as sustainable and natural alternatives to products commonly used in animal and human nutrition.
We therefore decided to join this solution and launch Entomonutris. Currently we are in the R&D stage, we have our pilot center dedicated to breeding operations, the improvement of production processes and the development of high quality products for Moroccan farmers and for the export market.
Thanks to the fundraising that we have carried out, we will accelerate to evolve our model, mass produce and attack the market.
Our ambition is to become a major player in this sector with a positive, social, environmental and economic impact.
What is your service about?
We offer two products on the market, namely “agriculture / gardening” and “animal feed” (aquaculture, poultry, pet food).
With regard to “agriculture / gardening”, the droppings produced by insects provide a natural organic fertilizer which stimulates the agronomic performance of soils and their microbial activities. The biofertilizer that we are developing can thus be used in conventional and organic agriculture. We will also offer our products to individuals who wish to make their fruits and vegetables from the kitchen garden or from the garden.
In terms of animal feed, we are targeting the aquaculture market, but also that of food, poultry and pets. Insect proteins have many advantages, they are of good quality, traceable, very nutritious, easily digestible for the animal, do not enter into competition with human food, finally they do not destroy the resources of the planet.
We are also exploring the extraction of chitin and chitosan in collaboration with our academic partners from insect cuticles for pharmaceutical and cosmetic use, which will allow us to be present across the entire value chain.
Technically, how does the insect breeding process work?
The industrialization of the production of insects constitutes a major challenge for the actors of the sector, there is not a typical model or a standard process, each company designs its own model and process according to its means, its environment, but also on the economic model and the target market. The black soldier fly (hermetia illucens) and mealworm (tenebrio molitor) are the most widely used insects in insect farms and factories. Their production involves different industrial models, which correspond to their characteristics (aging time, protein and bio-conversion rate, size of production units, energy needs, types of inputs, etc.). The insect breeding process that Entomonutris adopted allows us to produce fertilizers for agriculture as well as protein and lipids for animal feed. (see diagram).
What is the contribution of this activity from an ecological and economic point of view?
Today, the insect protein market is very largely dominated by Asia and a few countries in Europe, whose players benefit in particular from a less strict regulatory environment. Ultimately, aquaculture is expected to hold a significant share of the global insect-based feed market.
We are giving insects exactly the role they play in nature. They are very rich in nutrients and respect the natural food hygiene of fish and farm animals. Raising insects requires much less space, water, food to produce and does not use antibiotics or chemicals to produce ingredients and secretes very minimal levels of greenhouse gases. ‘not impacting the environment.
The insect breeding activity presents an important economic opportunity for Morocco to substitute for imports of conventional ingredients used in animal feed, so we adopt the circular economy strategy by using agricultural differences in feed. of our insects thus participating in the minimization of food waste. It is the fundamental basis of the food chain in nature, so we haven’t invented anything, on the other hand we rely a lot on science and technology in our breeding, we use artificial intelligence, IoT or else ‘Internet of things, and the data driven approach to make Entomonutris the first biotechnology startup in Morocco dedicated to this activity that is both efficient, competitive and sustainable.