French animal feed developer Huddle Corp recently closed a €1.5 million ($1.65 million) funding round from European private equity firm Demeter’s food-focused Agrinnovation funds. The new round will be used to help Huddle Corp scale up for its target market: aquaculture.
“After nine months of market investigation, interviews with farmers, academics, and players in the feed value chain, we identified a market [with challenges] in feed nutrition,” company co-founders Abdeslam El Harrak and César Crétel wrote to AFN via email. “First, current feed manufacturing processes are wasting raw materials by degrading their nutritive quality. Second, feed is not optimized to be totally used by animal organisms.”
Huddle Corp’s technology is solving some of these challenges with proprietary encapsulation technologies that preserve the nutrient quality of the feed when manufactured. This enables the fish to essentially absorb more nutrients, wasting less into the local environment. Its technology is also based on a mix of what it describes as well-balanced nutritive intake, which stimulates the immune system and the microbiome of the fish, resulting in healthier and stronger animals that can fight infections without the use of antibiotics.
“We also use a unique architecture that leads to controlled nutrient release, i.e., absorption is optimized in the animal gut, enhancing digestibility and zootechnical performances in exploitations,” the founders wrote. “It gives us a relevant and unique approach to support aquafeed market growth and reduce pressure on raw materials by optimizing their quantity use in the feed.”
The founders launched their startup in November 2018 with their own money and dedicated their early R&D efforts to proving that the way feed is designed and built is key for nutrient performance and animal wellness. They performed trials in rainbow trout and discovered that their proof of concept increased the fish’s performance, yielding a 30% improvement in development and survival, according to the company. To date, it’s filed six patents for their technology.
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The first two products it plans to offer, Huddle Bio Hatch and Huddle Early Sup, will target freshwater and marine fish hatcheries in France and Europe. Considering the scale of the aquaculture market, however, they have global ambitions.
In addition to expanding their footprint, they hope to eventually expand their product portfolio. The founders are confident that their technology can be duplicated in other contexts for different species including monogastrics. They are also eyeing the pet food sector, which has been a small yet growing area of focus for innovation.
Innovation in aquaculture seems to be booming lately with a growing number of startups entering the emerging investment ecosystem including companies focused on feed ingredients. The USDA 2018 Census of Aquaculture marked a 10.5% increase in seafood sales to boot while Adisseo recently opened a new aquaculture research facility in Singapore.