Insect protein startup Orgafeed has secured an undisclosed amount of funding from seafood giant Thai Union.
Launched in 2018, Orgafeed makes pet food products out of black soldier fly larvae.
The Bangkok-based startup raises its insects in what it describes as a circular economy model, feeding them “a diet from pre-consumed food waste” and other “food surpluses” such as fruit and vegetable scraps.
Its consumer-facing brand is Laika, which offers a range of foods and snack treats for dogs. Orgafeed also plans to introduce products aimed at cats.
The startup’s most senior executive is given the title of Circular Economy Officer (or CEO for short – geddit?) The role is held by co-founder Ittikorn Thepmani.
“We believe that insect protein is a sustainable choice that helps to raise the standard of the pet food industry, both in terms of nutritional benefits and sustainability,” Thepmani said in a statement.
“With this partnership and investment from Thai Union Group, we will be able to scale both our business as well as the positive impacts on the environment. We look forward to this journey together with Thai Union Group and their pet care experts and professionals.”
Following the investment, Orgafeed – which participated in the Thai Union-backed SPACE-F foodtech accelerator in 2019 – will collaborate with company’s pet care division, i-Tail.
“At Thai Union, innovation and sustainability are two important pillars of our business. The pet industry is experiencing strong humanization and premiumization trends, which [have] led to customers looking for healthier and more sustainable products,” said Roy Chan, CEO of i-Tail.
This has driven Thai Union’s pet care portfolio “towards sustainable pet products, such as insect protein, where the environmental impact — emissions, land and water usage — is significantly lower than other kinds of farmed protein,” he added.
“Orgafeed will help us better serve our customers, especially in the sustainable pet food segment. We’re very pleased to be participating in this round of funding and are looking forward to exploring collaboration opportunities with them.”
Thai Union owns several of the world’s most-recognized seafood brands, including Chicken of the Sea and John West. It has invested in a number of alt-protein startups in recent years, including Israeli fruit fly farmers Flying Spark, which it backed in 2019; US cell-cultured seafood startup BlueNalu, which netted $60 million from Thai Union and Rich’s, among others, in January this year; and Israeli cultured steak pioneer Aleph Farms, which raised $105 million in Series B funding from Thai Union, Cargill, CJ CheilJedang, and others in July.
In a separate development last week, Thai Union’s aquaculture and livestock feed devision, Thai Union Feedmill (TFM), listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
Following its IPO, TFM said it “is prepared for continual sustainable growth and determined to take the leadership role in the aquaculture and commercial animal feed business sector.” Over the next two years, it will spend 1.18 billion baht ($35.2 million) in IPO proceeds to, among other things, expand production and distribution of aquaculture feeds through its Indonesian subsidiary TUKL, increasing capacity by 36,000 tons per year.
It also “envisions a growth opportunity in the commercial animal feed sector that should help support food security in Asia,” it said in a statement.