Bulgarian company to compete for USD 1 mln. award

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Photo: capital.bg

The NASEKOMO startup, developing an innovative technology for conversion of organic waste into an alternative protein source via the black fly larvae will present this country at the final of the Chivas Venture 2018 contest for business with a cause. The company is the Bulgarian winner in the competition for activities in favor of society. In May it will enter the competition in Amsterdam, for part of the prize money amounting to USD 1 mln.

 Entrepreneurs Olga and Xavier Marsenak had been developing the outsourcing industry here for years, but in 2017 they decided they wanted to get involved into some socially responsive business. While researching their options they came up with the idea to develop a niche, related to insects – it turned out that the black fly’s larvae are extremely rich in proteins. After certain processing they can be turned into food in the stockbreeding industry, thus compensating the diminishing food resources in farming.

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Olga says that NASEKOMO (the Bulgarian word for Insect), the first of its kind in Eastern Europe, will work on two major challenges:

“The first issue is related to the growing quantity of organic waste, resulting in harmful carbon emissions, if left to decompose on its own. The other problem concerns the necessity to find new sources of proteins for feeding the growing population on the planet. Our idea is based on the fact that the larvae of the black fly develop really fast, eating organic waste – for instance spoiled fruit and vegetables. The growing cycle lasts approximately 3 weeks and the larvae increase their initial size some 7,000 times. That is when they already contain many proteins as well. Thus the proteins can be processed and used in stockbreeding – in the fishing industry, to be more precise.”

The black fly will be also grown in farms with a bit higher temperature and humidity, compared to what’s normal for our altitudes. The idea is the reproduction of the flies to take place in a plant and then the eggs to be distributed across the farms, developing the larvae there. The company hopes that the first working factory will be a fact by the end of the year – especially if they manage to overcome the competition of the other 26 finalists in Amsterdam.

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“If we win, the funding will help us to go to the next stage more quickly. That is the automation and robotizing of the process of production,” Olga Marsenak says. “However, we have the ambitions to go on even in case we don’t win, although it will slow us down and we will have to think of other funding methods. At the moment the EU allows the usage of alternative proteins from insects in the fishing industry only, but it will spread in other sectors as well – for instance, in poultry farming. Until then we will concentrate on fishing farms – our first potential customers. And since those have already declared interest we have been discussing pilot projects for the testing of our production and for evaluation of its impact on their fish groups.

NASEKOMO will be developed as a company with a social cause.

“Our project has its social effect from the environmental perspective as well,” Olga Marsenak explains. “On one hand we will contribute to the reduction of organic waste and to the limitation of toxic carbon and methane emissions in the atmosphere. On the other – we will offer an alternative to the current protein – in a fish farm this is wild fish. Thus we will reduce its usage of wild fish for feeding farm fish and will contribute to the stabilization of fish ecosystems.”

English version: Zhivko Stanchev 

Photos: private library
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