Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Antoine Hubert (AH:) I am an agricultural engineer graduated from AgroCampus-Ouest and AgroParisTech. I am Co-Founder, President and CEO of Ÿnsect, the world leader in natural insect protein and fertiliser production, a Next40 company and BCorp certified. I am also Vice President of the European Insect Farmers’ Union (IPIFF) and a member of the Board of Directors of the Consortium Protéines France and La Ferme Digitale. In 2021, I was named 1st in the Choiseul 100 ranking and am a member of the French American Foundation’s Young Leader class.
Prior to co-founding Ÿnsect, I worked on scientific projects dealing with environmental risk assessment in industry, as well as the recycling and valorisation of biomass and plastics. I also co-founded, with Alexis Angot, the association Worgamic and the company OrgaNeo.
On a more personal note, I have always been obsessed with insects, even as a child – I would spend hours chasing butterflies around the garden – so it’s no surprise that I’ve ended up in this career!
MB: Please introduce your business and the problems you’re trying to solve.
AH: Ÿnsect is the world leader in the natural production of premium, high-value ingredients for pets, fish, plants, and humans. Why? According to the FAO, by 2050, we will need to increase our protein production by 70% and this with only 5% extra arable land. Our current agricultural methods are unsustainable, representing a leading cause of biodiversity destruction and climate change.
Ÿnsect offers a sustainable, nutritious, and scalable solution to meet the growing global demand for protein and plant consumption through farming the lesser and yellow mealworms. Using disruptive technology protected by 341 patents from 42 families, we are reinventing our food systems from soil to stomach – from fertilising the crops our livestock eats, to improving human nutrition. Ÿnsect operates two production sites, one in France (since 2016), one in the Netherlands (since 2017) and is currently building a third unit, the world’s largest vertical farm, in Amiens (Somme, France). The company, which employs 250 people, has raised around USD 435 million from recognised investment funds, banks and public institutions, and exports its products worldwide.
Inside a Ÿnsect vertical farm
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now and what support do you need?
AH: Our next goal is to open our third vertical farm in Amiens, in the North of France. As the biggest vertical farm in the world, it will eventually be able to produce 200,000 tons of ingredients per year. To meet this challenge, we are fortunate to be able to count on our partners and investors who support us financially. We have also accelerated recruitment to consolidate our teams and gain expertise.
Ÿnsect Protein Powder
MB: What is your ambition for the future of your business?
AH: Our ultimate goal is continue increasing our impact on every part of the dinner plate, from soil to stomach, to help reinvent our food systems for the better. To do so, we will keep scaling our activities which includes the launch of our third vertical farm, the biggest in the world: the 200,000 tonnes of ingredients that will be produced there, added to the existing 3,000, will allow us to continue our expansion into the human food market as well as our work in our existing markets, those of plants and animal feed. In the more distant future, within the next ten years, we would like to see a dozen vertical farms flourish throughout the world, to continue to produce locally and to respond to the challenges of resource conservation and global food supply.
Inside a Ÿnsect vertical farm
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
AH: To those interested in combining profit and purpose, I would say go for it! More and more, the companies that are flourishing have the ambition to reinvent the classic business model: today’s entrepreneur is no longer the one who runs in search of profit, but the one who tries to find solutions to the major problems of our time. I would add that it is increasingly difficult to create a company without taking into consideration the different pillars of sustainable development. Today, we can no longer produce as we did in the past, and we must find ways to create sustainably, preserve the planet’s resources and biodiversity, while carrying out our role as business leaders.
MB – Tell us a mistake you’ve learned from:
AH – In the early days, we didn’t get hiring quick enough – let me tell you, it is never too early to hire! Especially for positions that are very stretched on the market – and ones that will end up being key to your business – you need to be able to anticipate the need.
MB – How do you spend your time away from work?
AH – When I am not at work, I enjoy my time with family and friends. This balance is essential to find fulfilment in both.
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
AH – The best advice I’ve ever been given is to always hire better than you are! You must remain humble regarding your own knowledge and surround yourself with the best possible experts to achieve your goals.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
AH – I could say mine, to learn more about insects and how we can align ecology and economy! But also the recent comics from Jancovici and Blain showing very clearly all the unsustainable challenges we are facing.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
AH – As an environmentalist and scientist at my core, entrepreneurship didn’t come naturally to me at the beginning. But given Ÿnsect’s humble and balanced mindset, this turned out not to be a bad thing. Plus, we’ve hired some amazing leaders that are making up for it!
MB – What’s one thing you want to achieve in 2022?
AH – In 2022, we’re looking to expand our horizons…who knows, hopefully even across the ocean!
Discover the other leaders recognised on the 2021 MB100, for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Global Goals, here.