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#IntersectTalks: Meet Insect Engineers

Bob Holtermans, CEO Insect Engineers

We’d love to hear about your company, what do you do exactly?

Insect Engineers has the ambition to make BSF farming as commercially attractive as possible.

We do this by not only supplying turnkey systems but also sharing knowledge through our Insect School.

We have developed and delivered a unique alternative to trays. ZOEM racks are a patented solution for vertical BSF farming. They offer flexibility with efficiency of scale whilst addressing the ecological aspects of insect farming.

Insect Engineers also developed Insect School, where we not only provide education and knowledge sharing but also carry out research into all aspects of the BSF life cycle.

How would you describe the problem your company solves in words that a 10-year-old could understand?

I asked my 8-year-old son.

He answered: "You make sure that we’re more careful about what we throw away and find solutions to still use waste in a good way."

How did the company journey start?

My first real contact with the insect industry was with the company Sanergy (these days called Regen Organics) who contacted me to think about technical solutions for their BSF farm.

For the first 3 years, we entirely focused on their project.

After successfully co-building their commercial facility, I founded Insect Engineers to make this a separate business.

Who do you hope will use your products and services in the future?

Currently, we have customers in South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The hope is that our ZOEM rack system will be seen as an industry-standard in the future.

Why did you choose to start Insect Engineers instead of an insect-based feed brand for example?

I was already in the business of agricultural farming solutions.

Finding (technical) solutions for farmers is what we’re best at. I love the chat with a customer talking about their challenges and together creating new ideas.

Our ZOEM solution is the complete opposite of a tray solution. Currently, trays are still seen as the standard. I love the challenge of convincing the market that there is a better alternative.

If and how we succeed you have to ask me in 10 years.

I also enjoy the practical farming side: growing larvae and trying out new substrates at our Insect School facility.

Insect Engineers facilities

What types of profiles did you seek to build your existing team?

People who are different than me and better at certain tasks than I am. I believe that's how you create a team with real added value in growing your business.

I believe it's also important not to be afraid to give responsibilities to your staff. Doing that and being an enthusiastic owner can bring you a long way.

In one sentence, how would you encourage people to use your product(s)?

Looking for an alternative to trays and want to boost your profitability with better CAPEX and OPEX?

Choose the ZOEM system and make your insect farm scalable and successful in one go.

Insect Engineers equipment

Could you share an anecdote with us? (An epic success, an epic fail, a funny day?)

There are quite a few to pick from.

Like the time we had larvae escaping, or when an intern working on BSF farming smelled so terrible after a day's work that she had a whole train carriage to herself, or even the origin story of the name "Fly-ing Dutchman."

However, one particular incident springs to mind. It might fall into the category of "you had to be there," but let me give it a shot anyway.

As some of you may know, I'm quite active on LinkedIn. I don't mind injecting a bit of humor into my online presence.

During a trip to an exhibition in Abu Dhabi, there was a large mirror near the elevator in my hotel. Since the elevator often took its time, we began cracking jokes while waiting, involving the mirror and other hotel guests.

This culminated in a LinkedIn post where I wrote: "The hotel claimed to have a great view, and I must say, they weren't wrong," accompanied by a photo of me looking into the mirror. I had no idea how many people would see this post.

The next day at the exhibition, numerous people approached me saying they had a good laugh over our post.

Even weeks later, while taking my son to water polo practice, someone specifically mentioned it. It was wonderful to bring smiles to people's faces, even if just for a moment.

No matter what we're doing, injecting a bit of humor into the world could truly make it a better place for everyone.

Insect Engineers farming systems

Finally, how optimistic are you about the insect industry and why?

Very! As I’m building a whole business around it. So don’t let me down 😊.

But also realistically I’m optimistic.

I do think that it might not always go as fast as some people predict. There is little benchmark for future growers which makes business decisions harder.

I think it’s key that we share knowledge to enable future farmers to make the right decisions.

The hardest part is the start and the industry is still in that phase. If you asked me to mention 10 large commercial active BSF farmers in the world, I wouldn't be able to yet.

That is the reality.

So focus in the coming years is more on farms and generating and sharing more knowledge about their experiences.


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