While governments debate what kind of biodiversity matters (plus who pays the bill), and experts count the number of species left (who had the appetisers?), the planet’s tab is still open for further exploitation (of the Rainforest Cafe’s signature cocktails like Cheetah Rita in a souvenir glass - for adults - in 2022.)

If you missed the first meeting of #DodoAccord catch up on the minutes and Q&A with CIRCA 5000 on impact investing. Next, The Webinar Vet will tell us about rewilding and ZenaDrone will cover multiple applications of drone technologies for the benefit of biodiversity.  

In this second Q&A of the #DodoAccord series, Antoine Hubert, CEO & Chair of Ÿnsect argues biodiversity and climate change should be explicitly linked so everyone understands that “without healthy ecosystems, there is no us.”

Subscribe for free and head to #DodoAccord for context to the series and all the links.

Antoine Hubert, CEO of Ÿnsect

What Ÿnsect is doing to protect biodiversity

France’s Ÿnsect is a pioneer in alternative proteins, notable for massive funding, growth and scaling capacity. Founded in 2011, Ynsect is perhaps the most well-known insectech. Today, Ynsect is closely followed by the likes of TechCrunch (below) and, since 2019, the ImpactAlpha’s of the world when it closed a $125 million Series C led by Astanor Ventures.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for biodiversity?

We need to foster innovation in any way we can. There are many smaller actions that are needed at every level, so it’s important not to oversimplify, but better environmental policymaking would be a huge advantage to biodiversity.

For big changes, we need big ideas. A lot of this will fall to the private sector, so we need to do what we can to support innovative, deep-tech companies that have huge overheads and low barriers to entry.

But ultimately, it’s the accumulation of many, many actions, across governments, companies, industry, and the general public, that will restore biodiversity.

“For big changes, we need big ideas. A lot of this will fall to the private sector, so we need to do what we can to support innovative, deep-tech companies.”

How should conflicts between economic development and biodiversity be resolved?

The solution lies in shifting the areas in which we want to grow. The sectors that serve our material needs, notably energy, transportation, food production and industry, will have to make certain sacrifices.

But we can still achieve huge economic and human development by growing in intellectual and service-based areas, that are at the service of people and planet. Immaterial sectors, such as innovation, science, education and the arts, communication and entertainment can grow indefinitely.

“The solution lies in shifting the areas in which we want to grow… But we can still achieve huge economic and human development.”

Can offsetting play a significant role in the protection of biodiversity?

It’s a lot more worthwhile to directly address the root problem, rather than acting after the fact. From the start, it’s better to assess how we can keep ecosystems intact, limit land use and implement solutions like natural fertilisers. Using carbon offsetting as a ‘get out of jail free’ card can be dangerous.

However, when carried out thoughtfully, carbon offsetting can have a positive impact. At Ynsect, on top of using minimal land and emitting a fraction of GHG emissions compared to traditional livestock, we have launched the TerrHa 2040 program which will plant 1.8 million trees over the next twenty years to regenerate our soils and boost biodiversity.

“It’s a lot more worthwhile to directly address the root problem, rather than acting after the fact… Using carbon offsetting as a ‘get out of jail free’ card can be dangerous.”

Ÿnsect’s advice on biodiversity

Image credit: TechCrunch
In late 2020, fast becoming a fish food powerhouse Ynsect started to hook the likes of Robert Downey Jr’s FootPrint Coalition in the shoal of investors that swarmed “the world’s most expensive bug farm,” according to TechCrunch and landed Ynsect a $224 million haul.

Does biodiversity get lost in conversations about climate change?

Biodiversity conservation is primordial in combatting climate change - our oceans and forests are the biggest carbon sinks we have, and as they are degraded, more and more GHG emissions are released into the atmosphere.

Not everyone understands this, biodiversity and climate change are often seen as separate. There is definite work to be done to make people understand that without healthy ecosystems, there is no us!

“Biodiversity and climate change are often seen as separate. There is definite work to be done in to make people understand that without healthy ecosystems, there is no us!”

What advice would you give policymakers in the absence of global agreement?

Since climate change is a leading cause of biodiversity degradation, it is an ‘easier’ place to start in terms of policymaking, since pure biodiversity impact can be tougher to track. Oblige companies to carry out carbon accounting alongside traditional accounting, to make everyone think about and be held responsible for their actions.

Just like in traditional accounting, the more balanced the output is to the offset the better. In doing this, biodiversity would naturally be better off.

“Oblige companies to carry out carbon accounting alongside traditional accounting, to make everyone think about and be held responsible for their actions.”

What advice would you give founders to have a positive impact?

At a minimum ensure the company’s mission is not at odds with conservation - ideally, create a company that improves the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable food and agriculture, for example, or energy and materials innovations.

Plant trees, get involved in biodiversity conservation programmes from rubbish cleanups to rewilding initiatives and more. Limit space use, dispose of waste and recycle responsibly.

“Use your influence as an entrepreneur to educate people on the importance of biodiversity!”

Ÿnsect’s mission and keys to success

Image credit: ImpactAlpha
According to Crunchbase, Ynsect has raised over $400 million with the latest tranche at an undisclosed valuation. Netting Ynsect’s heavyweight status, high tech as the startup may be, is the humble mealworm. Great for alternative proteins, fish farms and fertilisers, it’s the little bugs you remember from school grinding away at oats in a plastic tank.

How was Ynsect founded with a focus on sustainability?

The idea to pioneer a new vertical in the agri-food industry to contribute to solving the major challenges of our time came from our professional experience in agriculture, science and engineering.

I am an agricultural engineer and, prior to co-founding Ynsect, I worked on scientific projects dealing with environmental risk assessment in industry, as well as the recycling and valorisation of biomass and plastics.

“The idea to pioneer a new vertical in the agri-food industry… came from our professional experience in agriculture, science and engineering.”

What’s been the biggest obstacle to your success?

Legislation! We had some major breakthroughs last year with the EU’s approval of insects in human food, poultry and swine feed, but we have been growing quicker in recent years than the legislation could evolve. Since it’s such a new industry, regulation has a lot of catching up to do.

“[Ynsect has] been growing quicker in recent years than the legislation could evolve… regulation has a lot of catching up to do.”

What keeps you awake at night?

We are proud to be doing our part for the planet, but it needs to go quicker, and it needs to be bigger. The latest IPCC report has told us we have until 2025 before our emissions need to be on a downward trajectory, and we are nowhere near that.

We are just one innovation among many other necessary ones, most of which don't even exist yet - we can't fight this battle alone, or slowly!

“We are proud to be doing our part for the planet, but it needs to go quicker, and it needs to be bigger.”

Join the conversation

Find Antoine on LinkedIn, follow Ÿnsect on Twitter and on the web.

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