Insect Companies Are Lazy On Social Media

Eating insects is a big thing, even a super trend according to many studies and articles. But there are many obstacles to overcome before we change our attitudes towards the crawling things we many of us consider disgusting or even scary.

Social media is undoubtedly the best forum to spread understanding of the more ethical protein compared to meat-eating that is destroying our planet. But how good are the insect companies in their social media actions? Not so good, it seems.

Underhood (underhood.co) is a Finnish startup that is measuring social performance of thousands of brands. Currently, there are about ten thousand companies, organizations or other brands analyzed daily on the service. Each brand gets a daily social score based on data.

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Underhood sat down together with insect-business expert Ilkka Taponen to see how the most prominent ento-companies or brands are performing, and here are the results as in 23th of August 2018. You can see daily updating score here:  http://rankings.underhood.co/insect-companies/

Brands are analyzed by their social performance (language analysis, engagement numbers, and visibility) and given a social score. The scale is from 1 to 10 and you can click on any brand to see the full social analysis. The scores are updated daily.

 

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Underhood’s ranking as in 23th of August 2018

 

The best performers (as in August 23rd) are Jimini’s and Wilder Harrier. They are both selling customer products from insects. While Jimini’s focuses on serving humans, Wilder Harrier makes sustainable insect-treats for dogs.

According to Underhood’s algorithm, Jimini’s is reasonable active on social media – they update their Facebook every second day on average, but Wilder Harrier has something to say to their Facebook audience only once in ten days. That is not enough. Preaching should be louder when the best performing brands on Underhood update their Facebook more than twice a day.

Follower counts need work too. There are only two brands with five-figure follower numbers, Exo (55,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter) and Jimini’s (27,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter). As a rule of thumb, customer brands need large follower bases on social media to boost their sales and spread the knowledge of their products.

So, why are these companies so quiet and modest on social media? Is it because they do not have good communication professionals to help them or do they feel that they don’t have interesting things to say? On social media, it is essential to keep noise. No one remembers the quiet ones when everybody is shouting.

As we see it, it is crucial that brands of this new industry get active on social. There is no way we can change people’s attitudes towards eatable insects if we do not spread the word in the most personal media, meaning Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms. It seems the industry players are wasting an excellent and cost-effective opportunity to market their new and exciting products! Revolution needs to have evangelists.

So, what to post? Here are some best performing posts from the listed companies ranked above.

 

 

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Clean Meat Supply Chain Faces a Unique Set of Risks. These Two Things Must Be Considered.

The Clean Meat industry is on the verge of commercialization as products are expected to hit the market in the coming few years. In fact,  Just-company is promising to bring it’s products out already during 2018. While the Clean Meat companies are preparing their products internally, external companies in the supply chain are facing increased risk environment when operating in this new and special industry. What makes the situation very special is that we are talking about a completely new type of material that is not available today. Something very similar is happening in edible insects or IFF (Insects for Food and Feed) field where also new technology is producing a new type of raw material.

Supply chains can be visualized as a stream of supply where the goods are flowing down the river starting from the raw material producers to end product manufacturing and finally to end customers through wholesalers and supermarkets. When looking upstream towards Clean Meat producers a high level of supply risk can be identified. Supply risk, the risk that products are not been delivered, is higher than many other industries because of two reasons: Lack of horizontal integration and limited knowledge.

Lack of horizontal integration means that there is a very limited number of companies able to produce e.g. clean cow meat. There are numerous places to get slaughtered meat if your first option fails to deliver, but what will you do when your primary Clean Meat producer faces delivery issues? A serious production issue will leave downstream without promised products and no chance of buying replacing products as there simply isn’t anyone else to buy from. What makes the supply risk exposure even higher is the limited knowledge of the clean meat production the producer has. No one in the world has ever produced clean meat in industrial scale. It is very likely that during the first years of industrial-scale production unexpected operational risks will occur that will lead to some level of delivery issues simply because of the lack of experience.

What is different between the IFF and Clean Meat industries is that unlike the IFF side, it seems that most of the Clean Meat companies are not only producing the raw material but also making the end product. In supply chain terms the level of vertical integration is different. This way the supply risk is carried internally and in case of production difficulties the consequences are seen first internally, not at the end product producers’ factory. The risk of failed deliveries to supermarkets still exists, but in this case, a supermarket could fill their shelves with something similar like clean pork. This is not ideal but acceptable. Instead, an end product producer cannot do the same and for this reason, unlike supermarkets or wholesalers, they cannot accept as high supply risks.

Another way to reduce the risk exposure in the supply chain together with shifting the degree of vertical integration is increased horizontal integration. Eventually, the supply will increase when competing companies appear, but the increase of horizontal integration can happen also internally within a company by dividing production capacity to multiple locations and production units. When the whole production capacity of a company is not relying on a limited number of machines and operators an occurrence of an operational risk (that are likely due to the limited knowledge) does not jeopardize to complete production capacity of the company.

The Clean Meat industry is still working on bringing the production cost down, but the IFF companies are already in the markets and facing the supply chain challenges today. There are no simple and easy answers, but when the time comes for wide market entry for the Clean Meat companies could look at the fellow alt-protein industries for key learnings.

 

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To look deeper into the risk profile of emerging industries’ supply chain check out my thesis Supply Chain Risk Management in Entomology Farms. The thesis is available also in all major audiobook platforms like Audible.  You may also see my presentation on the topic here.

Semi-Automatic Water Station for Crickets

In 2015 I was working on multiple projects to find ways to help insect farmers with their two main issues: Farming requires too much manual work and that there are too many risks in farming. One solution to fight these two issues was a prototype of Semi-Automatic Water Station for Crickets. I designed the following prototype with one great engineer, but due to lack of time we did not push the design further. The prototype has been tested in couple of farms the basic functionality has been confirmed, but for sure there are details to improve in all aspects.

The problem of high risks and need of manual labor.

Here is an example of a regular cricket farm. Picture taken from Entomo Farms’ Instagram:  (https://www.instagram.com/p/BHhtRZVg4JU/?taken-by=entomofarms)

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UPDATE 30.4.2017: New updated picture from Entomo Farms was uploaded USAID- Medium profile. Very interesting set-up! Photo courtesy of Stewart Stick, Entomo Farms. Link to the article: https://medium.com/usaid-2030/3-food-innovations-changing-how-the-world-eats-ddda0414fbb

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What you can see from the picture is that there is wooden plate for the cricket feed and black plastic “river” where water flows for the crickets to drink. The water system has multiple problems. Well, before going in to the problems it must be said that this river-thing is a lot better than the other traditional drinking device: “the sponge-thing”, sold e.g here: https://www.armstrongcrickets.com/waterdevice

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Both of the shown methods of bringing fresh water to crickets suffer from the same problems of crickets dying and dropping feces into the water. What the river-method has better that the sponge is that you don’t need to be filling up the water tank frequently.

The Solution: Semi-Automatic Water Station

Here below I present my concept of low manual labor that has minimized the risk of crickets touching the fresh water. In the first picture below I show the basic unit of the system. The shape and size of the pipe can be basically anything, in this case the pipe is made for a regular plastic container. There are small  drinking holes in the long sides of the pipe and for each hole there is an individual ramp. The ramp has such surface that the crickets are able climb on it, but the pipe itself is so slippery that they cannot move on it. This way the crickets will only move to the drinking hole and no where else. Additionally, the holes are so far away from each other that the while the head of the cricket is at the drinking hole, the other end does not reach the neighboring hole.

The pipe is filled with plastic mesh that has tiny holes. The mesh is rolled and pushed into the pipe. This way the mesh is exposed at the drinking holes and capillary action offers fresh drop of water for the thirsty animal. When the small drop has been drank, the capillary action will bring a new one.

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In the next picture the flow of water is explained. The water enters the system from the left by a drip hose that is either connected to water line (best option), or a separate tank. In this example the rearing boxes are piled on top of each other. Water enters the top most box from the left and exists from the right. To the next one the water enters from the right, exists from the left and so on. Under the last one there is a overflow tank that collects the water that was not drank during water’s way through the system. In large scale operation the water would go to the drain or possibly pumped back to circulation.

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The system is calibrated in two steps. First of all it is essential that the system is level, if tilted the water can overflow on one side and leave the opposite side with no water at all. The correct flow of water can be confirmed by in the beginning checking how much water comes out to the overflow tank. If you can get e.g one drop every 10 min, you know that there is water throughout the system and that the water is not stagnant either.

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Service and cleaning of the system is essential. The boxes can be taken out from the system by lifting out the flexible pipes connecting the boxes from the hard plastic that is inside the boxes.This way you can even taken out one of the boxes in the middle of the pile without touching the ones below and above. The hard plastic pipes are removable as well. As you can see from the first picture the pipe is connected by two holders. When you click the pipe out from the holders the pipe can be taken out completely, or just pushed out of the way when e.g the cartons are changed. The plastic ramps are connected to the pipes by clicking action as well.

I believe the system will remain clean for the duration of one life cycle of crickets, so the cleaning would happen in the same time when the crickets are harvested. The pipes, hard and soft, can be placed inside a dishwasher and the plastic mesh can be taken out easily before that. One could also try running strong alcohol through the system to clean out bacteria.

Please feel free the take this idea to your farm and let me know what if it works or not. And especially if it doesn’t, I would love to hear what are the reasons.

Starter Kit for Ento-Entrepreneurs

Lately, quite a few people have reached out for me for tips for starting a new Insect for Food and Feed- companies. I am very happy to see the industry growing and it is my pleasure to help out. To make your starting easier I have here collected some links and tips on how to get started and how to avoid some of the pitfalls.

I believe strongly in the Lean movement, not only in daily work but also larger projects that starting a new company is. To prevent unnecessary work and loss of resources, start by collecting data and objectively evaluating the potential of your business plan.  To learn more about Lean and modern business management check out the great Lean Startup- book by Eric Ries.

Study the literature. Unfortunately, there are only very few publications on the business side of IFF- business, biological knowledge can be found much easier. My thesis that I wrote in 2015 is still one of few publications looking at the production and supply chain side of this specific industry. The thesis comes with full list of references that can you use to dig deeper into all the discussed topics. Here below are some links I recommend you to read. Other than the links listed here you might want to check also the Directory from the menu bar, from there you can find all my blog posts e.g about how to choose the best species to farm.

Get connected with insect entrepreneurs. The largest database online with contact information can be found from this website, just click the “Entomology Company Database” from the menu bar. I also recommend that you will contact your local association of IFF companies, here are some links:

By getting connected you will get essential tips from more experienced people and you can team up to work on topics that you the concerns about (health of genetic pool, fighting horizontal integration issues etc).

Contact your local Food Safety Authority. In the USA it is the FDA, in EU- level its EFSA. In other words, the one that interprets the national laws regarding food and feed. They are there to serve you and they will tell you the status of insect food and feed in your environment. A nice collection of the legal status’ can be found here.

Stay up to date. The following links are for news sites and social media channels that keep you up to date with the latest news in the field.

  • 4ento is a news center for everything around the topic.
  • Robert Nathan Allen is the founder Little Herds- association. Follow him on Twitter for the latest especially in North America.
  • Food Navigator is news center for Food & Beverage industry, follows closely also IFF- industry.
  • All About Feed is similar to Food Navigator, just with the feed aspect.
  • Facebook-group Food Insect Newsletter.

2016 Was a Successful Year!

It is the time of the year to look back and anticipate a little bit the future as well. The amount of visitors and pages viewed on this site more doubled even though I was able to contribute less on writing. The reason to the slowing pace of blog posting was that I started my current full-time job at Gold & Green Foods Ltd. G&G Foods is company in search for the perfect protein and so far we have brought one product to the market: Pulled Oats. If you are interested to learn more, see our website at http://www.goldandgreenfoods.com

Here below are some graphics and numbers from this blog. I am really happy Finland is not anymore the number one country from which the visitors are coming from (can’t say anymore its just my mom reading my posts). Numbers that I not did put here are the downloading rates of the files I offer: Patent database was downloaded 120 times, the company database 540 times.

Other than working at G&G Foods I did few consultation works and I gave few speeches, maybe most interesting one was Woven network’s event in Nottingham. Link to the speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V74_exxTGY&t=14s

Also, I published my thesis as audio book. I explained the publishing process in this blog: https://ilkkataponen.com/2016/05/08/how-i-created-and-published-an-audiobook/. What is crazy about this audio book is that in Audible, the most recognized audio book platform in the world, I am the most sold Finnish author with 34 books sold between April and November. What explains this status is that there pretty much aren’t any other Finnish books available there. That facts takes something out some of the fame, but anyway its a nice title, right?!

In the coming year I have already agreed to take part to one nice insect related publicity campaign here in Finland. I am also thinking of taking this blog more and more away only from insect-related topics towards the wider whole new-proteins, food security and climate change issue. Let’s see what happens!

Happy new year!

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