Cricket, to many people on this planet, was only revolutionary when Ireland beat England in 2011 by chasing down a massive target of 327. Rémi Lantieri Jullien Co-founder of Khepri sees crickets’ revolutionary potential more widely–as a source of ethical proteins and biopolymers. His company, Khepri, wants to use crickets to feed the world.
What kind of services does your company provide?
Khepri produces ethical proteins and biopolymers – chitin and chitosan derivatives – from insects. The proteins can be used either for animal or human food. Other components have multiple uses such as in medical and surgical equipment fabrication, cosmetics and seed coating.
Why did you call your company Khepri?
Khepri is the name of the Egyptian god portrayed as a scarab beetle. We like the analogy of the scarab pushing its ball of dung, which ends up being the sun. The term “kheper” in ancient Egyptian meant “develop” or “come into being”.
What set you on the path of breeding crickets?
Our project started as an entomophagous restaurant (a restaurant where you could eat insect based dishes), but the law in Europe is restrictive right now, so we pivoted early on. After reading an FAO report, we discovered that insect farming was considered a great bottom-of-the-pyramid solution to the problem of food insecurity. Crickets were one of the few insects we deemed ideal for this venture: they are a hardy species; they reproduce very quickly and eat mostly anything (they even tend to be cannibalistic…). The best part of it was that they are widely consumed in South East Asia, which meant the market already existed.
Is there more than marketing cricket protein for food?
We do not commercialize whole crickets – though of course we adapt to our clients’ needs – but instead separate the flesh from the husk in order to obtain two different end products: sustainable proteins and biopolymers.
How do you meet the management and marketing challenges of selling so unique a product?
Marketing insects is not an easy task: the western cultural bias is still very deep, even though insects were indeed eaten in Europe and North America in the past. We have to try to reverse the public image from disgust to acceptance.
Regarding management, it is challenging as well, as our team is spread between France and Laos, with more countries coming in the near future.
What difficulties you have encountered in starting your business?
The main difficulty is that, even though it is a very promising project, finding funds is difficult. This is not the more familiar web startup new business. There is a lot of misconception to overcome.
Are you planning on changing our eating habits?
Even though we wish we could, we know it is an almost impossible task. However, our approach is to first occupy markets in developing nations, which still have an entomophagous culture, then maybe (but not necessarily) try to get at the Western market by offering cheap protein alternatives. Think cricket surimi or mealworm sausage!
What do you enjoy most about working for yourself?
I love working for myself. It is very challenging, and of course sometimes you lose your motivation, but I get to travel a lot, discover places and people, and change the world at the same time. What more could I ask for?
How do you expect the future of your company to be like?
In the future, we want to develop on at least 2 continents, in 5 countries, and start working on integrating new species to our business model. Insects are wonderful and understudied little things, and I think we can make wonders tapping into that potential.