Why mealworm farming is good for the environment and the economy in Auvergne

In the northern part of the Limagne plain, in the town of Saint-Clément-de-Régnat (Puy-de-Dôme), the eye is naturally drawn to the “horizon” by means of the Puys chain. The other, more secluded local attraction isn’t listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s almost as important and structural as the territory’s economy.

In the dampness of an 850-square-foot agricultural building, hundreds of thousands of mealworms enjoy a tailored diet. 26 degrees Celsius, 60% humidity and sound at will. Thus, the insect will pass, in four weeks, from 10 to 100 milligrams. “We produce 18 tons of worms a month,” says Rémy Petoton, owner and mayor of the town. Since December, the Auvergne farmer has been a breeder of a new variety. “Since my dad is retiring, we swapped out the Charolais for these insects that are easier to handle and keep an eye on,” he laughs.

Model conversion

In a way, Petotons continue to sustain breeders against all odds while being part of the pioneers of this brand new sustainable protein produced by the circular economy method. . Instead of importing soybeans from South America or fishmeal from Peru, often at the expense of ecological disasters, the Invers company, as its name suggests, chose to change the paradigm and even reverse it by how to relocate a production facility, for poultry, fish, multiple dogs and cats. With insects is the real protein bomb. “Their dry matter ratio is 65% compared to 40% for soybeans,” says Sébastien Crépieux, the company’s founder.Worms are the real protein bomb with a dry matter ratio of 65% compared to soybeans of 40%.

Founded in 2018, as part of the LIT (Laboratory for Territorial Innovation) in Auvergne, the company has been supported from the very beginning by the Limagrain group and the Crédit Agricole-France Center, which has given the company the they have the means to fulfill their ambitions. After starting a shipping container business, Invers purchased a chicken coop in Saint-Ignat in 2019. “When we saw that it was working, we moved on by building it. build a pilot building in spring 2020. As a model for the self I’ve built at home and will be cloned elsewhere, this first building allows us to improve on a number of things like ration and insect densities per tank for optimal production, but there is also the robotic aspect of handling the bins for worm sorting, which is much simpler than it was in the beginning,” says Rémy Petoton.

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25 tons of compost per month

The challenge of the 100% circular approach has been more met. The bran, which is used to feed the worms, comes from the factories of the Limagrain cooperative and the production is also processed entirely on site, creating a virtuous circle on an environmental level. “Insects produce 25 tons of compost per month. I will be able to fertilize 150 of the 215 hectares of the farm with it and thus reduce the use of potassium and phosphorus by 3/4. At a time when fertilizer prices are exploding with the war in Ukraine, it is an interesting one from an economic and agronomic point of view. We always have to add some nitrogen but here we have also changed our growing pattern to bring in alfalfa and faba beans, which pick up nitrogen from the air and serve as green manure.” Remy Petoton continued.Rémy Petoton and Sébastien Crépieux kept one of the gray plastic tanks in which they were raised and fattened for four weeks.

Good for the planet, the approach is also good for financial operations. The initial investment, 800,000 euros, must be amortized over ten years. “And for this period, the building must carry an equivalent amount of Smic,” says Sébastien Crépieux. “It’s diversification that provides income security and allows you to be independent of climate and economic fluctuations, which is not the case with cereals or dairy cows. Not to mention leaving more free time. This is a real way to encourage the setting up of young farmers,” he added.

New hatchery of 4,000 m

With many stores (read below), the company Invers wants to speed things up. “Two buildings are currently in use, a third building is under construction. And two more will see the light of day in the first quarter of 2023. Our pilot building, which has been converted into a hatchery, will provide enough larvae for them. But we will start the construction of a new hatchery with an area of ​​4,000 m², which will allow us to supply 25 buildings. Sébastien Crépieux, who has created about 20 jobs, concludes.

“Experiment with free-range poultry from Auvergne”

The company Invers works on the principle of integration with 7-year contracts linking it with farmers. It feeds them larvae, recovers them after fattening, dehydrates them, and sells them.
“Today, we process 18 tons of worms per month, or 6 tons of dehydration. 70% of worms are sold whole in garden centers for poultry feed and poultry in poultry houses. The remaining 30% is processed into dog and cat food by Saga Nutrition in Courpière (Puy-de-Dôme), as well as fish food. We also market compost as a fertilizer”, reveals Sébastien Crépieux.

“Thousand tons of potential”

But with the going into production of new buildings and the construction of a new hatchery, Invers’ founding boss is thinking much bigger. “We have a big development going on in the professional market. We are in a pilot phase with Auvergne’s poultry sector to provide feed for chicks at the start of our establishment. We will have the scientific results in early July. If the green light is given, that means thousands of tons potential. We are also targeting the fish farming market,” he continued.

100% new Auvergne Insect for poultry, fish, dog or cat

0Rémy Petoton, Franck Maréchal, director of breeding and stylist, and Sébastien Crépieux, CEO and founder of Invers present the Auvergne company product lines.

Content: Dominique Diogon

Photo: Richard Brunel

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