Arthrofood is a social enterprise that offers a nutritional alternative, seeks to generate a source of income for vulnerable populations and contributes to the care and conservation of the environment. The project extracts cricket protein for the production of flour and other products.
They participated in Chivas Venture and represented Colombia worldwide, occupying the fourth position. Its creator and social entrepreneur Diego Cruz, spoke with RECON and told us about his project.
RECON: Who is Diego Cruz?
Diego Cruz: I am a biologist and Doctor in agricultural and food science and technology, I am currently the president of Arthrofood.
REC: How was Arthrofood born?
DC: The project was developed in Spain at the University of Lleida, for more than a year. The project was born in 2014 as a research project funded by the European Union, which aimed to develop models for the mass production of insects and subsequent transformation of flour to be used in the food industry. It was born from recommendations of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization regarding the future that insects were going to have regarding food security for developing countries, as is the case in Colombia.
REC: What does Arthrofood do?
DC: We are producing crickets massively, we transform them into a flour that serves as a protein ingredient for the food industry, additionally it also works as a substitute for meats for consumers and we are working to get bars and shakes for the sports nutrition sector.
REC: What does Arthrofood mean?
DC: The word comes from the fusion between words: Arthropod (Arthropod) and Food. Born with the same goal, but with a fairly broad social focus.
REC: Why are you a social enterprise?
DC: We have been changing the operating model of the company. Initially we thought we had a large and automated farm for breeding and production, however, one of the reasons that Arthrofood was born was to have a significant environmental and social impact.
Aware of what it is to operate in Colombia and of the social needs and people, we have been changing the model to accommodate people we can benefit, rural people, rural women who have the possibility of having their own farm and be suppliers for us.
Our social objective will seek to transfer the knowledge of the production of insects to vulnerable populations of Colombia so that they are the producers and in this way offer them a source of employment, as well as a source of highly nutritious food. We train them so that they know how to raise them and we take care of processing them and transforming them for the products.
REC: What is the commercialization process?
DC: We are managing the issue of permits with Invima; for now, we are with final consumers, who are looking for alternative sources of animal protein that are not conventional. Traditional meats have very high environmental impacts and some are related to the development of cancer, have antibiotics or mercury residues, therefore, our protein alternative of animal origin is quite positive in all those aspects.
REC: What uses can be given to cricket flour?
DC: This flour has many uses, it is used for bakery, making juices, among others; end users can use it to consume two tablespoons of cricket flour instead of a portion of meat.
REC: What are the benefits of consuming cricket flour?
DC: The benefits are several, from a nutritional point of view it contains a high percentage of protein, 65%, essential amino acids, rich in B vitamins, Calcium, Iron, Zinc and B12, we use no antibiotics, no hormones, no saturated fat, it’s natural and that makes it an alternative, superior to meats.
And from the environmental point of view, 20,000 liters less water is needed to produce a kilogram of cricket meat compared to beef, 10 times less space, seven times less food and the emission of greenhouse gases is much lower.
REC: How has the development of the project been financed?
DC: The company has been founded based on awards and benefits of the Seine and the Entrepreneurship Fund, in which we have emerged as beneficiaries and have been the first impulse to have resources. Soon we will start a crowdfunding campaign and we will have a profile in RECON.
REC: What are the main achievements or recognitions obtained?
DC: From the beginning we have had the fortune of winning several awards and recognitions, the most important being Chivas Venture, where we won at the Colombia level and we were fourth in the world. What allowed us to have visibility and have people start talking about us. In addition, they have an important educational theme; they took us to Oxford to receive interesting trainings, a very positive experience.
In Spain we won several that allowed us to go out in the media, radio, television. We won an award that helped us with La EADA, a business school in Barcelona, which supported us to develop the business plan.
In Colombia, the first prize we won was the Everis in the category of wellbeing and health and we were the representatives of Colombia worldwide. Metro in 2017 rewarded us as the best entrepreneurship.
REC: A piece of advice to the social entrepreneurs that are starting?
DC: That is a matter of believing, if resources do not exist, there are alternatives to obtain them.
To know more about this project, you can visit www.arthrofood.co