UK-based agritech startup Better Origin raises €14.6 million to fix the food chain using AI-powered insect mini-farms

Inspired by nature’s waste cycle and with the vision to take the food chain back to its roots, Better Origin has today raised over €14.6 million in a Series A funding round led by Balderton Capital. Existing investors Fly Ventures and Metavallon VC also participated.   

The UK-based agritech innovators are taking on a global challenge – feeding growing populations in a way that is sustainable and secure. The company aims to do this by turning the food supply chain from global to local, taking it back to the way nature intended. 

Founded in 2019, by CEO Fotis Fotiadis and CSO Miha Pipan, Better Origin is creating decentralised AI-powered insect mini-farms, which take local food waste from supermarkets and convert it into high-quality, sustainable animal feed. In doing so, the startup removes the need to ship animal feed around the world – tackling both the lack of sustainability, rising carbon footprints, and the lack of security that’s inherent in the global food supply chain. 

The insect farms recreate the conditions found in nature where food is eaten by insects and upcycled into essential nutrients for other animals to grow. Using AI and automation to create the optimal environment for this cycle to flourish, Better Origin produces black soldier fly larvae which can be fed to the farm’s animals.

According to the UN, more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from how we produce, process and package food. Every year, a third of this food goes to waste and in the UK alone we waste 4.5 million tonnes. To put this into perspective, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses! 

Better Origin’s plug and play mini-farms tackle this problem from within the food chain itself. By producing feed on-site, the Better Origin container farm – called the X1 can produce the same amount of feed currently produced on 1500sqm of soy plantations, in just 1sqm. By using food waste as a raw material, Better Origin is reducing food waste, cutting farmers’ feed costs and offering a superior product for animals, letting them forage for live food rather than being fed pellets. It also lowers the emissions of individual farms and boosts productivity. 

CSO and founder Miha Pipa commented: “The food chain is fundamentally broken and it’s putting the future of our food security at risk. We’ve built a solution that aims to finally fix these flaws from the inside out. Insect larvae are nature’s mechanism to convert waste back into essential nutrients in the food chain. They act as the missing link between waste and food. We reduce waste and increase food production by bringing back this link. We believe our solution is the future of food production and the latest round of funding takes us a step closer to this future.” 

The innovation acts as a win-win for all involved in the food chain –  the environment, farmers, animals and consumers. Better Origin’s managed and flexible service can help farmers break into new areas of business – diversifying and opening up opportunities in an industry where costs and barriers to entry are traditionally high and innovation is infrequent. 

The agritech startup promotes diversity at the core of its team and has a mulidisciplicanry makeup – reflecting the need to have diverse perspectives and thoughts in tackling global challenges of our time. They built the Better Origin X1 mini-farms to be hyperlocal, automated, and easily installed on local farms.  In each container, food waste from local sources is converted to feed local animals. Cameras, computer vision and sensors monitor the conditions within each mini-farm to make sure they are optimal for production. 

In this way, the solution can be installed anywhere in the world and is highly scalable. The startup has decided to focus first on the poultry sector and in December, Better Origin signed a deal to supply 10 insect mini-farms to feed chickens at Morrisons UK free-range egg farms. The deal is set to save 5,737 tonnes of CO2-eq emissions per year – an equivalent of taking 1,240 cars off the road – while also mitigating 1,500 tonnes of food waste.

In addition to tackling the scourge of food waste, Better Origin’s decentralised approach helps revive local food supply chains. Transport of food accounts for 6% of the industry’s emissions but by empowering farmers and consumers to grow and source their food locally, it is possible to cut emissions while increasing food security for the future. All while reducing animal farming’s reliance on soy – a major cause of deforestation. 

Moving forward with this fresh funding boost, this exciting company want to grow the team – mainly in areas such as Engineering, Biology, Marketing and Operations. In addition, the funding will be used to further develop the product and technology and help the company scale. The company currently specialises in poultry, plans to expand into new livestock areas – and eventually human food – will be announced in due course.

CEO Fotis Fotiadis added: “Beyond enabling us to scale up operations and expand our team, the deep understanding and expertise that Balderton brings makes it the perfect Series A partner. It was of vital importance when raising our Series A, as it was when we raised our Seed, to find partners that truly believe in our mission and ambition. We’re thrilled that Balderton, alongside Fly Ventures and Metavallon VC, are with us as we take this next stage for our company, for our partners and for our planet.”

Suranga Chandratillake, General Partner at Balderton Capital, said: “Fotis, Miha and the Better Origin team are working to fundamentally change our broken food chain, for the benefit of everyone. Climate change, the pandemic, political tensions and our growing population have demonstrated time and again how fragile our current systems are. They’ve also shown how farming currently exacerbates the challenges we face and solutions so far are not leading to the wholesale change we need. Better Origin presents a new approach and we believe it can have a transformational effect on food and farming systems.”