Hexafly raises €1.1m to use flies to help defend global food supply

4 Feb 2019

From left: John Lynam, CTO and co-founder, Hexafly; with Julian Seymour, syndicates manager, HBAN. Image: John Ohle

Innovative Meath start-up takes a zero-waste approach to protecting humanity’s future.

Meath-based start-up Hexafly has raised €1.1m in funding in what is the largest agritech investment made by Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN) angels to date.

Aiming to protect global food supply, Hexafly’s founders developed an innovative method of sustainable insect farming that converts low-value waste streams – using black soldier flies – into high-value feeds, fertilisers and bioplastics. Hexafly supplies these insect-derived products to a range of companies in the aqua and animal feed, medical, cosmetic, food, and plant nutrition industries.

‘Insect-derived protein produces significantly more protein per square metre when compared to soymeal’

Hexafly was established in 2016 by Alvan Hunt and John Lynam in response to the growing issue of the global food shortage.

The latest funding round brings to €2.2m the total secured so far by the company.

No flies on these ones

Three men holding fly larvae in their hands.

From left: Alvan Hunt, CEO and co-founder, Hexafly; Julian Seymour, syndicates manager, HBAN; and John Lynam, CTO and co-founder, Hexafly. Image: John Ohle

Initially, Hexafly set up a pilot plant in Kells, Co Meath, before establishing a large commercial plant in Ashbourne, Co Meath, in early 2018. With more than 90pc of its insect-based products exported, and growing demand in east Asia and the US, the company is planning to pursue a €10m series A round in 2019 to facilitate the construction of a much larger production facility.

“Before we set up Hexafly, John and I knew that we wanted to start a company that would tackle a global issue, while being sustainable,” Hunt said. “We are proud to say that Hexafly is a zero-waste operation; we take in low-value waste streams and convert them to insect-derived oil, protein powder, fertiliser and a high-value biopolymer called chitin for use in various industries.”

Hunt will be speaking at the HBAN All-Island Business Angels Conference on 14 February.

“Insect-derived protein produces significantly more protein per square metre when compared to soymeal, it is 100pc natural and leads to up to a 90pc reduction CO2 emissions when compared to other protein feed ingredients. Moreover, the animals that eat this insect-derived protein are actually healthier as no additives or chemicals are used in the products.

“Our goal is to educate people about the benefits of insect-derived protein, how sustainable it is and essentially find smart ways to feed the growing global population.”

Angel investing forms an important part of the start-up and seed investment ecosystem in Ireland. Since HBAN was established in 2007, HBAN angels have invested more than €94m in start-ups on the island. These investments have leveraged a further €150m from other public and private funds, bringing the total invested to €224m.

“Hexafly is a really innovative company with huge promise,” said Julian Seymour, syndicates manager at HBAN.

“Although the company already has very strong export levels, there are other vast markets – including Asia and the US – that offer expansion possibilities. Alvan and John are visionary entrepreneurs; they sought to tackle a global issue by developing an alternative protein source. The investment in Hexafly is significant and highlights the high potential of these types of sustainable companies.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years