Melbourne startup Bardee has raised $5 million in a seed round as it looks to convert food waste into insect protein and fertiliser.
The round was led by Blackbird Ventures with support from angel investors including Who Gives A Crap founder Simon Griftiths and Culture Amp founder Didier Elzinga and his wife, Greta Bradman.
The venture, which has emerged from two years in “stealth mode” has built a 2,500sqm commercial facility in Melbourne’s northwest and is harvesting billions of Black Soldier fly lava to consume a broad range of food waste, convert it into protein for cattle feed, as well as fertiliser.
The larvae grow 3000 times in size in a vertical farming system that offsets 50 tonnes of carbon emissions daily
The project echoes, Giant Leap-backed Goterra which also uses black soldier fly maggots.
Bardee was founded in 2019 by architect Phoebe Gardner, and entomologist, Alex Arnold who started by chopping discarded tuna heads in a university car park to feed to insects in a benchtop-scale lab.
Gardner, Bardee’s CEO, said insects are nature’s most powerful upcyclers and the missing link to reshape our food system.
“Food production must double by 2050 to feed the global population, but a third of food produced today ends up in landfills,” she said.
“Bardee produces proteins, fats, and fertilisers from food waste with insects and uses no additional water, hormones, or additives to replace unsustainable food sources being shipped across the globe.
“Bardee’s technology has the potential to play a pivotal role in the transition to a sustainable circular economy where we avoid the devastating impacts of climate change.”
The startup’s client base already includes shopping centres, supermarkets and local food manufacturing businesses.
The process can recover 90% of the nutrients discarded in food waste 10 times faster than commercial composting. The insect manure in the fertiliser means only half the fertiliser is required on organic crops, making the switch to organic more economically viable for farmers.
Bardee’s protein is being launched in new carbon positive pet foods such as Grubbo, livestock feed and aquafeeds, making it possible for people and their pets to eat healthily for the planet.
Didier Elzinga said he first met Gardner in an office hours call for Blackbird.
“Straight after that call I remember calling Greta and saying “you have to meet Phoebe” – what they are doing is exactly what startups should be,” he said.
“Wickedly hard problem, potentially massive global impact and founders who genuinely can’t do anything but get in and do what everyone else thinks is impossible. So excited to be on this ride with her and the team.”