A million crickets in the middle of the campus
EntoCube is an insect farming company that wants to change the world through high-protein food solutions.
“Our business operations have really taken off on the Aalto University campus,” says Perttu Karjalainen, CEO and Co-founder of EntoCube.
Why did EntoCube decide to relocate to the campus?
“We moved here in 2014, when we started cooperation with the Aalto Design Factory.
We immediately applied to participate in the Startup Sauna coaching programme supported by Aalto University, and were admitted in spring 2015. Our business idea began to take shape.
Startup Sauna has the best coaching programme in Finland! Their intensive coaching was extremely beneficial for us. Gradually, our business logic and future direction found their form.
The lecturers and mentors included top names in Finnish business and science, such as Riku Asikainen, Artturi Tarjanne and Kaija Pöysti. After the coaching programme, we were assigned office facilities at Startup Sauna. Otaniemi has a favourable and inspiring atmosphere for growing our business.”
How do you benefit from operating on the same campus as the multidisciplinary Aalto University?
“We cooperate with the Aalto Design Factory to a great extent. We have produced content for their courses and held events. In addition, we often give presentations about our work to delegations visiting the Design Factory and Startup Sauna. The Design Factory has made our operations possible. Without it, many things would have been difficult, if not impossible.
Many researchers at Aalto University have contacted us about research related to food production and protein. We discuss cooperation opportunities with them. Facilitating research in the field is extremely important, and we are glad to help in any way we can.”
What kind of networks have you established on the campus?
“Our location and facilities in Startup Sauna are excellent. This place attracts a large number of interesting visitors, and we are able to seize opportunities that we would not otherwise have.
This space and its operations emerged from student activity. We have dozens of start-ups here, under one roof. The Startup Sauna coaching programme is organised twice a year, and we all have lunch together weekly during that time. Those are very nice meetings. We also organise other events and breakfast meetings, and we host product tastings and sell our cricket products at student events and campus festivals. Occasionally, groups of students visit our facilities out of curiosity, to see what we are farming here. Some of them will become pioneers in their fields, so it’s important to get to know them. We also have trainees from Aalto University, students who can be creative here and carry out interesting projects.”
How would you like to change the world?
“The world needs new ways to grow high-protein foods sustainably. We believe that the extensive production and consumption of insects will mitigate climate change considerably.
Two billion people all over the world eat insects as part of their daily diet and there are 2000 edible species. Perttu Karjalainen, Tiiu Kyllönen and Jonas Aaltio admire the office ‘pets’, which are death’s head cockroaches. ‘In the future many different types of insects will also be eaten in Finland.’
The current way of producing animal protein is not sustainable. We need new options. Meat consumption must be reduced in the Western countries, and we have a solution to that problem. The idea of saving the world is not utopian.
Most of the protein consumed in Europe comes from outside the EU. By reducing meat consumption, we can slow erosion and the destruction caused by the growing meat consumption and the cultivation of soya for feed. In 2050, the population of the world will be 10 billion. There won’t be enough food for everyone if the methods and structures of food production are not rethought. Insects are a major opportunity to solve the problems of food shortage and unsustainable food production.
In addition to being ecological, insect-based food is versatile and highly nutritious. The protein content of dried crickets is 60%, and they also contain all the necessary amino acids, two times more iron than spinach and a lot of vitamin B12. Crickets consume very little feed. In addition, they only need a fraction of the amount of water and land needed for larger farm animals.”
The crickets live in egg boxes that are kept in plastic boxes. EntoCube believes prejudices are there to be crushed. ‘Edible crickets offer an interesting opportunity to try something new, as a good source of nutrition and a way of experiencing different cuisines and worlds of flavour.”
Text: Henna Rautiainen
Photos: Kimmo Räisänen
Video: Kimmo Räisänen