[Startup Interview] Priscilla Musenge, Director, Prote-IN, Zambia
Inspired by the school of thought that holds that insects are the future of food, Priscilla Musenge runs a Zambia-based startup Prote-IN producing low cost, high quality protein alternatives from insects to make fish, chicken, pig feed, fertilizer as well as for human consumption.
Prote-IN is a newly registered Zambian company, whose mission is to produce low cost, high quality protein alternative from insect larvae.Particularly, the Black Soldier Fly larvae. Our product will be available for fish, chicken and pig feed, fertilizer as well as for human consumption.
Insect farming, which is relatively new in Zambia, will create a sustainable and long term option for the ever growing demand for protein. The media world over has increasingly reported on alternative proteins such as plant-based food options, edible insects and other innovative products. Prote-IN has also jumped onto this bandwagon of food and environment sustainability by playing a role in helping achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and we aim to become the pioneer providers of affordable, nutritous and sustainable feed, fertilizer and food in the country.
Who are your clients?
Our target include small and medium scale urban and rural farmers as well as individuals who are looking to take on healthier lifestyle choices. We are also looking to partner with agro dealers in the whole of Zambia. With a particular interest in working with women in cooperatives as well as with health and lifestyle companies in order to sensitize, market and sell our products through these B2B and B2C channels.
How has the market responded to your services? Why do you think that is so?
As our company is relatively new on the market and in the country, we are currently finilazing the business requirements which include prototype testing and specifications. However, from my research and interactions, there have been both positive and constructive reactions about our product. Mainly due to the fact that the protein source is from fly larvae. But overall, people are curious to find out more about the benefits of our products.
It is and has been said, and I believe, that insects are the “future of food”. This is due to the high nutritional value and the fact that they are sustainable. However, in Zambia at the moment, very little has been done in order to educate people about the nutritional value edible insects provide let alone begin to farm them. We are therefore optimistic about changing this narrative with the help of our partners and clients through the introduction of our product on the market because it helps solves three increasing problems in my country- waste management, poverty and hunger/inaccessibility to nutrious food and feed.
What is your company bringing to production and processing that isn’t present at the moment?
We want to provide a highly nutritious food and feed option for the agriculture industry which at the same time, will help manage waste in the country.
And although our products intend to offer an alternative to products currently on the market, they are organic and are also meant to be lower in cost than conventional feeds. With regards to the production process, it is essentially green, so the carbon footprint is very minimal if any.
As the country and world are daily experiencing critical climate changes and the protein demand is growing, it is important to begin to lean towards more sustainable ways of farming- and insect farming is one sure way of doing so. This solution will attract the country’s and Southern African region’s major food/nutrition players to buy into our highly nutritous and sustainable product.
How would you describe the business environment for agricultural startups like yours in Zambia? Are there issues you would want addressed?
The Agriculture sector’s contribution to Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined from 17.3 per cent in 2004 to 8.2 per cent in 2017 (according to The World Bank). Clearly stating a need for more sustainable methods of farming to ensure the growth of both rural and urban agriculture. Business wise, I think innovative and more sustainable businesses, such at that of Prote-IN’s insect farming, will not only create jobs but will also see an increase in income generation, poverty reduction, and growth of the agricultural Gross Domestic Product. So in my opinion, this is a good time to enter the market and help achieve some of these challenges.
What do you consider the biggest threat to your business?
The biggest threat to our business, especially in it’s early stages, is the consumer perception and reluctance for partners and clients to try our product. We understand that it will take time to build trust with our target market, but we are certain that through sensitization, training and even outgrower schemes/contract farming as well as our business model, we will be able to achieve this successfully.
What kind of collaborations do you expect and need for your company to succeed?
We are always open to partnerships and collaborations with organizations and stakeholders that we can grow with. And as such, we are actively looking at speaking to media houses in the country and region to gain traction through the sensitization and benefits of insect farming. We are also in search of private and corporate organizations and government and private agri dealers whose main focus is on looking at alternative sources of protein through insect farming.
Lastly, we are calling on investers and funders for assistance financially and through training, to push the growth and strengthen our company and it’s exposure and help change the perception and narrative of purchase and consumption of products made from fly/insect larvae as an alternative source of protein.
Where do you want to take the company in 2020 and in the long term?
Prote-IN aims to produce a high quality product that will gain growing confidence from our users and consumers and as such establish and grow it’s presence on the market through rural and urban shops and in agri dealer outlets across the country and growing into the region, beginning with Lusaka and Central provinces. We will also make extensive efforts in ensuring our brand becomes well established and sought after whilst empowering women and youth through employment.
Who should contact your company, and why?
Any farmer looking for more affordable, sustainable and nutritious feed and fertilizer options for their chickens, fish and pigs as well as fertilizer for their crops. We are also keen to hear from individuals who would like to make healthier lifestyle options in the food they eat- as we will provide larvae fed fish and chickens, larvae grown crops and a selection of protein bars, supplements and shakes to name a few.
Lastly, we would also like to hear from any potential partners and investors who can help scale up our operations in readiness for market.
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