Most people would see rampant hatching of fly larvae in their apartments as a reason to call the exterminator, but for Patrick Pittaluga and Sean Warner it was a welcome and encouraging sight. One that, with the help of Center of Innovation for Energy Technology Director Costas Simoglou, they would transform into a promising and innovative business model that’s making waves around the country.
It was while the two were students at Georgia Tech that the idea to get into the bug business was hatched (pun obviously intended). After some research, they discovered that larvae from the black soldier fly were being used in Europe and Africa as a protein in livestock feed. This information led Patrick and Sean to a market with immense potential and an opportunity to utilize the amount of food waste generated in America every year.
After speaking to several chicken and fish farms around the country, Pittaluga and Warner were convinced they could make a difference. They could use the supply of food waste generated in America and turn that into a cost-effective and viable source of protein for animals on farms across the country. Thus was born Grubbly Farms.
Armed with this knowledge, Warner and Pittaluga embarked on their new journey as the foremost intentional insect-breeders in Atlanta. They purchased 700 black soldier fly larvae on an online retailer and set up a makeshift incubator in the laundry room of their midtown apartment.
Their business model began to take shape in the summer of 2015. With the end goal in mind of creating a sustainable protein for livestock feed here in the U.S., they would begin the journey by selling dehydrated black fly larvae as treats for backyard chickens.
In addition to providing America’s yard birds with a delicious and healthy snack, Grubbly Farms does its part to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that are constantly being emitted into the atmosphere.
Partnering with Arden’s Garden, a local Atlanta juicer, Grubbly Farms is able to convert pre-consumer food waste into fertile ground for breeding black flies. The Grubbly Farms co-founders have created a truly sustainable business model based on the conversion of waste materials to abundant resources, and the startup community is beginning to take notice.
A testament to their success, they were accepted into an accelerator program at Georgia Tech that ran from May to August where they were introduced to Costas Simoglou and the Center of Innovation for Energy Technology. “Costas has been extremely helpful connecting us with multiple opportunities,” says Pittaluga.
Since their introduction, Simoglou has been very active in helping the Grubbly founders make connections that have proven crucial to their success to date. Recently, Green Chamber of the South’s Greenhouse Accelerator, a connection Simoglou helped make, accepted Grubbly Farms into their long-term accelerator program which will partner them for up to three years with no-interest, no-collateral seed money to help grow their company and create sustainable jobs here in Georgia.
The company was also accepted into the Kairos K50 Summit, a conference that brings together the 50 most innovative startups whose founders are under 25. From there, they partnered with Kennesaw State University to conduct research and development in a greenhouse on KSU’S working farm. Earlier this month, Grubbly Farms took home both the People’s Choice and the Overall awards at the Target-hosted 2016 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open.
Their business has been growing rapidly, and now they’re quickly becoming in need of a larger space. To meet this need, Costas has connected the company with a realtor who Patrick Pittaluga states “has been immensely helpful in finding our new facility location” – a warehouse with ample room to grow.
Who would have ever thought the world would be clamoring for more bugs?
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