Africa ClimAccelerator Start-Up Spotlight: NovFeed

Fish farming or aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing food sectors in the world.

Unfortunately, the main ingredients for fish feed for farmed or commercial fish come from unsustainable sources such as soybeans, which are a driver of massive deforestation, and fishmeal, which exploits the marine ecosystem by removing common forage fish like anchovies, sardines and herring.

To replace these damaging and traditional ingredients, Tanzanian start-up NovFeed is providing a sustainable solution for fishmeal by converting organic waste into a natural, traceable and non-animal protein source for the aquaculture industry.

“Our oceans have reached their biological limit; we are no longer able to produce enough fish to feed animals as a source of protein as well as feed human beings.  It doesn’t make any sense economically and environmentally to use freshwater fish to feed farmed fish,” Diana Orembe, Co-founder of NovFeed said.

Not only does the process of fishmeal production of thecause environmental degragation, it is also expensive and farmers spend 70 per cent of their production costs on the pricey feed.

NovFeed has developed a biotechnological platform that relies on a fermentation process in which microorganisms produce a nutritious, high-protein feed from organic waste. The process releases 80 per cent less carbon dioxide in the production process compared to traditional routes. The final product is free of toxins, highly scalable, and contains high protein content and better nutrition.

Additionally, it is 30 per cent cheaper than traditional sources and is an organic microbial strain.

The feed is also better for the fish than the traditional fishmeal. Over a six-month period, fish fed the NovFeed product showed a growth rate of 40 per cent more than those raised on the traditional market feed.

NovFeed sells this protein for fishmeal to fish feed manufacturers who use it to make complete feed.

The company was established in 2020 with a mission to ensure that soybean and fishmeal protein is kept away from the industry.

In the beginning on the venture, NovFeed’s efforts were met with resistance from community member who did not understand the demand for their organic waste. Some even wanted to charge for their waste collection even though they already paid the municipality to pick their garbage while NovFeed offered to collect it for free.

“So, we resorted to educating them because waste in dumpsites is a huge issue. They were not aware of the effects and consequences to the environment,” Orembe explained.

As they collect the waste, NovFeed also educates the public about climate change and its effects.

“When you tell someone that this waste is producing greenhouse gases, they don’t see how it’s affecting them directly. It’s hard to understand because they are not aware and don’t have the knowledge about climate change, what causes it, why weather patterns have changed, and why it doesn’t rain like it used to. So, we looked for the simplest way to explain all this,” she said.

The remaining challenge was seperating the organic waste from plastic, glass and other hard waste. So, NovFeed provided two collection bins for the restaurants and marketplaces, one for soft waste and another for hard waste.

So far, the start-up has achieved a tremendous impact on the climate and people of Tanzania.

Every week, NovFeed recycles eight to 10 tonnes of food waste, reducing more than seven tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per week.

But more than that, the company is proud to educate the community on the importance of recycling, climate change, and empower them with the knowledge to make informed decisions.

From just four co-founders, the team at NovFeed has grown; last year they hired two employees and now there are two volunteers working for the company, six people assisting with waste segregation and one tuk tuk driver who delivers the organic waste to their site.

Looking to the future, Orembe says NovFeed will continue to invest in R&D to discover other ingredients that can significantly reduce the cost of animal feed to farmers.

NovFeed was one of 15 start-ups selected to participate in the Africa ClimAccelerator, the first pan-African accelerator focused on scaling the most promising climate-focused innovations. The six-month programme was delivered by partner organisations GrowthAfrica and the Carbon Trust, supported by the Climate-KIC International Foundation and funded by the German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH (‘GIZ’) exclusively on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (‘BMZ’).

An original version of this article was published here on 5 April.