Harvest Agrifood Innovation Program Case Study: GrubsUp – Paula Pownall

Business Overview
Grubs Up insect farm was established in 2016 with a purpose to change our perception of protein. The farm supplies insects for both animal feed and human food providing a sustainable food source for generations to come.

Why did you apply for the HARVEST program?
We applied to HARVEST with the aim to validate our start-up, and share our business idea with others to get honest, transparent feedback. We also wanted an opportunity to connect to networks relevant to our business.

How has Covid impacted your business and how have you responded?
Our main customers were restaurants in the eastern states and due to their closure, our sales reduced to near zero. In June, we had to decide to fold, pivot or carry costs ourselves. There was an opportunity to use the crickets for our own pasture eggs. We were able to grow this side of the business successfully as well as continuing to hit our impact goals of sustainable food and improving chicken gut microbiome through crickets as nutraceuticals.

What was the main challenge you were facing in your business before HARVEST?
The main challenge was deciding which direction to take the business, and the steps following. We wanted to know where to spend our business funds and how to create cash flow.

How did the HARVEST program help address this challenge?

“We were given strategic formulas to look at the business objectively to find the best path forward, and we were able to decide to proceed with food for human consumption, not pet feed or pharmaceuticals. We learnt about and applied cost analysis, cash flow, and benchmark pricing.”

What were the main benefits you got out of the program? Both for your business and you personally?
The main benefits were understanding of financials, making connections with others relevant to the business, learning to pitch, refining our story for sharing, networking including meeting with industry decision makers like the Minister for Agriculture.
We feel that the benefits above also helped us succeed in obtaining a Regional Economic Development Grant.
We feel that our inclusion in the HARVEST program leveraged opportunities like the Nuffield Scholarship. And increased our brand awareness for those in the industry who have seen articles about HARVEST and GrubsUp.
We have been approached many times from producers who would like to find out more about cricket farming.
On a personal level, participation in the program help me gain confidence in the future of my business and also allowed me to be more flexible around my expectations.

Any advice for future HARVEST participants?
We believe participants should not undervalue the program, and leverage as many resources as it offers. Participants should feel confident asking experts and program organisers for help where they need it as they are always willing to provide it. They should know that the networking is valuable, as is working on your pitch. And that they should be willing to help others in the future programs as part of the HARVEST alumni.

Any major achievements to your business since completing HARVEST?
My HARVEST participation contributed to receiving a prestigious Nuffield scholarship to investigate how toscale an insect production facility using the latest technology and research, as well as study the policies, procedures and supply chains of the emerging insect protein industry. The Scholarship will enable me to visit Canada, Germany and Thailand, as well as speak with human food and animal feed regulators in the United Kingdom during a 16 week global insect research tour. Though not an industry traditionally covered by the scholarship, Nuffield WA Alumni had a special interest in my work and decided to fund the scholarship themselves. I have been invited to speak and present about the GrubsUp journey on numerous occasions, many events with a focus on women in agriculture.

What does the future hold for your business?
GrubsUp has plans for expansions and scaling. After restaurants post-covid reopened this year, sales for GrubsUp increased and continue to increase. The Nuffield scholarship will inform these growth strategies.

GrubsUp socials and website:
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website

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