Category: Innovation Infrastructure | Published on 22/11/2022
Founded in 2021 by Alejandro Ortega and Daniela Arias, Sibö has dedicated itself to reducing the impacts of climate change. For decades, scientists have highlighted the benefits of finding more sustainable food sources, and slowly, societies have shifted towards promoting plant-based alternatives rather than relying on traditional livestock. While this greatly contributes to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, the shift still contains some notable gaps, many of which could be filled by transitioning to the use of insects as a protein source.
As Alejandro, Sibö’s Chief Vision Officer, explained, “the insect protein has vitamin B12, all the essential amino acids, iron, zinc, and a lot of other properties that are difficult to find in plant based solutions.” But why are plant-based alternatives not created with these added properties? “Well, because these materials and molecules are actually created from animal sources,” he added.
Despite the positive benefits associated with the plant-based protein movement, these essential building blocks still need to be developed in a laboratory. “And, unfortunately, nature is always going to be smarter than us. And so we’d rather go for something that is natural over something that can be created from other places, and it will take years and to get it even close to what nature can provide us,” Alejandro stated. Despite a societal effort to move towards alternative protein sources, protein consumption from traditional livestock still remains high. Making the switch from traditional livestock to protein derived from insects could lead to 130 times less CO2 emissions, 25 times less land use, and 2000 times less water use, all while using next to no electricity in the process.
Enabler of local production and consumption powered by data science
To facilitate the transition, Sibö employs a three-step process. As Alejandro elaborated, “we scout the qualifications of insect manufacturers as suppliers for food companies. The second part is the discovery of new ingredients for food companies. … We [then] licence our technology to insect companies so they can actually create these materials, these ingredients that we found for [the] food companies. So that’s how we bridge the gap, basically, connecting, finding new applications and making those applications a reality.” Sibö collects and analyses the tremendous amount of data involved in the process through its platform, The Entowise Discovery Tool.
Powered by artificial intelligence, The Entowise Discovery Tool is capable of recreating a large number of the food ingredients and biomaterials found in the insects, allowing the company to develop tailor-made products for its users. In doing so, Sibö creates a distinction between the insect and its properties. Isolating the key ingredients needed for a healthy and sustainably sourced diet and transferring them to new products removes the negative association of insects as a food source held by consumers and food companies alike. As Alejandro highlighted, the key to the company’s approach is to distinguish the two. “So, instead of thinking about insects, which is the most difficult thing, not only for end consumers, but also for food companies. Think about this, if you have a phone but you only need a camera, then you have to separate them. And that’s something that we really understood.”
As the company continues to develop, seeking new talent to facilitate its progression and scalability has become a core focal point. Within the next three years, Sibö aims to expand its R&D roster by hiring data architects, biotechnologists, chemical and biomaterial engineers, as well as bioprocessing engineers and business developers once it reaches the scaleup phase. While the Covid-19 pandemic made working remotely the norm for many companies, including Sibö, Alejandro cited the importance of having at least 80% of the staff located in The Hague. “For team bonding and creative thinking, we really have to be together”. The goal is to have the remaining 20% working internationally, scattered throughout the company’s various satellite offices across the United States and Latin America.
The perfect home for an Impact Focused business
Sibö’s headquarters are located in The Hague, ImpactCity, and the founders largely attribute this decision to the unique ecosystem of the greater Rotterdam-The Hague area. “We needed a place where we could be heard, where we could be seen. We are not necessarily here just to make quick money and get out of it”, Alejandro expanded. After attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in The Hague, the company took note of this mentality and immediately knew this was the place to be. Alejandro further cited the region’s focus on cooperation as a reason for the decision, stating “within all of these areas, there is collaboration. People from The Hague refer us to other places like Delft, Planet Bio, and from Rotterdam.”
Additionally, Daniela, Sibö’s CIO, highlighted the region’s state of the art facilities, which make it possible for companies like theirs to contribute to scientific breakthroughs.
“One of the key benefits that South Holland has is Planet B.io’s possibility to do large scale productions, with all in all the knowledge and capacities [needed] for a food company.”
– Daniela Arias, CIO at Sibö
The region’s collaborative mindset, progressive mentality, and facilities highlight the reasons behind its unique status as a leader in the field of protein transition, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down in the near future.
While the threats of climate change are imminent, they can be reduced. Sibö and other prominent biotech companies situated in the greater Rotterdam-The Hague area are making this a reality, one collaborative step at a time.