BIFARD: from science to business to save the environment



From science to business to save the environment

Admin | Comune di Milano

Momir Futo is a Serbian migrant to Croatia. In addition to challenges of migration and history of war and unfriendliness between the two countries in question, he decided to also take on the challenge of saving the environment. His company, named BIFARD is engaged in the cultivation of beneficial insects for agricultural purposes – animal feed. They are currently focusing on the innovative breeding of the black military fly (Hermetia illucens), whose larvae are high-energy and high-protein foods for poultry, livestock, fish, and pets. By selling live or dried larvae, and processing larvae into high-protein fodder flour and entomo-oils, BIFARD offers an ecological and sustainable protein alternative to unsustainable soy or fish meal, which are currently the main sources of protein in animal feed.

Can you please tell us something about yourself?

I came to Zagreb about 20 years ago to study biology. I was born in Subotica, Serbia, where I finished elementary and high school, after which I enrolled at the Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb. After graduation, I decided to study further, in fact, it would be correct to say that somehow fate or a combination of circumstances led me to a doctorate in Germany.

I received my PhD in evolutionary biology from the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity of the University of Münster, on a topic that links the microbiota of insects to their immunity. After that, I returned to Zagreb for postdoctoral training in the Laboratory for Evolutionary Genetics of the Ruđer Bošković Institute, where I worked on a project for the evolution of bacterial biofilms over four years. This is where the idea of starting a business came to fruition.

Can you please tell us how you had the idea to start your business?

The idea to start something of my own came after my doctorate, when I wanted to leave academic science and pursue science in industry. I wanted to apply my knowledge. The transition to industry proved more difficult than I imagined.

Growing beneficial insects, an area I wanted to pursue, is limited to a few larger and a couple of smaller companies’ world over, all of which are extremely difficult to get into. So, I decided – OK if I can’t work for someone else, best I work for myself. An opportunity was offered for a postdoc at the RBI in Zagreb, which I accepted in the meantime, almost 5 years passed from the idea to its realization today.

Can you please tell us about the main obstacles you have encountered and how you managed to overcome them?

There were no major obstacles in starting a business. We registered the company in a few days and a few clicks via the online application, which was all surprisingly fast, cheap and efficient. Perhaps I would single out the difficult cooperation with banks, which are, in my opinion unnecessarily, complicate the lives of small entrepreneurs. We have not had any major business challenges yet because we are relatively at the beginning of our business.

Has the recent pandemic affected your business and how did you overcome the challenges?

The time of the pandemic affected all of humanity, including us, but in our case it did it in a positive way. During the big lockdowns of spring 2020, we all suddenly became aware of the excess time we have and with which we did not know what to do. My team, today’s BIFARD, was meeting a lot online at the time and honing the details of the future business plan.

During the pandemic, we also competed with this business plan for funds for our start, and to our great satisfaction, we received the money. So, in a sense, we can say that the lockdown was the initiator of our business, no matter how strange it may sound.

How do you see the future of your company?

BIFARD will expand its product range in the future. We want to become a regional leader in the production of various types of beneficial insects for agriculture. In addition to the black fly, which is currently the only species we breed, and which is intended for animal feed, in the future in our production program we gradually want to introduce other types of insects that will be used directly in the production of fruits and vegetables.

Increasingly pronounced climate change dictates the necessary changes necessary in agricultural production, especially in the case of organic or integrated farming. Pollinators such as bumblebees, predators such as ladybugs or some types of parasitoid wasps are increasingly used in closed agricultural systems. The final goal of BIFARD is to use its knowledge and business skills to help farmers produce healthy and sustainable food.

Is there anything you would like to tell to your fellow entrepreneurs? #somethinginspirational

I think that with dedicated work and commitment dreams can be realized today more easily than ever before. If you have an idea – gather a team, make a solid and realistic business plan, present it to the appropriate audience and affirm it in front of others, and if your idea really “holds water”, sooner or later there will be someone who will recognize and support it. Never do things that don’t make you happy. And just be brave! You don’t know until you try!