Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Loopworm: How Ankit Alok Bagaria and Abhi Gawri are building a silk route to profit with sustainability

To tame the elephant of food waste, the co-founders of the agritech company have put insects to work and are building Loopworm to make it one of India's largest biotechnology companies

Published: Feb 15, 2024 03:59:55 PM IST
Updated: Feb 16, 2024 01:12:45 PM IST

Loopworm: How Ankit Alok Bagaria and Abhi Gawri are building a silk route to profit with sustainabilityAnkit Alok Bagaria, Co-founder and CEO, Loopworm, Abhi Gawri, Co-founder and CEO, Loopworm Image: Selvaprakash Lakshmanan For Forbes India; Outfit: Samyakk; Styled By: Esha Kothari; Assistant Stylist: Kaveri Halder; Hair And Make Up: Krishnastudi


Ankit Alok Bagaria, Abhi Gawri | 28, 27
Co-founders, Loopworm

 
It all started out in a dorm room at IIT-Roorkee where Ankit Alok Bagaria and Abhi Gawri were working on waste management projects dealing with flower, plastic and paper waste. “It was during this that we understood that organic or food waste is the elephant in the room and were convinced we wanted to do something around it,” says Bagaria. While looking for solutions, they realised insects fit the bill perfectly when it came to upcycling considering they can be reared on food waste and then be used as food for fish and birds. Besides, adds Gawri, the carbon footprint of insects is minimal as compared to other conventional sources.

Immediately after graduation in 2019, they set up Loopworm in Bengaluru, not just because of the startup ecosystem there, but also because it drove down utility costs since it had the right climactic conditions for insect farming without the need for controlled settings. Initially bootstrapped, and then with the help of grants—they secured almost $150,000 from various sources—the two, over the next three years, worked on standardising the insect rearing process.

At the end of 2021, they started looking at processing the insects into a product. “We first thought we’ll supply the worms directly to chicken or fish farmers, but we realised that insects are very nutrition dense and are not a balanced diet for chicken or fish. They can only be a part of their diet, so we decided that people making the feed for farmers are the right customers for it,” says Bagaria.

In August 2022, they raised $3.4 million in a seed funding round led by Omnivore and WaterBridge Ventures. Their factory, which became operational in 2023, currently works with silkworms and black soldier fly larvae and produces three products—Loop-Grubs, Loop-Meal and Loop-Oil—to be sold to feed manufacturers. The team has expanded to 49 people, from which about 40 percent work in manufacturing while another 40 percent work on research and development.

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“They’re hiring scientists, they’re hiring researchers,” says Mark Kahn, managing partner of Omnivore. “They see themselves building one of the largest biotechnology companies in India over the next few years. And we think they’re going to do that.”

Loopworm: How Ankit Alok Bagaria and Abhi Gawri are building a silk route to profit with sustainability

Loopworm works with silkworm reelers as well as provides the technology to farmers for black soldier fly larvae farming, and over the next few years are looking to scale and increase engagement with both even as they continue working on other biotech products in the animal feed, plant nutrition and cosmetics space. The plan is also to raise the next round of funding later this year.

(This story appears in the 23 February, 2024 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)