Add value to eggshells and their internal membranes for use as raw materials in cosmetics, food supplements, and animal feed. This absurd idea, Yacine Kabeche, then a student at AgroParisTech had it during his gap year, in 2018, just before his master’s degree. “I took advantage of a year off to do internships. I realized the emergence of the social and circular economy, ”explains the 26-year-old leader. A period during which he exchanges with directors of agrifood plants to survey them on the development of a co-product in the agrifood industry.
“The manager of a cassery [usine qui sépare le blanc du jaune des oeufs, NLDR] told me of his need to add value to eggshells to lower costs, ”adds the entrepreneur, who founded Circul’egg in April 2020. “I didn’t want to start an entrepreneur but just understand the challenges of SSE on an industrial scale,” says Yacine Kabeche. Each year in France, more than 40,000 tonnes of shells are centralized in factories and eliminated, the vast majority of them. These figures eventually convince him to set up his business.
An alternative to calcium carbon
While he has not yet graduated, Yacine Kabeche is working in 2019 on the development of a natural process to separate the two constituents, the membrane and the shell powder. The objective: to offer it to BtoB manufacturers, in particular to players in the animal feed (PetFood and feed for farm animals), nutraceuticals (food supplements for human consumption), pharmaceutical (in particular concerning the treatment of osteoarthritis) and cosmetics.
“Beyond the beneficial properties of the membrane powder on the skin and hair, our solution is an alternative for manufacturers to calcium carbon, the extraction of which has a certain cost and impact on the environment”, is convinced ‘contractor.
Installed in AgroParisTech’s technological hall in Massy, the start-up took more than a year to build a prototype using a mechanical process that separates the shells from the membranes. An innovation now patented. “We had a big challenge on the R & D part, which we were able to overcome thanks to the support of AgroParistech professors and design offices”, explains Yacine Kabeche, who joined forces in September 2020 with Idris ben saber, graduate of AgroParisTech and Justine Lecallier, in charge of finances and strategy.
Regulatory issues have also given the trio a lot of trouble. “Depending on the name of the products and the respect of certain standards, the products cannot necessarily enter the food market”, explains the founder, who has enlisted the advice of a law firm.
Creation of a pilot plant
The tune-up of the machine allows the company to 7 employees to release its first samples in early 2021 and to test the appetite of the market. “Around thirty BtoB customers from the cosmetics, pet food and food supplements sector are now requesting”, assures the company manager.
Next step: raise funds of 700,000 euros from business angels and investment funds to finance and set up in the north-west of France their first pilot plant. “Today we live on subsidies. This industrial site meeting agrifood standards will allow us to industrialize our processes and generate turnover, ”reports Yacine Kabeche, who has obtained 280,000 euros in aid since 2020 thanks to the French Tech Emergence Grant from Bpifrance, various competitions and the Wilco Entrepreneur Loan Fund.
To avoid the transport of shells and limit its environmental impact, the company also wants to set up its machines in 2022 on the pottery sites in France. “15 players share 80% of the activity. We would remain the owners of the machines and the materials. We plan to donate part of our profits to them, ”says Yacine Kabeche. The product will then be sold in BtoB to manufacturers.