How does one get into the grub business? For Akissi Stokes, entrepreneur and Atlanta MBDA Business Center client, it was the combination of her ample background in business, childhood experience on her grandfather’s farm, and her travels to areas suffering from food insecurity that led her to seek out alternative and sustainable nutrition solutions. After initially looking for ways to add low-cost and sustainable protein additives to easy-to-make meals, Ms. Stokes soon discovered the international use of bugs as protein rich entities. Although Ms. Stokes initially considered farming crickets, a handful of experimental trials soon led her and her partner to begin working with grubs.
Although Ms. Stokes originally sought out to tackle food insecurity with her grub-based protein additives, she soon began to explore the benefits of expanding her product and its low-cost entry to larger aspects of the supply chain. With this in mind, WUNDERgrubs was established in 2016 as a social franchise which offer a high-quality, alternative protein used as an input for food, feed, fertilizer and manufacturing by-products, and for the first several years in business, WUNDERgrubs focused on rebranding bugs and insects as a nutritional product opposed to the general view of pests.
By 2019, WUNDERgrubs had been producing chocolate chip cookies supplemented with a grounded grub protein powder to help change public perception of insect-based protein, but the company was looking for an opportunity to pivot as a supplier. Returning to the initial emphasis to eliminate food-insecurity, WUNDERgrubs began exploring ways to develop and farm their product that could then be incorporated into a plethora of foods and recipes. By 2020 and the unforeseen Covid-19 pandemic, WUNDERgrubs’ influence stood out as a nutritional alternative when global supply chains were shut down in a matter of months. Today, WUNDERgrubs continues to distribute their protein powders, but they are also establishing public containers and grub hatcheries throughout Atlanta to showcase the resiliency and stability of their grub farming solutions as well as partnering with local bakers to incorporate their product.
Ms. Stokes noted that she first came into contact with the Atlanta MBDA Centers in 2018 after sitting on a panel with program manager, Brandy Nagel. After speaking with Brandy on a follow up phone call, Ms. Stokes registered WUNDERgrubs as an Atlanta MBDA Business Center client and immediately began engaging with the programs and seminars offered by our group.
“There is an intentionality behind the people who are hired at the Centers. There is an incredible breadth of background and expertise amongst the people. It’s important as an entrepreneur to know that the people you are using for business know certain things about your industry. It saves you a lot of time and frustration, and it helps that when you’re sitting down with your business plans and goals that they’re able to understand you.” Akissi Stokes
After the various relationships built through the Atlanta MDBA Centers and connections with Georgia Tech, WUNDERgrubs was soon introduced to the Capstone program at Georgia Tech. Through this program, WUNDERgrubs was assigned a group of graduating Georgia Tech seniors in the Computer Science program to help them develop an application for the company to collect data. WUNDERgrubs will also be returning as a Capstone sponsor this year in search for a social innovation capstone team.
The next few years are looking bright for WUNDERgrubs. As they continue to grow, Ms. Stokes noted that they are focusing on establishing a greater number of holder farms, focusing on rural areas in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi as well as in Ghana and Nigeria. WUNDERgrubs is also positioning themselves to influence the classification of the insect industry in Georgia. At this time, micro-livestock is not classified by the state of Georgia, so federal funding and agricultural relief aid, such as the ones distributed for the covid-19 pandemic, are not accessible for companies such as WUNDERgrubs. In addition to regional development and policy work, Ms. Stokes also noted that they hope to continue to expand their product options and retail space.
All in all, WUNDERgrubs’ goal is to influence – influence policy, health trends, and market perception towards the future of protein rich insect supplements. To learn more about WUNDERgrubs, make sure to visit their website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.