Feeding a Million People by 2030

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.

 

What’s a Capstone Project? And Why Should You Apply?

Over the course of our student worker series, we have focused exclusively on the best practices for hiring students through building internship programs and attending career fairs. Whether you have already executed these steps or are working with your team on the foundational stages, there also exists other opportunities for your company to engage with undergraduate talent.

The Georgia Tech Senior Design Capstone Project is an opportunity for companies to sponsor graduating Georgia Tech students to execute a specific research and design project for your group. Utilizing the skills these seniors have acquired over their time at Georgia Tech, the applications for these projects will directly benefit a specific need for your company. For a quick overview, please watch the video embedded below.

What is the Capstone Course?

Participants present their projects.

Since its inception, Georgia Tech has focused on providing its students with an applicable and industry focused education so that graduates would be extremely prepared for the workforce. Through this philosophy stems the culminating senior capstone project. In Capstone program, students have the ability to tackle “real-world, open-ended, interdisciplinary challenges proposed by industrial and research project sectors.” Companies, like yours, provide a sponsorship to Georgia Tech and in return receive a student group ready and willing to solve your proposed problem through an engineering design process.

Focusing on business principles, research, and design, these student groups are mentored by academic professionals over the course of the semester, will work directly with your company (and upon your requests can perform actual site visits to further understand the work), and on average will contribute over 500-man hours to your specific project. Your group will not only receive exceptional work from students eager to capitalize on their undergraduate experience, but these provided solutions will also remain as your company’s intellectual property for your own further development.

How Do I Participate?

To propose a project for the Georgia Tech Capstone Program, your business will act as a sponsor for the program, donating a minimum of $10,000 to help cover course expenses, team presentations and reports, and material and services costs for prototype fabrication. Sponsors will also submit their proposed project to the Capstone project portal listing their pitch, contact information, and any desired skills or considerations. After this information is received, students will form groups and begin bidding their ideas on the proposed projects. Once a proposed solution is accepted, your business and the GT student team will work closely to execute your proposed research and design problem.

To propose a project to the Capstone program, click here. To learn more about these opportunities make sure to visit the Capstone website or email capstone@gatech.edu.