During our work with scale-ups we often meet some extraordinary characters with stories that need to see the light of day. This is one of those stories. Insect fanatic and maintenance manager Antoine Serriere (30) works for our client Protix, a company that breeds insects to produce feed nutrients. But not for long, because next month he’s quitting his job and going on the journey of a lifetime. Antoine and his girlfriend Caroline decided to practice what they preach and live an entirely self-sufficient life in France. But first they are sailing instead of flying to Central America to learn how to do so. This is his story for your daily dose of inspiration.
As a child, the insect world had fascinated Antoine. “I had several species of ants. It was so interesting to watch the colony grow. I would start with a queen and from the eggs emerged worker ants. I really loved to watch the colony grow and observe their behavior.” Born and bred in a large house in the east of France, his parents let him keep his insects in the house under one strict condition. They weren’t to be seen outside the one designated room his parents allowed him to keep them in. So Antoine insulated the room with tape and built a ventilation system for air flow.
His passion for insects became a slightly icky but lucrative student business, earning him the extra pocket money for beers and parties. He used cockroaches to feed his ants. Soon the roaches started multiplying incessantly, so he had to act quick. “On the internet I saw that people were looking for cockroaches to feed their reptiles. They paid good money and there was a lot of demand, so I started somewhat of a small business for cockroaches”, Antoine says with a cheeky grin on his face. For the two years to come he kept his roaches in four old insulated freezers, until he went on exchange to Australia and New Zealand and sold all of the little creatures at once.
It was in those years that he found out about Protix and sent his first open application. Two years, three applications and a few Dutch lessons later he landed himself the job he has today. As a maintenance manager Antoine had to hire and lead an entire team of mechanics responsible for operating and servicing the machines in the insect factory. Antoine: “It was a massive challenge, but I love working here.”
Through this job and conversations with his girlfriend he started to become more aware of the environment. On his way to work he would listen to podcasts and it dawned on him that our way of living is very vulnerable to the changes that are happening. It takes one power outage of a few days for us to run out of food and water. Antoine: “If instead of two degrees the earth warms up five degrees by 2100, it means that 1 billion people need to leave their homes and emigrate. Judging from what chaos the war in Syria caused when only a fraction of people needed to flee their country, I have very low expectations on that going well.”
So far Antoine and Caroline had been living a relatively conscious life – or so they thought. She was a vegetarian, he was a flexitarian, they recycled their waste and both worked in the field of sustainability. But they still lived what Antoine calls an industrial life. They drive their car to work, fly to faraway holiday destinations and buy food from the supermarket. Antoine: “One day we calculated our carbon footprint and were shocked at how high it was. We realized we had to do something.” The seed was planted for what is to become the mission of a lifetime. “Our current lifestyle no longer matched our ideals.”
In the hours after work and on the weekends the couple visited different food forests and started attending permaculture courses and natural building workshops. They met likeminded people and slowly took up the idea of starting an entirely different life. A simpler life, a less stressful life. Antoine looks around him and shrugs. “We want to live more in tune with nature, now we are only surrounded by concrete.” One day he wants to raise his own kids. “I have people in my network that decided not to have kids because they think it is irresponsible, but I refuse to think that way. There would be no point in undertaking all of this if I had no hope for the future.”
Next month the two eco-warriors are quitting their jobs and starting their self-sufficient adventure. From then onwards they will become “footprintarians”, who continuously search to diminish their footprint by making conscious choices on a daily basis. And that includes no plane fares. First stop: Central-America. Antoine: “We were very lucky to find a sailor that will sail his catamaran across the ocean and take us with him as deckhands.” Antoine and Caroline will spend half a year volunteering at organic farms in order to learn how to live in accordance with nature and learn some Spanish on the side.
Mid 2020 the couple will sail back to their motherland. “We want to buy a block of land in France and live in a small ecovillage setting with our friends or likeminded people”, says Antoine. Their first focus will be producing their own food by making a permaculture garden, a food forest and eventually having a small lake. On the mid-term they want to build a house made of strawbale and generate their own electricity and water. The intention is not to exclude themselves from society. Quite the contrary: “We want to create synergy with the surrounding towns and hopefully inspire other people with our project. We are under no illusion that our project will change the entire world, but all we can do is try and have some fun on the way.”