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Companies in Europe have developed new kinds of feed for salmon farms that could help the environment—if they can scale up quickly.
Researchers in the Netherlands have come up with a new, more sustainable way to feed salmon that are grown in aquaculture environments: insects. Most of the salmon that consumers eat is raised in pens, where they are fed a specific diet that helps them grow. In the past, much of that diet has been based on fish meal, a protein and nutrient-rich mixture made from fish that were caught expressly for the purpose of feeding them to other fish.
That practice has drawn criticism from conservationists, however, who point out that it’s an inefficient process that contributes to overfishing and the bycatch of sensitive marine organisms like whales and sea turtles.
Seeking an alternative, the Netherlands-based company Protix developed a fish meal that’s based on insects. Researchers came up with the idea for the insect-based feed when they noticed animals like chickens, when they’re young, eating insect larvae to gain protein.
“Salmon are one of the more demanding fish species to grow,” says Tarique Arsiwalla, chief commercial officer of Protix. Right now, in order to create fish meal for salmon to eat, much of the aquaculture industry is “catching fish we don’t like to eat to create the salmon that we want,” he notes.
Starting in 2014, teams at Protix researched different types of insects. Eventually, they discovered that the black soldier fly has a large amount of protein stored during its larvae stage because the fly doesn’t eat once it is hatched.
Salmon, which are notoriously picky, liked the food made from the black soldier flies better than the other alternatives.
Because salmon can take up to two and a half years to mature, and because most new types of feed are only tested for a couple of months, there is often reluctance in the aquaculture industry to try new kinds of feed, says Aarts. In an attempt to attract interest, Protix tested the new insect-based food for four years.
“We come from an age where we thought the big blue ocean was infinite,” says Kees Aarts, Chief Executive Officer of Protix. “But with increasing demand for production of salmon, we need that alternative.”
Getting Rid of Fish Meal
As recently as a few years ago, it took the equivalent of three fish ground up into meal to make enough food to sustain one farm-raised salmon. That’s not an efficient use of the world’s resources, environmentalists like Oceana and WWF said. At the same time, demand for salmon around the world has been soaring. In response, the industry worked hard and eventually got the ratio down to one and a half fish for every salmon produced (largely by adding plant-based foods like corn and soy to the mix). But that ratio still requires fishing.
The fish used to make the fish-based meal can contain traces of chemical runoff from soil, plastics that the animals may have encountered in the ocean, and other toxins (like mercury from power plant emissions). Those compounds can get ingested by salmon and eventually land on the dinner plate of the people who buy them.
Black soldier flies are being used for insect-based feed as an alternative to the controversial fish meal that was the aquaculture industry standard for decades. Tim Cashion, a University of British Columbia Ph.D. student in the Fisheries Economics Research Unit of the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, says the industry has already reduced the amount of fish meal used in the process substantially, from 100 percent in the 1960s and ‘70s down to about 30 percent when he last published a study on it in Norway in 2012. However, those sources don’t necessarily replace all of the amino acids that salmon need, and they don’t replace the fish oils that make salmon so healthy to eat.
“The oil might be the part that’s harder to replace,” Cashion says. “It’s about getting the kinds of fats that people want in their salmon. That’s why you can’t do a complete replacement of fish oil with other kinds of oils.”
While the insect-based feed only replaces the proteins that salmon eat, Aarts says alternatives for the fish oils, which are currently still sourced from ocean life, are also in development by companies like DSM and Evonik.
A major concern that companies like Protix are facing is the scale that’s needed for insect-based feed to be successful in the aquaculture industry.
“The current demand for fish meal is approximately 6 million tons per year,” Cashion says. “[If] the idea is to replace that 100 percent with insect feed or insect meal of various kinds, we need a lot of it. The current production as I understand it is not there, but this is obviously a fairly new kind of industry.”
He wonders if it is feasible to meet that kind of demand in a timely fashion, and says its success also depends on the price of the insect-based feed.
“If they can buy insect meal for cheaper than fish meal and they can get the same results, they will likely do it, if it can work at the scale they’re producing at,” he says.
Because it is still a new product, Aarts says the insect-based meal is still slightly more expensive than fish meal, but fish meal prices are expected to rise as the amount of fish in the ocean decreases and demand for salmon continues to increase. As Protix expands to address the amount of feed that is needed, Aarts expects scale factors to drive the cost of the feed down as well.
Different Feed, Same Great Taste
The flavor of the salmon that ends up on consumers’ plates isn’t impacted by insect-based feed, either, says Arsiwalla. “The best result we could get was that it tastes like a salmon should taste, even though we made a significant change in the feed,” he says. “A salmon should taste like a salmon.”
To prove it, the company had their salmon taste-tested in blind judging. No one could tell the difference between their salmon and the salmon raised on conventional feed.
Protix is now working on scaling up their production, which is based in the Netherlands but has new projects across Europe, Asia, and Mexico. They are working on using food waste from vegetables produced by other food companies to feed the fly larvae, which they grow in their own facility. They will be opening a second facility soon, and together with other companies that make insect-based feed, they successfully lobbied the European Union for approval to sell their products in countries that are a part of the union as of July 2017.
“We believe the industry is set to grow fast,” Aarts says. “Our aim is to show safety, economic, and environmental potential of this new category of ingredients, from which new releases can be developed, like the inclusion in chicken feed.”
After the EU’s approval, Aarts says there was a fast increase in demand for insect-based feed. Protix is interested in working on feed for other aquaculture species as well, like trout and shrimp.
“We have to take care of our planet, and we believe that all people need to have access to proper nutrition in all phases of life,” says Aarts. “That also means [proper nutrition] for the animals we grow to feed ourselves.”
Protix, producer of insect protein production, and Hendrix Genetics, global multi-species animal genetics company, will team up to develop an insect breeding programme.
The programme aims to further improve the potential of insects as an efficient protein converter from feedstock to ingredient.
Founded on the achievements made in the production of black soldier flies, the new collaboration will further deepen the potential of insects as a source of high-quality nutrition. This applies to both the potential insects have as protein extractors from food leftovers, and their ability to be a quality source of nutrition for animal feed and human food.
Sharing knowledge speeds up innovation
“At Protix we have dedicated ourselves to the development of the necessary technologies to produce insects at scale in a safe and hygienic way. It is time for the next step and partner in breeding to realise our full potential,” according to Bas Jurgens, COO of Protix. Johan van Arendonk, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer at Hendrix Genetics acknowledges the great potential of the collaboration and stated: “Partnering with Protix offers a unique opportunity to jointly create world leading programme in insect breeding. Hendrix Genetics is truly multi-species focused and we experience every day that sharing knowledge across species speeds up innovation. Working on insects adds a new dimension and opportunity to create added value.”
The insect industry is growing quickly, especially after the EU allowed insect protein to be used as an aquaculture feed ingredient. Photo: Shutterstock
Benefit to all parties
Collaboration is well underway and Protix and Hendrix Genetics together expect results that can offer a strong benefit to all parties in the insect protein business. Both parties believe that it adds to the professional capacity of Protix, to further grow and to accelerate the industry at large. The insect industry is growing quickly, especially after the EU allowed insect protein to be used as an aquaculture feed ingredient. Over the last decade this novel industry of insect based ingredients for feed and food has developed greatly and experienced an increased level of professionalisation.
Dongen, The Netherlands (June 13, 2017) – Today, the insect supply industry reached a significant milestone with Netherlands-based Protix, the leading insect company, closing 45M€ in funding – delivered by Aqua-Spark, the first investment company focused on sustainable aquaculture, Rabobank, BOM and various private investors.
Enterra Feed Corporation has received approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to sell its Whole Dried Black Soldier Fly Larvae as a feed ingredient for salmonids, including farmed salmon, trout and arctic char.
With this approval, the company is now the first to market and sell this sustainable, natural product to aquaculture feed manufacturers in Canada. This is the first Canadian approval of an insect-based aquaculture feed ingredient, and follows the CFIA’s approval using this same product in feed for chicken broilers last year. Enterra received a similar US approval for use in salmonid feeds in 2016.
Canada is the fourth-largest producer of farmed salmon in the world, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In 2015 the farm gate value (the net value when it leaves the farm) of salmon and trout in Canada was $850 million1.
Digestible and renewable source of protein
“Aquaculture feed producers have been keenly awaiting this approval and we look forward to supplying their needs immediately,” said Andrew Vickerson, Chief Technology Officer, Enterra. “Fish eat insects in their natural environment and our product is a healthy, digestible and renewable source of protein and fat that can replace less sustainable ingredients, including fish meal and soybean meal.”
Production of fish meal, which is a standard aquaculture feed ingredient, can deplete wild ocean fish stocks and is subject to substantial price fluctuations. Soybean meal requires significant agricultural inputs that could otherwise be used more efficiently to grow food for people.
“Insects are a natural source of digestible protein and fat for fish, including salmon and trout,” said Dr Brad Hicks, a veterinarian and partner in Taplow Feeds, an aquaculture feed manufacturer. “This product will contribute to healthy, active fish and is a great alternative feed ingredient.”
Black soldier fly is a beneficial insect
Enterra uses the larvae of the black soldier fly, a beneficial insect species that is highly efficient at upcycling complex nutrients in pre-consumer waste food into an excellent source of protein and fat, perfect for inclusion in feed for fish, poultry, pets and zoo animals. These innovative products offer a sustainable alternative to resource-intensive feed ingredients like fish meal, fish oil, soybean meal, palm kernel oil and coconut oil.
Insect producer AgriProtein has signed a deal with Saudi technology hub Sajt to build a commercial-scale production of insect-based animal feed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Sajt will use AgriProtein’s factory blueprint to build the first of three fly farms in Saudi Arabia, boosting food security and supporting Vision 2030.
Announcing the agreement the vice-president of Sajt explained: “The Kingdom is currently entirely reliant on imported feed for the burgeoning aquaculture and poultry industries. AgriProtein’s world-leading technology will help us to deliver on several Vision 2030 goals, as well as support the Ministry of Agriculture’s food security objectives. With AgriProtein, we can now produce sustainable, natural protein locally, and in time completely do away with reliance on imported feed.”
The world’s biggest fly-farmer, AgriProtein has developed a blueprint for mass-production of sustainable animal feeds as an alternative to fishmeal widely used in aquaculture and agriculture.
Said AgriProtein co-founder and CEO Jason Drew: “We’re delighted that Sajt shares our vision. Fishmeal production is destroying the marine environment. Replacing it with insect meal leaves more fish in the sea for human consumption, allows the oceans to heal and reduces greenhouse gases at every stage of the supply chain from point-of-catch to point-of-sale. We estimate an environmental cost saving of $US2,000 per tonne in reduced CO2.”
The partners believe this is the ideal time to launch the initiative. The Kingdom’s agricultural sector is predicted to rise to $US1.7 billion within the next four years. Farmed fish volumes are expected to reach one million tonnes per year and Saudi poultry production is set to increase 52% by 2018, driven by government plans to achieve self-sufficiency.
And with water conservation a key priority in the region, insect protein production is much more water-efficient than other protein production processes.
AgriProtein has set up camp in North America with the aim of building 20 fly farms in the US and Canada in pursuit of its global targets of 100 fly farms by 2024 and 200 by 2027.
The world’s biggest fly-farmer and first commercial-scale insect meal producer, AgriProtein is building a global network of insect protein factories mass-producing sustainable animal feeds to replace fishmeal used in aquaculture, agriculture and petfood.
On the supply side of the business, AgriProtein’s technology helps tackle the world’s growing waste crisis by rearing fly larvae on a massive scale on organic waste, which would otherwise go to landfill. Co-founder and CEO Jason Drew explains: “With supplies of fishmeal dwindling we’re moving as quickly as we can to bring insect protein into the mainstream of animal feed. As well as ensuring continued supply of protein in the years ahead, replacing fishmeal with insect meal allows our oceans to heal, reduces greenhouse gases at every stage of the supply chain from point-of-catch to point-of-sale and leaves more fish in the sea for humans.”
A dedicated North American team
Now AgriProtein has set up a dedicated North American team to develop its business locally and build an R&D capability. Headed by Jon Duschinsky, it will identify suitable locations and licensing partners for fly-farm operations in the US and Canada. The company announced the North America initiative at the World AgriTech Innovation Summit 2017 in San Francisco. Duschinsky: “The US is the world’s biggest consumer of protein and the world’s biggest producer of organic waste, a very important market for us. And as AgriProtein is disrupting 3 industries – agriculture, aquaculture and animal feed – it’s natural we chose the world centre of disruptive technologies to launch our North American campaign.”
AgriProtein has allocated several international licenses to use its technology in Asia, Australasia and the Middle East. Last week the company signed an agreement to build 3 fly farms in Saudi Arabia.
A new study looked at possibilities to attract the Black Soldier Fly to the Bondo area of Western Kenya, and to develop appropriate methods for larvae farming for utilisation as poultry feed and fish feed in smallholder farming systems in Kenya.
Small scale poultry and fish farmers in Africa are suffering from the increasing cost of feed (such as fishmeal), which now accounts for nearly 70 to 80% of the total production costs. This leads to increased prices and shortages of milk, meat and eggs. Finding cheaper feed ingredients such as insect protein from the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) is therefore applauded. In the wild, many kinds of livestock including poultry and fish naturally feed on BSF larvae whose nutritional composition is as good as fishmeal and comparably better than soybean.
Stimulating natural conditions
The BSF has been reported in almost 80% of the world including Africa. In Africa, BSF has only been sighted in Ghana and South Africa where the larval stage is used for compositing organic matter. There is no documented evidence of them being sighted in Kenya. The current study set out to simulate the natural conditions that attract the adult females to oviposit in such areas, establish the insect’s nativity in the Bondo area of western Kenya, and identify suitable organic substrates that can be utilised for its production at a small scale level. The study consequently reports on a simple method for farming BSF larvae on various organic waste substrates as an alternative source of protein, which can be adopted by smallholder farming systems.
4 different type of attractant substrates were used in the study:
BSF attracted to vegetable waste and maize
On day 2 to day 4, different insect types were observed frequenting the different attractant wastes. These included the common housefly, green bottle fly, blowflies and sandflies among others. However, no BSF was observed during this period. The first BSF was observed on day 5 on the plastic pipes of the feeding structure with vegetable wastes and the mashed maize grain that had started producing putrescent.
Nutritional value compared to soy and fishmeal
To ascertain the potential of wild BSF larvae as a protein source in poultry and fish feeds, proximate, mineral and vitamin composition were analysed and compared with reported values for fishmeal and soybean reported in literature.
Developing a cheap open system
To facilitate production of BSF larvae from various household wastes, an open system consisting of larvae feeding structure was used. Such a system is not only cheap to construct, but is also not labour intensive as mature larvae (prepupa) voluntarily migrate out of the rotting feedstock into a nearby provided container, if the feeding structure is designed correctly. Only occasional removal of the rotten compost and replenishment of the feeding substrate is necessary. In addition, most of the substrates used are either by-products or waste products of the agricultural industry, and are locally available. This ensures the sustainability of production system.
BSF has been spotted in the Bondo area in Kenya, and its female adults can be attracted to oviposit on locally available organic substrate waste in amounts that can support small-scale fish and or poultry farming. The total yield of the harvested BSF highly dependent on the substrate used as both an attractant and feedstock. The method used in this study is not labour intensive and therefore adoptable by local farmers keen on supplementing the protein needs of their livestock. We therefore recommend this open system of farming BSF larvae for adoption by smallholder farmers under the local existing environmental conditions.
The results of this study have been published in the latest edition of the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed.
Insect meal is expected to be allowed in livestock feed by 2020. This is the prediction of Dutch bank ABN Amro in its recent publication about the opportunities and limitations of insects for food, feed and pet food.
The report (in Dutch) gives a clear outline of the current situation of insect production and the application of insect protein and insect oil in various segments. It states that the insect business is growing fast. Since 2000, companies have been founded in the US, Canada, China, South Africa and Europe. The growth of the insect rearing sector is best reflected in the growth of the Black Soldier Fly (BSF). Global production of BSF is growing rapidly; from 7,000-8,000 tonnes wet weight in 2014-2015 to 14,000 tonnes in 2016.
According to the bank’s publication, within the current legislation a lot is already possible for the human food and pet food sectors, but the EU legislation doesn’t allow the use of insect protein yet. ABN Amro states that there are promising prospects related to possible changes of the EU legislation. Once the legislation will change and feeding insect protein becomes allowed, the market perspective will become even brighter.
Aquafeed: Q3 2017
Since the BSE crisis, Europe enforces the TSE legislation. In short, this means that no processed animal protein are allowed to use in food producing animals. Over the last years, several insect producing companies, together with major stakeholders,. Have lobbied to make an exception for insect meal. This has had an effect. At the moment, the DG Health and Food Safety of the European Commission is preparing a voting in the EC for the introduction of insect meal in aquaculture diets through the regulation 56/2013. Earlier assessments among EU member states made clear that most member states are willing to change the current legislation to make introduction of insect meal in fish diets possible. It is expected that new legislation will come into force in the third quarter of 2017. The International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) expects that on the long term (after 2023) insect meal can also compete with the price of fish meal. This will open up further growth of use if insect meal in the aquaculture industry.
Poultry and pig feed: 2020
The European TSE legislation prohibits the use of dead insects or processed insects in feed for chickens and pigs. However, it is allowed to feed live insects, insect oil or hydrolysed protein. Dutch firm Coppens for example already mixes insect oil in their commercial pig feed. More research is being carried out the further confirm the health promoting benefits of chitin and lauric acid (found in insects) for animals. Wageningen UR in the Netherlands for example is an active player in this type of research. IPIFF says that the allowance of insect meal for pigs and poultry will be the main focus after approval of its use in aquafeed. Given the effort required, IPIFF expects that amendments for pig and poultry feed take place in 2020. This will create more market opportunities for insect meal to enter the huge poultry feed market as of 2023. A prerequisite for success is that production volumes will rise and the cost price of insect meal drops. In the figure below a rough calculation on the expected demand of insect meal when certain ingredients in aquafeed, pig and poultry feed are partly replaced.
Price comparison of insect meal
It should be noted The production volumes of fish meal, high quality soybean meal extract, and soybean meal is hundreds of times larger then protein products from insects. ABN Amro published a price comparison in the report in which trading prices of protein, derived from various sources are compared. It is clear that the BSF and small mealworm are the most competitive ones, compared to the existing, high-quality protein sources like fishmeal and high-quality soy meal. As soon as the insect meal sector matures, it can become more efficient, hence bringing the cost down.
16 januari 2017 Source: De Molenaar
Bühler and Protix have founded the joint venture Bühler Insect Technology Solutions. This joint venture will develop scalable, industrial solutions for the rearing, and processing of insects to provide protein primarily for animal feed and food.
Bühler Insect Technology Solutions is located in China and has already begun operations. “By combining the knowledge and experience of our two companies, we can provide industrial insect processing solutions to address the alternative protein market,” explains Ian Roberts, CTO of Bühler. “Together, we can develop both sustainable and cost effective solutions for large scale insect producers and processors that cover the whole value chain,” adds Kees Aarts, CEO of Protix.
One of the most promising sources to generate protein sustainably and with a low footprint is insect. Fly larvae or mealworms, for instance, are easy to breed and can be fed with organic waste. They are remarkably efficient at converting feed into protein and require little space to cultivate.
Because of these advantages, insects have attracted considerable attention from start-ups and established players in the food industry in recent years. Protix was founded in 2009 in the Netherlands. In just a few years, thanks to its dedicated team of highly skilled professionals, the company developed proprietary equipment and solutions gaining extensive operational expertise not only in the breeding and rearing cycle, but also in separating and extracting proteins and lipids from insects. With a pilot plant, it processes 1,600 tonnes of insect larvae per year and produces high quality, insect-based ingredients. The company was recognized as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2015.
“Protix is the most advanced insect company that has demonstrated industrial-scale production in a way that is scalable and multipliable. They have proven how to create a market in insect protein,” explains Roberts. Now they are ready to take the company to the next level and need a partner who understands the requirements of large, industrial processors. This is where Bühler steps in. “Bühler has a strong, established business providing technologies for animal feed, and protein from the insects can be used in pellets, or directly as animal feed. With our global market access, technology base, and engineering capabilities, combined with the deep knowledge, experience and entrepreneurial flair of Protix, we have the ingredients for a successful commercial partnership,” Roberts says.
Bühler Insect Technologies is located in Liyang, China. The goal of the joint venture is to develop industrial scale solutions for feedstock processing, larvae rearing and larvae processing, and to produce high-quality insect ingredients – covering the whole value chain from rearing to separation and extraction of proteins and lipids. Initially, the focus will be on larvae of the Black Soldier Fly. Subsequently there will be a diversification to other insects, such as mealworms. The insect proteins will be used primarily for the production of sustainable animal feed, for example in aquaculture, which is the fastest growing agricultural segment in the world.
Intrexon will acquire the business of EnviroFlight, 29 February 2016. Source: WATTAgNet.com.
Intrexon Corp., a leader in synthetic biology, has agreed to acquire the business of EnviroFlight L.L.C. and form a joint venture with Darling Ingredients Inc., the world’s largest publicly traded developer and producer of sustainable natural ingredients from bio-nutrients.
EnviroFlight has developed proprietary technologies which enable the rearing of non-pathogenic black soldier fly (BSF) larvae in an industrially scalable manner. This innovative and responsible approach has considerable potential within the $60 billion global animal feed industry as it will provide an environmentally friendly, toxin-free, sustainable source of high-value nutrients.
“Current trends in human population growth drive increased demand for protein supply in food production, and we believe that BSF larvae provide the potential to revolutionize the animal feed industries,” said Corey Huck, senior vice president and head of Intrexon’s food sector. “Through our partnership with Darling, the world’s largest producer of sustainable natural ingredients, we look forward to employing EnviroFlight’s platform to create high-nutrition, low environmental impact animal and fish feed as well as fertilizer products.”
EnviroFlight’s scalable approach utilizing BSF larvae opens the door to a plentiful source of high-quality nutrients for the aquaculture and livestock industries. Notably within the fish and poultry markets, BSF larvae may be more representative of the typical diet of these natural insectivores than soymeal and other plant-based meal regimens. Additionally, fishmeal and fish oil are multi-billion-dollar products critical to aquaculture’s continued growth, yet demand is outpacing the fairly inflexible supply for these valuable feeds whose manufacture are heavily dependent on wild-caught fish.
“Black Soldier Fly larvae meal may represent a very useful ingredient in aquaculture and importantly it has no impact on the marine ecosystem,” said Rick Barrows, Ph.D., research physiologist for Agricultural Research Service in the United States Department of Agriculture. Barrows added, “Starter diets for rainbow trout incorporating BSF larvae meal resulted in an increase in feed consumption and growth, showing high palatability suggesting it could be useful with some of the more finicky species such as salmon and yellowtail. Furthermore we have also found the essential nutrients in BSF larvae meal to have high digestibility.”
In addition to reducing the depletion of marine ecosystems and decreasing dependence on non-sustainable protein sources, EnviroFlight’s insect-based approach offers significant potential to recover the abundant food surpluses given its proficiency converting organic materials into valuable proteins and oils. While working with regulatory agencies to gain approvals for the use of BSF larvae for food animals, EnviroFlight will continue to supply select markets with high-quality animal feed and all-natural fertilizers.
“We are excited to enter this new collaboration with Intrexon, a leader in bio-based solutions to global problems, and to further enhance our broad bio-nutrient product portfolio continuing our goal of providing nutritional, functional, and ecological ingredients for animals,” said Randall Stuewe, chairman and CEO of Darling Ingredients.
“EnviroFlight has focused on driving necessary change in the global food supply chain, and we look forward to working with Intrexon and Darling Ingredients to realize the considerable promise of insect bioconversion to offer solutions that meet this goal,” said Glen Courtright, president of EnviroFlight.
Paris and London, 15th December 2016 – Ynsect – the global leader in the mass-scale breeding of insects for the animal feed markets – today announces that it has closed a $15.2m Series B round led by Future Positive Capital, Quadia SA and Bpifrance Ecotechnologies, with participation from existing investors Emertec, Demeter, Vis Vires New Protein Capital and Business Angels. This latest round brings the cumulative amount Ynsect has raised, from private and public sources, to $37m over the last three years – the largest-ever investment in the sector.
The announcement comes as EU member states this week endorsed a European Commission proposal to allow the wider use of insect proteins in animal feed. A vote taken on Tuesday, during a session of the EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF), clears the way for insect proteins to be used in fish feed in Europe from July 2017. An industry game-changer, the decision was brought about in large part thanks to the advocacy work of the International Platform for Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF), of which Ynsect’s CEO Antoine Hubert is President.
Ynsect farms and transforms insects into a high-quality natural diet for livestock and pet nutrition. With cutting-edge R&D, patented technologies and a world-leading multidisciplinary team, whose skills range from physiological entomology to biochemistry through robotics and IT, Ynsect was founded on a single visionary idea: placing insect-derived protein at the heart of the agri-food system to sustainably address the growing global demand for meat and fish.
“Few people today are aware of how the animals they eat have been fed,” explains Ynsect CEO Antoine Hubert, who cofounded the company in September 2011 alongside Alexis Angot, Jean-Gabriel Levon and Fabrice Berro. “In fact, farmed animals mostly consume GM soya, grains, and sometimes poultry feather meal, as well as fish meal. It was fish meal, in particular, which caught our attention.
“Fish meal is derived from catches of small fish, the global supply of which is under duress due to overfishing. In turn, that’s causing severe depletion of ocean biodiversity, and leading to food safety concerns due to the high content of heavy metals which bio-accumulate within dwindling fish stocks.”
While insects account for a significant share of the diets of fish, birds and mammals in the wild, the same isn’t true of their farmed equivalents, Antoine Hubert continues. “At Ynsect, we produce insect proteins that can change this unnatural and unsustainable situation. We can now feed animals with a higher quality and more nutritious diet, while reducing the amount of fish meal they consume. Crucially, we can also combine this with far greater sustainability.”
Ynsect’s main product today is known as ‘TMP’ – Tenebrio molitor protein – a de-fatted protein meal made of farmed mealworm larvae. To date, TMP is the only insect protein that shows considerable benefits to animal growth and health, when fish meal is substituted with TMP in their diets.
The company has designed proprietary technology to farm mealworm larvae, as well as other insects. Automation and machine-learning software are connected to sensors embedded in the farm, to ensure the highest-possible welfare standards for the insects, while promoting animal growth and safeguarding operators’ health. As well as owning the leading patent portfolio in the sector globally, Ynstitute — as Ynsect’s headquarters and R&D centre is known — is the largest private research facility in this field worldwide.
Antoine Hubert and the team will use the investment to increase capacity at Ynsite, Ynsect’s pilot centre in Jura, France, and to begin preparatory engineering work on the world’s largest insect unit that will have the capacity to produce at least 20,000 metric tons of insect protein a year.
The company’s initial focus has been on early-adopter fish feed and pet food companies, for whom the superior quality and 72% protein content of Ynsect’s TMP – which is the same protein level as that of the highest-grade fish meal – is a major selling point. Once Ynsect’s new unit begins production, the team expects several large animal feed players to become customers.
“The four of us started the company because we wanted to improve a global food system that is unsustainable and leading to a host of undesired impacts, including growing greenhouse gas emissions, the collapse in oceanic biodiversity and anxieties over food safety and security,” says Antoine Hubert. “That’s why we’re so delighted that some of the most renowned and innovative investors in the food tech and clean tech sectors, Future Positive Capital and Bpifrance Ecotechnologies, are joining us to help make our vision – of insects playing the same leading role in the global food system as they occupy in the wild – a reality.”
Sofia Hmich, founder of Future Positive Capital, says: “This investment shows our long-term commitment to finding and supporting companies who are tackling intractable global challenges head on, with world-beating IP and flawless execution. We’re so excited for Antoine and his team, and looking forward to seeing Ynsect grow into a major global agro-food player.” (Sofia Hmich has published a post that highlights her investment thesis about Ynsect.)
Gilles Schang, Deputy Managing Director Ecotechnology Investments at Bpifrance Investment, adds: “Ynsect is a true pioneer in breeding insects for animal feed and has established itself as the frontrunner in the rapid development of this market. We are delighted to be positioning ourselves alongside the company’s founders and management in order to make Ynsect the global leader of disruptive agro-food technologies and to deploy worldwide the expertise they have developed in France.”