In this post I am going to show you some of the top companies that are producing insect feed for mono-gastric farmed animals and some other interesting purposes.
The road to insect based products are being paved by some very creative and innovative companies. Many of which are already selling products that are available to both consumers and industrial customers right now.
A few weeks ago we covered some of the insect food products you can buy at supermarkets or online right now. However this time I wanted to take a look at the other side of the coin – feed companies using insects.
There are so many out there popping up all the time, so this list is not intended to be comprehensive. Let us know if there are companies you think should be on this list.
These are instead the companies that have popped up on my radar over the last year or so. Companies that are mostly using similar broad technologies and techniques to create industrial scale insect based feed and other products.
Unlike the large range of insects that we see being used in consumer food products, feed companies are mainly using the larvae of the Black Solider Fly.
Why is the black soldier fly so popular, you might ask?
It seems that the black soldier fly is a very good option when it comes to industrial scale production of feed. In fact, the feedipedia states a whole range of benefits which perhaps explain why it is used so much:
So these very useful insects can produce masses of handy proteins and fats that can be repurposed by feed companies. And the side effects of the flies are minimal to none. On top of this, they are great at processing wastes (like foods) that we otherwise have to place somewhere to simply rot.
Agriprotein in particular is also using a couple of other flies to process various kinds of waste.
As well as the black soldier fly, they use both the common housefly (Musca domestica) and the blowfly (Calliphoridae family). These flies are great for processing abattoir waste, whereas the black soldier fly is far better at processing manure and vegetable matter.
I will not go into specifics in this post but there are other insects that could be used to produce feed and the FAO has some further information on this if you are interested (see section 7.3).
Bio-waste processing is a fantastic alternative for producing animal and fish feed. Normally such processes are resource intensive and and wasteful too. So the insect alternatives are something that is fast opening people’s eyes.
And with the increasing demand for products like fish, this issue is becoming more important. Especially as the oceans are already becoming overfished.
A World Bank report stated that by 2030 two thirds of the world’s seafood will instead be farm-raised. The question then is: where will all of the fish food come from? Currently millions of tons of wild fish (anchovies, sardines etc) are being used to raise farmed fish like salmon. However, such feed options are just not sustainable. It can take up to:
three pounds of wild fish to grow one pound of farmed fish
So instead of wasting our precious wild fish resources to make protein for farmed fish, it makes a lot more sense to use less resource intensive products like those from insect larvae, right?
[Tweet “Why not use insects to make fishmeal, instead of using our precious wild fish #feed”]
The other option has always been soy-based proteins, which consume 95% of the soy production right now. And although this is somewhat better than using fish to feed fish, it is still quite resource intensive. Especially when you compare it to insect larvae products which actually consume waste products instead of valuable farming resources.
Now you know what these companies are doing, and how they are doing it (more or less, I will let them explain the details of their own processes), let’s take a look at some of the most outstanding ones around.
The Enviroflight team are using the Black Soldier Fly larvae to process waste products (food, brewery waste etc) and turn them into useful food and plant nutrients. They are working on insect meal animal feed as well as plant fertilizers all as products of their Black Soldier Fly based systems.
Agri Protein produces two products (a natural protein meal and oil) which can be used as a growth facilitator in agricultural feed preparations. Some of the by product of their larvae can also be used and sold as a soil. And they also sell the dried larvae directly as by the pet food industry.
Ynsect are still in the development phase, but they are working with both flies and beetles using similar bio waste processing techniques to most of the companies on this page. They will then use the by-products of this process to develop a variety of products including animal and pet feed, plant nutrition and more.
Protix have developed a broad range of insect derived products ranging from:
They also provide some of their knowledge and insect raising technology if you are interested in getting started yourself. You can find more details here.
Enterra grows sustainable animal feed ingredients and a natural organic fertilizer for food production – Trademarked Renewable Food for Animals and Plants™
What does that actually mean? Well, they source waste foods from grocery stores and food suppliers, such as
This waste food is then fed to insect larvae (from the black solider fly) that consume this material. The mature insects are then harvested and turned into nutritious protein and oils that can be used as a replacement for wild fish and soy alternatives, that are far more costly and resource intensive.
They sell a range of products from animal food to oils for animal foods (that replace the standard omega oil sources).
Another bonus of their harvesting process is a fertilizer that is nutritional rich and a great alternative to the standard chemicals that are used.
BioFlyTech are a spin off of the University of Alicante in Spain. They have four separate divisions, focused on the use of flies (various species of dipterans) as alternatives to current feed, pollination and other technologies.
Their feed division uses the flies as raw material for animal feed. The insects are processed to create flour, and also raw ingredients such as proteins and fatty acids. The idea is to use these various products in pet food and feeds for aquaculture, aviculture and animal production.
Entomotech is not yet in production, but they are research a huge variety of insect applications. Anything from insect feed alternatives to medicine, they are looking into it.
There current projects list includes:
Co-Prot are focused on the South-East Asian markets supplying animal feed and related products. They work with the Black Solider Fly, their Lavea and it’s derivatives. They have a few products you can buy including:
The insect based feed industry is just starting to take shape and things are changing at a rapid pace. There are many more companies out there still in the R&D phase and they will certainly have a lot to teach us in the years to come.
I hope you are as excited as I am about the future of insects in feed production and look forward to hearing your thoughts on social media!
Today we are going to learn about the Insectpreneur story behind Co-Prot.
Co-Pro was founded by Gil Berholz, who was educated in both agricultural science and agribusiness, and has extensive experience in agri-trade and export industry. In order to supply the growing insect-based animal protein feed business, Co-Prot was established with a focus on South East Asian markets.
I have followed Gil’s adventures since the beginning, 2 preparation months and the opening of their pilot facility on 0.4 hectare in Siem Reap, the Kingdom of Cambodia. His overcoming some difficulties and managing to get the breeding cycle started, his energy on looking for partners and sponsors to support them in the value chain development, product development and processing development. I am very thankful to him for allowing us to share his story, because as he himself puts it:
“It is not simple and it is not a goldmine as one may think”
Now, let’s dive into the Co-Prot story with Gil…
The lack of sustainable protein solution for animal feed was the trigger. The Black Soldier Fly (also known as BSF) was very attractive because of its ability to process organic waste and grow on wide variety of feed materials.
Note: Find out more about other businesses using BSF in this article.
At first glance rearing BSF seemed to make a decent business model. Cambodia has space, tropical weather and simplicity of opening such ventures. Cost wise it is also very attractive.
Its potential location is good: between huge protein markets: Thailand, Vietnam, China Taiwan etc.
Developing a rearing protocol and building a rearing farm.
Well, this lesson was not early, but after investigating with an investor we saw that BSF rearing is not really scalable, and risks are higher than potential returns. So we had to pull the plug from this initiative.
First, to produce 1 ton of dry insect meal, one will need about 15-20 tons of fresh (wet) organic waste of high quality. So to produce a 40 foot container of insect meal, one will need 400 tons of fresh waste. That requires a huge logistical operation of waste collection sorting and transport. This practically means that primary operation of such a company is waste management, and secondary activity is protein production.
Secondly feed safety is a big concern. It is still unknown if antibiotics, pathogens, heavy metals, microtoxins etc. are passing through from the rearing substrate to the end product. That means that many cheap and available substrates, such as pig manure and uncontrolled waste have to be excluded. This has a large impact on scaling the operation.
Thirdly growing factors such as
are not yet explored and managed. Issues like these could wipe out the whole operation in matter of few days.
For these reasons the EU legislation is not moving forward very quickly to allow insects in the feed chain.
However these reasons/risks are also valid for the whole world. At the current possible selling price for insect meal of 950$-1350$/ ton, a production of minimum 3000 ton per year starts to be interesting.
To get hold of enough safe, high quality larva feed to produce this large quantity is a challenge and a large business risk. Let alone that acquiring business license, quality and safety certifications to grow and produce insect meal. This can be a lengthy, expensive process that can take more than 2 years.
Put all of these together and you have a very risky business!
Finding clients was actually not a problem. We were contacted by more than 25 companies, among them some multinationals that wanted to experiment with Insect meal. The market really wants to see this product coming and is looking forward to it.
Co-Prot is currently not active. If some company will crack the scalability and safety issues and will produce large quantities on insect meal, Co-Prot will be happy to be the marketing agent for their produce in Asia, as we have very interesting contacts there that are willing to buy insect proteins.
I believe that the insect industry for animal feed will stay a negligible niche until these issues are solved. In order that large feed companies will invest in producing formulas containing insect proteins there will have to be at least 100,000 tons produced every year with at least 3 large producers. Only then the mainstream feed industry will step in. Currently we are very far from this point.
Prepare well for the challenges. It is not simple and it is not a goldmine as one may think !
This is an ongoing series of interviews with driven and successful entrepreneurs in the Insects for Food/Feed business.
You can find the rest of the series here.
If you know of an inspiring Insectpreneur who you think should be showcased in this series (even if it is you!), be sure to get in touch with me.
Today you are in for a treat, but not your standard kind. We are interviewing the Ento Bento team about dog treats!
Most of our interviewees in this series are either creating products for human consumption or industry. So this will make for an interesting take on the insects as food challenge!
The Ento Bento team are currently rallying support with their kickstarter campaign, so please take a moment to pop over and take a look (either before or after reading the interview :>)
We started out as complete strangers in a Startup Competition with the idea to create automated insect grow kits. When we did our market research, we found consumers were not quite ready to harvest insects in their home, restaurant, or garden. We talked to random people at the farmer’s market and asked questions about what insect products they would consider using. The most popular answer was that they were comfortable feeding insects to their dogs because their dogs ate them already.
We discussed the findings amongst our team and found we all love dogs! We kept the idea going with a mission to promote insect protein starting with man’s best friend!
We looked out for other insect protein in the market and found Aaron Dossey at All Things Bugs who was really cool and sent us a one pound (about .45kg) sample to get started!! There was more cricket powder out there and suppliers ramping up, so we knew crickets were our best starting point.
Our first steps have been researching as much as we could about the pet industry and dog nutrition. We knew we had to set ourselves apart with a healthy and sustainable treat. We worked with industry experts to create an awesome and delicious treat! We know we have to adapt to insect protein in the future.
We think the path to change can be through joy and wagging tails!
We learned dogs are picky! They are used to processed, low quality meat based treats so we had difficulty at first with our healthy treats. We learned a ton from local chefs on how to get the right flavors and texture.
We have a lot of happy sample testers, and we will have our first client really soon!
Our Kickstarter is launching 11/3/2015 so anyone within the US and Europe can pre-order our treats.
Our goal is to create a healthy, high protein treat that dogs love, and owners appreciate for its eco-friendly properties.
What do you see as the main challenges for mainstream adaptation of insect-based for dog food/treats ?
I think our biggest challenge is education. Some people have an instinct to reject cricket protein. Our goal is to overcome that with expert analysis, bioavailability trials and constant comparison between the superior nutrition and sustainability aspects of insects versus traditional meat protein.
It is a young industry and it almost seems like everyone is on the same team. I hope we see some phenomenal ideas and social business ventures in the industry.
Share a few recommendations for readers who are interested in exploring products containing cricket powder for their pet/dog product or diet!
Our inspiration is the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Especially their paper in 2013.
Cricket powder is just breaking into the pet industry as an alternative protein source. I think we will see a lot of advancement soon with treats and even food – we are really excited to be a part of it!!
If you like the idea too, please share our message!
Here at 4Ento we are interviewing some of the up and coming stars, as well as industry leaders in our Insectpreneur Series.
So go check those out if you want more inspiration and insect eating goodness!
And don’t forget to check out Ento Bento’s Kickstarter campaign.
Learn more about animal care and nutrition here