Industrial-scale insect farming
Thursday, 19 January, 2017
Alternative, sustainably generated protein sources are going to be needed to ensure there will be enough food to support global population growth. It has been estimated that more than 250 million tonnes of additional protein a year — an increase of 50% compared to today’s level — will be needed annually by 2050, and insects could be the ideal source.
Recognising this, Bühler has joined forces with leading insect production company Protix to form 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.
Based in China, the joint venture 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,” explained 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,” added Kees Aarts, CEO of Protix.
One of the most promising sources to generate protein sustainably and with a low footprint is insects: 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.
Founded in the Netherlands in 2009, Protix 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, Protix can process 1600 tonnes of insect larvae per year to produce high-quality, insect-based ingredients.
“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,” explained 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: one of the key process steps for extracting protein from insects is milling an area where Bühler is a recognised technology leader.
Scalable, industrial processing solutions
The goal of Bühler Insect Technologies 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, nicknamed the ‘Queen of waste transformation’ for its impressive ability to transform organic waste products into high-quality protein. 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. The market for insect processing solutions has huge potential: by 2050, insects could account for 15% of global protein production.
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