“Busy bees”: Bühler Insect Tech Solutions and Alfa Laval join forces to advance insect processing

“Busy bees”: Bühler Insect Tech Solutions and Alfa Laval join forces to advance insect processing

07 Mar 2019 --- Bühler Insect Technology Solutions (BITS) is combining its expertise with Alfa Laval, a leader in heat transfer, separation and fluid handling. Together, the companies will seek to offer advanced modular insect-plant solutions to the booming and fast-growing insect industry. BITS provides modular solutions for the industrial-scale transformation of organic residues into quality ingredients harnessing the power of insects. It covers the entire supply chain from feedstock handling to rearing, separation and extraction.

Rising costs of proteins, potential health and growth benefits of insect-based ingredients for animals and an increased focus on sustainability are strong drivers for the emerging insect industry, according to BITS. As a result, the sector has reported more than US$300 million in investments in 2018.

To leverage this sector, BITS and Alfa Laval have been cooperating since early last year with the objective of combining their strengths to provide efficient, integrated production plants. Alfa Laval’s products are also used in power plants, aboard ships, oil and gas exploration, in the mechanical engineering industry and the mining industry and for wastewater treatment, as well as for comfort climate and refrigeration applications.

Click to EnlargeAndreas Aepli, CEO of BITSAndreas Aepli, CEO of BITS, and Sumit Pingle, Vice President Agro & Protein Systems at Alfa Laval, signed the exclusive partnership last month in Switzerland. 

“Our efforts are currently clearly focused on feed,” Aepli tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “However, insects also have great potential as an exciting new ingredient for human consumption – one that can be more sustainably produced than most other sources of protein. We are looking forward to increased consumer demand which would allow us to develop solutions also for this sector.”

He says that sustainability is becoming much more critical for consumers, but stresses that it cannot be the only selling argument. 

“As with any new food, companies need to introduce tasty and attractive products – you could draw parallels to the popularization of invertebrates like shrimps and lobster as seafood, or the introduction of raw fish through sushi. Great products can be a watershed for wide consumer acceptance and demand. We are starting to see this more frequently – protein-rich pasta, bread and energy bars made with insect flour, or the ‘OERei,’ an egg from chicken fed on insects, are all good examples,” he says.

“With the combined offering, we are in a unique position to provide the best insect processing solution in the market with unmatched product quality and safety,” explains Aepli. “We are proud to have found a partner who shares our approach and vision in this exciting industry. Thanks to this collaboration, we can further increase the efficiency and reliability of our solutions, setting high standards for the industry right from the start,” Pingle adds. 

According to Aepli, BITS is the only company offering a fully integrated, complete solution on this scale. “With our experience in food and feed, we bring more efficient production methods as well as higher product safety and quality standards to the sector,” he continues. “Our proven project execution capability reduces risks in building such large plants. Finally, thanks to the global platform of Bühler, we can make Insect Technology and its benefits for nutrition and sustainability accessible for producers all over the world.”

“Insects offer a unique chance to make our food system more sustainable – both in terms of meeting protein demand in the long-term and decreasing our impact on our environment. By using undervalued resources (which often create a problem for the environment if they are not disposed of), insects close the circle between waste and production. This is a truly beautiful concept – and one that works in nature already,” he says. 

Nish Patel, President of Alfa Laval’s Food & Water Division, says: “We are looking forward to bringing our expertise from other applications to this dynamic new market.” 

“We are convinced that insects will play an important role in making our food system more sustainable. With installation works for the first industrial-scale insect-plant in Europe nearing completion, we will soon have an operating proof point of the viability of our insect process technology in an industrial setting,” notes Dieter Voegtli, President of the Global Sales and Service Organization at Bühler Group.

This tie-up closely follows French ag-tech innovator Ÿnsect, which specializes in turning farmed insects into ingredients for fish feed, pet food and plant fertilizers, raising US$125 million in a Series C round of funding to build the “world’s biggest insect farm.” The company seeks to scale up production at its facility near Amiens, in northern France, which will be able to produce around 20,000 tons of protein per year.

By Elizabeth Green

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