The buzz around insect protein: Protix inaugurates €45 million facility in the Netherlands
The plant is reportedly the largest processing facility for insects globally and will serve the animal nutrition sector
21 Jun 2019 --- Protix opened a 14,000 square meter processing plant in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, last week. The new facility, which is supported by food, feed and advanced material processing company Bühler, is the largest processing plant for insects globally and followed a €45 million investment. The facility is able to produce protein for the animal nutrition sector, translating into feed for more than 5 million salmons, as well as for hens laying 250 million eggs. Organic byproducts from local distilleries, food producers and vegetable collectors are used to feed the black soldier flies.
The insect protein industry is growing, reportedly gaining US$300 million worth of investments last year, the company notes. “Protix is the most advanced insect company and has now demonstrated that insect protein is a serious alternative source of proteins for many applications,” describes Ian Roberts, CTO of Bühler Group. “With this new plant, we have proof that insect protein can be produced on an industrial scale. Now we must scale this solution globally to realize a more sustainable protein supply chain.”
“Protix has now fully transitioned into a commercially operating company with the new facility as proof of our progress,” says Kees Aarts, Founder and CEO of Protix. “We are leading the way here, technically, operationally, and commercially. The new fully automated processing solution provides a major quality increase with consistency improvements. This opening of the new facility, therefore, marks a major transition, not only for our company, but also for the entire sector and the markets we are producing for.”
The opening ceremony was attended by His Majesty the King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, who was given a tour of each aspect of the cultivation process, from the egg to the final product. Farming occurs in a controlled environment, with high levels of automation. Sensor and data systems, robots, and climate controls are used to rear the larvae, which are used to produce protein meal and lipids for use in the animal nutrition sector to feed pigs, chicken, fish, as well as domestic animals.
Flying the flag for sustainability?
With insects contributing to a circular economy by recovering nutrients from organic residues and bringing them back into the food value chain, they are well suited to help the food industry increase sustainability and reduce waste. The insects quickly gain body mass by eating low-quality food waste, which has a global supply potential of 1.5 billion tons, holding a potential of 100 to 150 million tons of unutilized proteins. Addressable feedstocks are estimated to be around 30 to 35 percent, allowing for a production potential of 30 to 50 million tons of insect protein.
Insects require very little space and do not need any fertile land, which further reduces their carbon footprint. Furthermore, the larvae are appealing to consumers as the industry growth comes at a time when the cost of proteins is increasing, and there is a potential for health and growth benefits for animals reared on insect-based ingredients. This means that they can be used to reduce the pressure on non-sustainable options including soy and fishmeal.
A 2018 Innova Market Insights survey found that 64 percent of US and UK consumers expect companies to invest in sustainability. The survey found that consumers’ environmental concerns outweigh social and ethical ones when considering the brands that they buy.
Other insect protein companies are also thriving, with French agri-tech innovator Ÿnsect winning €20 million of backing to build the industry’s first fully-automated, sustainable, bio-based protein plant. Ÿnsect produces mealworms, which are the larval form Tenebrio molitor, a type of beetle, for use in animal feed and fertilizers.
Furthermore, while the insect products produced at Protix are not currently marketed for human consumption, there is a growing interest in adding insects to diets. A recent study found that 82 percent of American respondents would consider eating insects in general, with 80 percent considering eating whole insects.
“Insect flour can be found as a protein-rich substitute for some standard grain flours in products like crackers, biscuits and protein bars,” says co-author Paul Rozin, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. “This could be another way to introduce insects into your diet if the idea of crunching into a whole bug doesn’t appeal to you.”
By Katherine Durrell
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