“We have been really surprised by how proactive the EU has been in this regard and we are expecting a favorable outcome,” David Drew, managing director of AgriProtein, told FeedNavigator.
He was presenting yesterday at a forum on EU policy in the area of insect derived protein organized by the EU Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG Sante) involving the Scientific Committee of the EU’s food safety authority, EFSA, and the EU producers of insects for feed and food (IPIFF).
The Commission has been funding a research project – PROteINSECT- for the past few years to explore the feasibility of insect feed use in the diets of fish, poultry and pigs.
Drew reckons that logic in the end will win out in the EU market.
“There are some technical challenges holding back regulation such as the slaughter issue.
You are not allowed to slaughter your animals on the farm where you raise them – and as insects are animals, this means you need a slaughter house for insects – it is a real quandary.
However, there is a significant amount of R&D work already going on in this area in the EU with huge interest from Fortune 500 companies and, as insect feed gets more momentum behind it, all those barriers to production will easily be overcome,” he said.
AgriProtein plans to set up a processing site in Europe, once everything on the regulatory side is in place. “We will follow friendly legislation around the world,” says Drew.
In the US, different laws apply in different states. “The US is open for business with some restrictions on certain wastes used,” he said.
Canadian authorities are also evaluating the safety of insect feed.
And large-scale fly farms have already been established on an industrial scale in France, Canada and the Netherlands. Some of the firms involved include Vancouver’s Enterra Feed Corporation, Paris based Ynsect, which is looking to be farming mealworms and black soldier flies by 2016, and Dutch firm Protix Biosystems has been scaling up its fly farming operations.
EnviroFlight, located in Ohio in the US, also produces feed for farmed fish made from black soldier fly larvae.
Strong environmental economics
Legislators are wary of the unknown quantity in novel processes: “But what we're doing is going back to an entirely natural process - poultry have always fed on insects - and that's something people understand very quickly. In a nutshell, the insect feed industry combines new generation protein production, some old style farming techniques but, critically, strong environmental economics,” said Drew.
And he stressed that insect meal producers can ensure a low risk production environment through getting the thermal processing step right, including the use of NIR technology, to eliminate the risk of any contaminants in waste, along with the integration of the highest level of GMP standards and quality control systems throughout their operations.
“Our new factory, for which we sourced equipment from the US and China, is not quite on a par with a pharmaceutical grade production facility but it is not far off it in terms of sterility. It has the look and feel of a biotech operation,” he added.
South Africa ahead of the curve
AgriProtein’s MagMeal has been approved for use in chicken and fish feed in South Africa. The company said it has carried out extensive trialing of its meal with poultry, and a range of fish species including tilapia and abalone, which is cultivated in South Africa for the Asian market.
The company’s waste-to-protein process used involves over eight billion flies producing protein-rich larvae fed on organic waste. The larvae are harvested and dried to become a maggot meal.
After five years of R&D and testing, Drew says the first commercial volumes of that meal will be available for sale by the end of April this year. “We will reach full production – 22 tons of larvae yielding 7 tons of MagMeal and 3.6 tons of MagOil daily - by August 2015,” he added.
The team has spent the past few months going through an exacting process of obtaining its operating permits, local planning approvals and certificates from the various South African regulatory agencies. “We have received our environmental impact assessment and our waste management license has also been granted. This week we got the verbal nod following the submission of our air emissions studies," he said.
The company, though, is outsourcing the waste collection and feed mixing side of the business. "We are prepared to take a P&L hit on that side for the initial period," said Drew.
Fishmeal price comparison
Last year, he told this publication that its MagMeal product would be at least 15% cheaper than fishmeal.
However, AgriProtein is no longer correlating its meal prices to movements in the international fishmeal market.
“With soaring fish meal prices – up to US $2,000 a ton - that approach is no longer tenable. Our meal will be priced at around US $1,300 per ton. But our unique selling point is that we are a natural protein alternative, sustainably produced at the point of use.
Fishmeal is most often incorporated into feed 10,000 km from where it was caught. We aim to deliver meal to feed mills within 15km of our production site,” said the managing director.
And the South African company is also developing plans to license its technology, moving towards initial agreements with collaborators in the US, Chile, Indonesia, Germany, and Australia. “We have a three day seminar with those partners next month. Our plan is to have 10 new factories globally by 2020 with greater capacity and daily yields forecast for some of those sites,” said Drew.