special edition: feed protein innovation

EnviroFlight’s BSFL insect protein production takes off with new facility

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

EnviroFlight transitions insect production to new facility © GettyImages/andriano_cz
EnviroFlight transitions insect production to new facility © GettyImages/andriano_cz

Related tags: Insect, Protein, Poultry

In an effort to address increasing feed manufacturer interest, EnviroFlight, a joint venture of Intrexon and Darling Ingredients, opened its new production facility at the end of 2018.

Carrie Kuball, VP of sales and marketing with EnviroFlight, told us the Ohio headquartered company is current in the process of fine tuning the highly automated equipment designed exclusively for its production systems. 

The new production facility is the first commercial-scale insect rearing and processing facility in the US, she said. The site is a modular, scalable facility so eventually, it will be able to generate about 3,200m tons annually.

Black soldier fly larvae can be used to generate a sustainable protein ingredient for use in feed, she said. “They’re voracious eaters, they grow very fast, they produce a high-quality ingredient based on what they eat and their food source is by-product that otherwise would not be consumed, at least by people,”​ she told FeedNavigator.

“The other really neat opportunity with black soldier flies is how efficient they are – if you look at an acre of land, black soldier flies can produce two times the protein as mealworms or crickets – if you’re comparing them to other insects they’re twice as efficient,”​ she said.

They also can generate more protein per acre than soybeans or chickens, she added.

In addition to the new production facility in Maysville, Kentucky, the company is currently still producing its insect-derived products at its facility in Ohio, said Kuball. When the transition to the new facility is completed, the initial building is set to become a research and development facility for EnviroFlight.

“We still have the pilot plant running in Ohio,” ​she said. “From a production standpoint, we’re able to make that transition – moving between one and the other and supplying existing customers and growing the customers.”

© GettyImages/GordZam

Facility overview and protein production

Work on the new facility started more than a year ago, said Kuball. Right now, there is not a set timeframe for the new facility to reach full production.

“It’s relatively centrally located as far as being able to ship out of that facility, and it’s also close to a variety of the feedstocks that we use,” ​she said of how the location was selected. “The new facility will use the same feedstocks that we are using at the pilot plant, which are pre-consumer products … from the brewery and distillery industry as well as bakery.”

The company focuses on feeding its insects products that could otherwise end up in a landfill, she said. “The idea is that we’re feeding a food source to the larvae that would otherwise not be used for human consumption,”​ she added.

The new production facility contains both an area to house and raise the black soldier flies used in the production of EnviroFlight’s products and the processing facility needed to generate them, said Kuball. “The building contains everything from beginning to end,”​ she added.

Unlike some insects, black soldier flies are relatively quiet both in their larval and adult stages, she said. “The larvae don’t make any noise and the flies don’t really either – the flies don’t buzz, but sort of flitter along like a butterfly,”​ she added.

Developing markets

In addition to work on the new facility, EnviroFlight has been continuing to develop its role as a feed protein or feed ingredient provider in the US, said Kuball.

“The interest in the US is amazing given the fact that this is a brand new protein source or feed ingredient to the US,” ​she said of the developing domestic market.

As a poultry feed ingredient, dried black soldier fly larvae or ground black soldier fly meal was recommended​ for addition to the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) definition for approved use in September, said EnviroFlight. Previously, the ingredients had been listed for use with salmonid species.

“There is a lot of research taking place in other species as well,”​ said Kuball. On the livestock side, some swine producers also interested in working with black soldier fly-derived proteins or feed ingredients, she added.

However, the recent change to the definition to allow for use of black soldier fly ingredients in poultry feed has been opening doors for the feed industry, Kuball said.

“Before they were limited, constrained in how they could use the product,” she said. “Now that that has been released or listed they have the ability to use black soldier flies in their poultry products – just that alone has allowed for that interest to take place.”

The new, printed definition for ingredient use is anticipated following a meeting next week, she said. However, the change so far has allowed feed manufacturers the ability to start their own research.

“A large manufacturing company that produces mainstream poultry feed is not going to put a product on the market with black soldier fly in it until they’ve done their own market research until they’ve done their own palatability studies and their own digestibility studies as well,” ​she said. “Those are all in the process of taking place.”

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