Daniel de Moura Murta, one of the founders of EntoGreen, said the firm is building the unit for defatted protein production in conjunction with a well-connected player in the farmed animal production and feed distribution sectors in Portugal.
EntoGreen has relied on the capital from the owners, and from grants and awards, so far, for development of the business. The firm preferred not to look to venture capitalists for funds for tactical reasons, he told us.
“We have been looking at private company investors, strategic partners, in order to enter the [farmed animal production] market easily, someone that would also have the ability to [help us] build more than one factory over a relatively short period of time.”
A local engineering, procurement and construction services provider (EPC) is building the plant, and giving support on technology and equipment sourcing. Capacity will be around 3,000 tons per annum, when the facility goes live. The start-up currently has a pilot unit producing one ton of insect protein per month.
EntoGreen’s new facility will be located in the agricultural heartland of central Portugal, with it using leftover, off-spec vegetable produce from onions to potatoes as feedstocks to rear the insects. “We have created partnerships with farmers.”
The majority of such off-spec products in that region currently goes to the compost sector, and a small percentage goes to landfill. Insect production would provide a more valuable outlet for such waste, said Murta.
EntoGreen’s facility will be located less than 100km distance from such vegetable production, he added.
Murta acknowledges that the insect feed business is international in scope. EntoGreen, in that context, is also weighing up the possibility of establishing a production facility at some stage in Scotland, targeting the salmon farming industry there. It is participating in the Insect Farming in Scotland workshop, which is being held this week in Edinburgh.
“We want to see [up close] the opportunities that exist there. It is an important fish feed market.”
Up to now, EntoGreen has been focusing on research projects, as well as developing its technical knowledge, networking, and establishing alliances with industry and government stakeholders at national level.
“We have R&D projects related to insect use in fish farming but since [the onset of the business] we have been dedicated to [exploring insect feed use] in poultry. We believe the law [on insect protein inclusion in EU poultry feed] is going to change in one year, or in two years maximum, giving us enough time to build the factory.”
Code of good practice
To support the development of the insect sector in Portugal, and to provide assurances to investors wondering about the risks involved, Murta said he helped draft a manual explaining the legal framework, the constraints, in terms of insect feed production. Portugal’s Directorate General of Food and Veterinary Affairs (DGAV) published that manual, the Code of Good Practice in the Production, Processing and Use of Insects in Animal Feeding, last September.
The code is relevant for both national and international production, said Murta. “It has just been published in English; some of our international partners asked us to do so.”
May 2018 also saw the creation of a trade association, Portugal Insect, to further support the insect derived food and feed segment in that country. EntoGreen is one of the founders.