Protenga gets funding boost from The Yield Lab Asia Pacific
“We look forward to working with The Yield Lab Asia Pacific team and gaining access to their vast network of relevant industry experts as we further expand Protenga’s activities,” said Protenga founder and CEO, Leo Wein.
The amount raised in the round was not disclosed.
Protenga’s production is based on the Black Soldier Fly (BSF): it uses a scalable, insect-based bioconversion process that recaptures nutrients from organic side-streams.
The startup wants to transform insect farming through a technology-driven circular ecosystem approach. Its decentralized ‘Smart Insect Farm’ is designed for intake of 20-60 tons of feedstocks daily: the units are intended to overcome the cost and sustainability pitfalls of centralized mega insect factories.
Its farming system can operate with minimal labor. Mechanized and fully automated versions will eventually be available, all supported by software, breeding and processing services. Biomass producers using this system can convert their waste to high value insect feed products, said the developer.
Protenga reached several key productivity and cost milestones this year, Wein told FeedNavigator on a call yesterday.
And it is now looking to expand production, to start the deployment of its insect farms to biomass production sites, following on from positive results generated at its prototype production facility. “Our next farm is going to be located not too far, about 40km from where we're currently at. It is in the south of Malaysia, within a short reach to Singapore, just across the just across the Straits of Johor.”
That new unit will be using by-products from the palm industry as feedstocks for its BSF larvae, ingredients around which Protenga has created a large knowledge base and processing expertise. Indeed, the company is positioned to be a key partner of the palm industry in Malaysia and Indonesia and beyond by up-cycling palm by-products, said Wein.
“Our R&D team is continuing to build up knowledge on other raw materials as well,” he added.
Last March saw Protenga close a US$2m venture debt facility with a syndicate of Singapore-based investors. “We have drawn down some of those funds to finance investment activities in the last year, such as the site expansion work. There is still a good balance remaining, which will be used to finance future capital expenditures. The round with The Yield Lab Asia Pacific will help to advance our commercial production efforts and will also be used to finance a range of R&D activities that we have already initiated on in relation to the biology, processing, and, also, in terms of ingredient innovation.”
Pet food portfolio
The company developed a companion animal portfolio in 2022. While starting out with wet pet food, it expanded the range, based on market feedback, to include dry kibbles, treats, and other components. “We trialed those products extensively; the palatability and digestibility research findings showed the nutritional value of our insect protein in dog diets,” said Wein.
Protenga is now looking to accelerate the B2B aspect – both manufacturing and supply - of its pet food business, supporting distributors, other insect-based brands and larger chain retailers that are targeting a sustainability focused proposition or those looking to develop a hypo-allergenic and functional ingredient-based pet food range. “This is just one way our insect protein products can make a difference.”
In addition, the insect player has been evaluating its BSF derived meal product - Hermet Protein - in aquafeed formulations for Asian sea bass, with the data readout showing excellent apparent digestibility and equal performance to a high-spec commercial formulation and fishmeal-based control, continued the founder.
“One of our customers is including our insect protein meal within its marine-free ingredient aquafeed formulation for use in premium aquaculture. We are eager to expand on this collaboration, to continue contributing to marine-ingredient-free aquaculture.”
Protenga targets customers in the livestock and aquaculture feed industries with its protein meal, operators in the biofuels sector with its insect oil product, and manufacturers of fertilizers with its frass ingredient.
“In Malaysia, our product is recognized and fully registered as an animal feed ingredient without any usage restrictions. We are able to produce the export documentation required to also serve regional and global markets, including East Asian countries like Korea and Japan, as well as the Americas. We have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) facility registration and so we can supply the US market. We are soon going to have Canadian registration and we already have that for Chile, to tap into the salmon market there.”
The company can’t yet target feed producers in the EU supplying the poultry and swine sectors there as its production facilities must be GMP+ to do so. Protenga expects to have such certification in place by 2024.
Last year also saw the company actively engage with researchers at Roslin Technologies, its partner in a project aimed at identifying new, high-efficiency genetic BSF strains. “We have a lot of exciting plans for that alliance in 2023.”