South African BSF producer Maltento targets pet food and aquaculture sectors

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Cofounders of Maltento: Dean Smorenburg and Dominic Malan
Cofounders of Maltento: Dean Smorenburg and Dominic Malan

Related tags black soldier fly larvae Insect Aquaculture

Cape Town based Maltento focuses on the development of a novel biotechnological process to convert industrial by-products into insect ingredients.

The startup is looking to transform South Africa's recycling landscape by breeding Black Soldier Flies (BSF) on agro-processing waste, including spent grains from the beer industry, into high-performance, nutrient-dense proteins for inclusion in pet food and aquaculture feed.

It also produces insect oil and frass.

The company was founded in 2018 by Dean Smorenburg and Dominic Malan and last year raised $3.3m in funding, led by Sand River Venture Capital.

The co-founders said back in June last year that the investment would enable the company to accelerate its singular approach to insect biotechnology and further develop its pioneering palatability enhancer, known as Palate+.

Waste diversion

With a team of 65 employees at its 7000 m2 factory in Cape Town, the plant currently diverts around 400,000 kg of agro-processing waste and byproducts every month, and it projects that will scale up to 600,000 kg per month by year-end.

Its operations have so far yielded 75 metric tons of product, with the startup aiming to reach 100 metric tons by June 2024.

The team looks to ensure quality and consistency in its feedstock supply. “If you are using varied waste every day it is difficult to control anything in the process. We try and take a lot of the guess work out of the insect rearing process by controlling the larvae diet as much as possible,” Smorenburg told FeedNavigator.

Functional compounds

The company is focused on unlocking the functional compounds of insect-based feed solutions.

By taking recycled waste from the beer-making process and feeding it to the larvae, its team believes it can create a feed solution that is both functionally, economically, and environmentally friendlier than animal-based protein.

Spent brewers’ grain, ingested by fly larvae, can enrich their natural ability to produce functional proteins, healthy fats, and essential amino acids, said the producer.

Innovation is central to the Maltento process:

“We started working on these digests, where you take the larvae, mince them down into what is effectively like a giant smoothie. We add different components to that to break the proteins down further and add flavors to it,” said Smorenburg.

Aquaculture trials

The company has been conducting a number of trials in the aqua feed space.

“What we have seen is a feed response benefit as fish are attacking the pellet in a more aggressive fashion. There is also a reduction in food conversion ratios but more importantly we are seeing reductions in fish mortality,” Smorenburg told us.

“We had trials at one of the biggest commercial farms in Africa where they had an outbreak of Aeromonas. They put both sets of fish onto antibiotics. What they noticed was that the fish that had been eating the digest seemed to recover quicker and eat again more rapidly than the control group.”

There was also a lower mortality rate in the insect digest fed population, he added.

Maltento, which won the Startup Club ZA award in November last year, has global ambitions in terms of its expansion strategy and, eventually, it aims to supply its insect ingredients to the pig and poultry industries. 

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