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Joint venture aims to boost industrial insect production

16 January 2017

Bühler Insect Technology Solutions is a new joint venture between, Bühler and Protix, an insect production company, which aims to address the potential of insects to provide a sustainable source of protein. 

Insects provide a natural and sustainable protein source that could, in the future provide an important source of sustainably-generated protein to meet the needs of the growing global population.

The joint venture will develop scalable, industrial solutions for the rearing, and processing of insects to provide protein primarily for animal feed and food. Located in China, operations have already begun. 

“By combining the knowledge and experience of our two companies, we can provide industrial insect processing solutions to address the alternative protein market,” said Ian Roberts, CTO of Bühler. “Together, we can develop both sustainable and cost effective solutions for large scale insect producers and processors that cover the whole value chain,” added Kees Aarts, CEO of Protix.
Nine billion people are expected to live on our planet by 2050. To feed them all in  a sustainable way, we need more than 250 million tonnes of additional protein a year – an increase of 50% compared to today’s level. But important natural resources are increasingly in short supply: At present, 30% of all fish stocks are considered overfished. Two-thirds of all vegetable proteins – and even 80% of the soybean harvest – are processed into animal feed for livestock. Meat consumption is also set to rise by nearly 50% by 2050. 

Adding to the challenge is the topic of waste: Today, around 30% of raw materials are lost or thrown away between the field and the plate. 

High hopes have been placed on alternative protein sources such as pulses or algae. One of the most promising sources to generate protein sustainably and with a low footprint, however, is insects: Fly larvae or mealworms, for example, are easy to breed and can be fed with organic waste. They are efficient at converting feed into protein and require little space to cultivate.
Inspects have already attracted attention from start-ups and established players in the food industry in recent years. 

Protix has developed proprietary equipment and solutions gaining extensive operational expertise not only in the breeding and rearing cycle, but also in separating and extracting proteins and lipids from insects. From a pilot plant it can process 1,600 tonnes of insect larvae per year to produce insect-based ingredients. The company was recognized as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2015.
Scalable processing solutions
The goal of the joint venture is to develop industrial scale solutions for feedstock processing, larvae rearing and larvae processing, and to produce insect ingredients  covering the whole value chain from rearing to separation and extraction of proteins and lipids. The insect proteins will be used primarily for the production of sustainable animal feed, for example in aquaculture. 

The market for insect processing solutions has huge potential says Bühler. By 2050, it says that insects could account for 15% of global protein production.
More information about insects as a sustainable protein source:

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