SUCCESS STORIES

nextProtein

nextProtein is a producer of proteins and feed commodities, derived from sustainable insect cultivation.

This French-Tunisian start-up is developing large scale technology to raise beneficial insects fed on organic waste collected from local food distributors and agricultural residues. The bioconversion process generates valuable components: an insect-based protein meal for use in aquaculture, livestock and pet feed, an oil for the animal feed industry and an organic nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) fertiliser.

Key Points

  • The global demand for meat, and the resources needed to rear livestock, have enormous environmental impact, placing pressure on land, producing pollution and driving deforestation
  • Insects need little to no water, space or energy and produce few greenhouse gas emissions
  • 150m2 of insect farming produces as much protein as 150 ha of a soy field
  • nextProtein rears black soldier flies, producing insect-based protein meal for use in aquaculture and valuable protein components
  • Climate-KIC has funded and mentored nextProtein, supporting its IP and R&D, and enhancing credibility with regional and national organisations
  • nextProtein is near to closing a round of funding that will enable it to scale up industrially
  • Waste recycling infrastructure and institutional frameworks are needed to accelerate this growing innovative industry

Project Background and Drivers

More people than ever across all continents are consuming greater quantities of meat. The Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) predicts that the number of people eating meat will double by 2050, entailing an unprecedented increase of the global animal feed production. This will put significant pressure on natural resources because of the fresh water, feed and land required to rear livestock over its lifetime, and the pollution associated with this farming.

Around 97 percent of global soya crops are consumed by livestock – placing pressure on forests (and ecosystems) to be converted to commodity grain production. Livestock farmers can spend up to 70 percent of their costs on commercial feed, according to the Sustainable Food Trust. The pet food market, growing annually at a compound rate of 5 percent, compounds matters further.

Insects represent a viable protein alternative to conventional livestock feed, radically reducing the required energy and space, and pollution produced. Crucially, they can be fed on organic waste and agricultural by-products. Interest in the potential of insects as a sustainable source of protein is growing, and research in this area is flourishing. However, the industry is far from established, and concerns about biological implications, health and safety, and the manner in which insects are fed pose the greatest barrier to industry growth.

Project Detail

nextProtein is a producer of proteins and livestock feed, derived from sustainable insect cultivation. This French-Tunisian start-up is developing large-scale technology to raise beneficial insects fed on organic waste collected from local food distributors and agricultural residues. The bioconversion process generates valuable components: an insect based protein meal for use in aquaculture, livestock and pet feed, an oil for the animal feed industry and an organic nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) fertiliser.

The firm cultivates non-disease carrying insects including black soldier fly larvae. These multiply rapidly in the relative warmth of the North African region. They feed mainly on food waste, eating up to twice their body weight daily – almost 10 kg per m2 of insects per day, according to Mohamed Gastli, nextProtein’s co-founder.

“We are in the very beginning of this incredible insect industry,” says Gastli. “Insects are a viable source of protein without the intense use of resources. They need little to no water, space or energy. They produce very few greenhouse gas emissions. We discovered that with 150m2 of insect farming, we can produce as much protein as 150 ha of a soy field.” Critically, insect farming can be done on a more local basis, while soybeans are often imported from countries experiencing deforestation and pressure on land from the protein feed commodity market.

nextProtein, with its R&D, sales and marketing arms located in France, has been developing a subsidiary production plant for cultivation, harvesting and processing the insects based in Tunisia. “The plant has several zones,” says Gastli. “Inside, we have a lab, cultivation, processing and logistics. There is a zone called nextFly with cages of flies in various stages of breeding and maturity; there is a zone nextHatch where eggs hatch; and there is an area with trays of larvae eggs – nextLarvae. These feed off the food waste, which is stored in a food container area outside.”

Growing the team in the past few months has been critical to getting operations going, adds Gastli. nextProtein has recruited a chemical engineer, a microbiologist, an animal nutrition specialist, two agronomists, a lab technician and waste handlers. The next step is to hire a waste supply chain manager, who will oversee sourcing, logistics and distribution – a particularly crucial role since waste recycling infrastructure in Tunisia is still in its infancy. “We’re also looking for a chief industrial officer, processors and business developers.”

nextProtein is near to closing its first round of seed funding, and by the end of 2017, will be capable of producing 1 ton per day of protein meal and oil for the aquaculture and pet food markets. The firm has sent samples to European customers in the fish feed and aquaculture sector with positive feedback, according to Gastli. The product is resonating with customers looking for stable commodity prices, and secure protein feed supplies.

“Currently fishmeal prices range from €1,500 – € 2,000 per tonne, which is a worry. Customers are also concerned about fish stocks and sustainability. They want to say we are using more local, natural, organic sources, not from genetically modified soy from Latin America. The whole animal feed industry is waiting for insect start-ups to scale. They need to buy more than 5,000 tonnes a year, which means we have to grow very fast to be a viable commodity supplier. Our next step is to make an industrial pack with our product and start producing the amounts that are needed,” says Gastli.

The potential is immense, but for now, it’s an industry with infrastructure and institutional frameworks that have to be created. Like all animal breeding and food production operations, concerns centre on contamination, health, safety and tractability.

“At the moment Europe is pushing for this new industry, but the legislation and regulations around food production and farming are holding it back. There isn’t the same legislation in Africa or Asia, and that means we can access that market,” says Gastli.

“Of course, we have to address risks such as ensuring contaminants do not enter our feedstocks. A second risk is the length of developing up-to date regulations for the industry. We’re talking about insects reared on organic waste, and this means we are also recycling waste. Legislation currently only authorises specific kinds of waste – plant based waste – from particular sources. We have to really think about the supply chain, going to grocery stores, collecting agricultural waste, coffee pods or even breweries. We need to find all these and sort it. This is challenging when you’re trying to meet 200 tonnes a day in a few years,” says Gastli.

nextProtein will also develop a waste and recycling management infrastructure as there are few to no waste management companies currently in North Africa, and almost all waste goes directly to landfills. “We will have our own fleet and trucks. We can’t count on another company to do it. We have to source organic matter a source free from contamination or heavy metals. The idea is to create plants close to the source of organic matter, so as we develop sourcing, we will start to scale up,” Gastli explains.

Climate-KIC Support

nextProtein applied to Climate-KIC’s Accelerator programme in 2015, completing the first two phases with grants, masterclasses and mentoring to support its production plant and team development.

“We’ve had great support with the IP and R&D aspects of the business. As the first funder and supporter of this project, Climate-KIC has helped us gain recognition from the Paris regional authorities. We are now closing a new round of funding, which we hope will be close to €1 million,” says Gastli.

 

150m2 of insect farming produces as much protein as 150 ha of a soy field

Mohamed Gastli, nextProtein co-founder

 

For more information visit nextprotein.co

 
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