French-Tunisian start-up nextProtein converts insects raised on a diet of organic waste into protein meal for livestock feed.
Across the world, people are consuming increasing numbers of animals; the demand for meat in developing countries is expected to double by 2030. The concomitant rise in demand for livestock feed is putting ever-greater pressure on land and natural resources. Around 97 per cent of global soya crops are eaten by livestock, and this is driving deforestation – a major cause of global carbon emissions.
Insect protein represents a viable, sustainable and radically less resource-intensive alternative to conventional livestock feed. According to start-up nextProtein, a 150m2 insect farm can produce as much protein as a 150 ha soybean field.
Founded in 2015, nextProtein is developing large-scale technology to raise black soldier fly larvae that are fed on locally sourced organic waste. These non-disease carrying insects eat twice their bodyweight in food waste every day, and their environmental impact is negligible. NextProtein’s bioconversion process produces a protein meal for use in aquaculture, livestock and pet feed; an oil for the animal feed industry; and an organic fertiliser.
Following a first round of seed funding, nextProtein is now able to produce 1 tonne of protein meal and oil per day for the aquaculture and pet food markets. The company now aims to scale-up production: “The whole animal feed industry is waiting for insect start-ups to scale,” says Mohamed Gastli, nextProtein’s co-founder. “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.”
EIT Climate-KIC’s role
In 2015 nextProtein joined EIT Climate-KIC’s Accelerator programme and completed the first two phases, during which the start-up benefited from grants, masterclasses and mentoring to support its production plant and team development.
“We have had great support with the intellectual property and research and development aspects of the business,” says Gastli.