mealworm larva in mound PicturePartners/iStock/Thinkstock

Cavallo invests in insect production technology

Beta Hatch develops insect-rearing technology that converts organic waste into proteins, oils and nutrients for animal feed.

Cavallo Ventures, the venture capital arm of Wilbur-Ellis, announced an investment in Beta Hatch, a Seattle, Wash.-based company industrializing the production of insects as a sustainable protein for animal feed. This is Cavallo's first investment in the feed industry.

Founded in 2015 by Dr. Virginia Emery, who has a doctorate in entomology and more than 12 years of experience working with insects, Beta Hatch develops insect-rearing technology that converts organic waste directly into high-value proteins, oils and nutrients for agriculture, enabling insects to cost-effectively meet the global scale of demand for plant and animal nutrients.

"We are delighted to be working with Wilbur-Ellis as one of the industry leaders in animal products and fertilizers," said Emery, Beta Hatch chief executive officer. "Wilbur-Ellis' market leadership will be invaluable as we develop the emerging insect industry as a new part of the food system. Similarly, Wilbur-Ellis' connections to supply chains and customers will allow us to make the most impact in animal feed and agriculture."

Beta Hatch grows protein efficiently through its patent-pending equipment, trade secret process and unique genetic stock, according to the announcement. Its mealworms feed on organic byproducts that would otherwise go to a landfill, plus they need minimal water, grow at 5,000 times the acreage yield of soybeans and contain no heavy metals. The mealworms contain 56% protein and 33% fat.

"At Wilbur-Ellis, we are always looking for not only new and innovative ways to approach the feed industry but new and innovative ways to grow our business as well. This is fundamental to our growth strategy and innovation vision," Wilbur-Ellis Feed LLC president Andrew Loder said. "Beta Hatch's technology will allow our partners access to a fresh, year-round protein supply that is both sustainable and environmentally friendly. It's a win for us and a win for our customers."

Emery noted, "This round of fund-raising will allow us to build a pre-commercial facility where we can demonstrate the full processing capacity of our system and design a commercial facility. Within a few years, we will be producing several tons of product each day."

The capabilities go beyond feed for aquaculture and poultry. The company's insects generate frass, or insect manure, that can be used as an organic fertilizer for specialty crops, according to the announcement.

As the partnership grows, Wilbur-Ellis said it will look for ways to collaborate with Beta Hatch in its agribusiness as well.

Emery said, "We're developing modular, cost-efficient systems to produce insects at massive scale and at low cost, and our vision is that insects can help feed the protein of the future as well as support the growth of healthy crops everywhere around the world."

Founded in 1921, the Wilbur-Ellis companies are leading international marketers and distributors of agricultural products, animal feed and specialty chemicals and ingredients.

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