Bühler, Uzwil, Switzerland, has developed a string of technologies and capabilities to offer total rearing and processing solutions for the insect industry.
“Our proposition to the market is to support the industry through solutions that produce and process a range of insect species,” said Andreas Aepli, chief executive officer of Bühler Insect Technology Solutions.
The first industrial black soldier fly plant opened in June. Bühler is now in the execution phase of a new facility for a second species: the yellow mealworm.
Livestock production, especially the pig industry, is under enormous pressure because already tight margins continue to decline, in particular in Europe. While retail prices for pork have remained broadly stable, farm-gate prices for pigs have plunged to levels where many producers are struggling to break even. Furthermore, production costs are on the rise, since grain prices have been increasing, and feed makes up 75% of the cost to produce pig meat. That is why the number of pig producers who have already de-stocked or are leaving the industry completely is rising. These producers are now looking for alternative but more sustainable businesses in which they can leverage their animal farming skills, the company said.
A first project has been started in the Netherlands with a farmer who already worked on the concept of producing yellow mealworms in an old pig farm. Bühler will now support the project and the design, installation and commissioning of a complete mealworm production facility in a 2,300 sq. m facility.
“With this project, we will set the bar on modularized mealworm production in an automated and hygienic way,” Aepli said. “Our technological solutions can be readily integrated into existing farms, but larger-scale facilities can also be realized. Once the first plant is completed and producing profitably in the Netherlands, it will offer livestock farmers an alternative option for gaining a sustainable business with attractive margins."
Yellow mealworm as an alternative
Yellow mealworms offers interesting market opportunities in predominantly food applications. They have great nutritional value that includes proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers. Thus, they are already used in various food products, with very attractive marketing concepts, Buhler said.
While the mealworm market has shown significant growth in recent years, the global market size is predicted to even exceed its current growth rate. In addition, mealworm farming could offer a stable new production and commercialization option for farmers. Another interesting aspect of mealworm farming is its resource use. Mealworms can grow on, for instance, wheat bran and rice husks, byproducts that many existing Bühler customers produce and could get increased value out of.
Interest in insects is on the rise because they can be produced anywhere in the world and can be used almost directly as a high-quality source of nutrition and protein.