Buhler, Protix to boost industrial insect productionBuhler, Protix to boost industrial insect production
Buhler and Protix announce joint venture Buhler Insect Technology Solutions to develop scalable industrial solutions for rearing and processing insects for animal feed and food.
January 17, 2017
As the global population grows, so does the need for alternative, sustainably generated protein sources, and insects may provide a natural and sustainable protein source that will contribute to closing the future protein gap.
In order to address this potential, Buhler — a leading solution provider for the food and feed industry — and insect production company Protix have founded Bühler Insect Technology Solutions. This joint venture will develop scalable, industrial solutions for the rearing and processing of insects to provide protein primarily for animal feed and food.
Buhler Insect Technology Solutions is located in Liyang, China, and has already begun operations.
“By combining the knowledge and experience of our two companies, we can provide industrial insect processing solutions to address the alternative protein market,” Buhler chief technology officer Ian Roberts explained.
“Together, we can develop both sustainable and cost-effective solutions for large-scale insect producers and processors that cover the whole value chain,” Protix chief executive officer Kees Aarts added.
According to the companies, 9 billion people are expected to live on the planet by 2050, and to feed them all in a sustainable way, it will take more than 250 million metric tons of additional protein each year — an increase of 50% compared to today’s level. As more emerging countries prosper, meat consumption looks set to rise by nearly 50% by 2050. Adding to the challenge is the topic of waste as some 30% of raw materials currently are lost or thrown away between field and plate.
For these reasons, 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 is insects. Fly larvae or mealworms, for instance, are easy to breed and can be fed with organic waste, Buhler and Protix said, adding that insects are remarkably efficient at converting feed into protein and require little space to cultivate.
Because of these advantages, insects have attracted considerable attention from start-ups and established players in the food industry in recent years. Protix was founded 2009 in the Netherlands, and in just a few years, the company 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.
Its pilot plant processes 1,600 mt of insect larvae per year and produces high-quality, insect-based ingredients.
“Protix is the most advanced insect company that has demonstrated industrial-scale production in a way that is scalable and multipliable. They have proven how to create a market in insect protein,” Roberts explained. Now, it is ready to go to the next level and needed a partner that understands the requirements of large, industrial processors. Enter Buhler, a Switzerland-based technology and solution provider with more than 150 years of experience in developing scalable, cost-effective, hygienic plants and processes for food and feed products. Bühler is also a technology leader in milling, which is one of the key processing steps in extracting protein from insects.
“Buhler has a strong, established business providing technologies for animal feed, and protein from the insects can be used in pellets or directly as animal feed. With our global market access, technology base and engineering capabilities, combined with the deep knowledge, experience and entrepreneurial flair of Protix, we have the ingredients for a successful commercial partnership,” Roberts said.
Scalable, industrial processing solutions
The goal of the Buhler Insect Technologies joint venture is to develop industrial-scale solutions for feedstock processing, larvae rearing and larvae processing and to produce high-quality insect ingredients covering the whole value chain, from rearing to separation and extraction of proteins and lipids.
Initially, the focus will be on larvae of the black soldier fly, nicknamed the “queen of waste transformation” for its ability to transform organic waste products into high-quality protein.
Subsequently, the company will diversify into other insects, such as mealworms. The insect proteins will be used primarily for the production of sustainable animal feed -- for example, in aquaculture, which is the fastest-growing agricultural segment in the world.
According to the announcement, the market for insect processing solutions has huge potential: By 2050, insects could account for 15% of global protein production.
More information about insects as a sustainable protein source can be found at www.buhlergroup.com/insects.
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