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Obtaining protein from insects is 10 thousand times more efficient

Syrine Chaalala – Mohamed Gastli, Co-Founders, nextProtein: “We are able to produce as much protein in 100 m² with insect farming as 100 ha of a soy bean field. That’s 10.000 times more efficient! We can harvest our protein every day, our insect of choice’s cycle is less than a month, has an efficient FCR and we us vertical farming to minimize space use.”

Interview by/Röportaj: Cemalettin KANAŞ
The world’s population is estimated to reach more than nine billion by 2050. Global food production will have to increase by 70 per cent to feed everyone. Meanwhile one third of all food produced is wasted.

nextProtein is driven by a personal desire to address land and resource scarcity and feed a rising population sustainably. nextProtein can produce the equivalent amount of protein from 100sqm as 100ha of soy field.

Founded by couple Syrine Chaalala and Mohamed Gastli, the process produces insect-based protein for animal feedstocks at a lower cost with equivalent nutritional value. They do this by taking otherwise inconsumable food on which to raise the insects, returning protein to the food cycle.

nextProtein has years of experience in breeding Black Soldier Fly, which was selected specially for its beneficial, high-yield quality. Fly larvae are raised, harvested and then processed into valuable components of animal feed: an insect based protein for aquaculture, livestock and pets, an extracted fat and an organic natural fertilizer for use in agriculture.

Our process is EU-approved for aquaculture and is suitable for feedstocks for the poultry and pork industries and for use in pet food.

Below is the interview made with Mohamed Gastli and Syrine Chaalala:

First of all, can you please give some general information about using the insects as feed? Why do you think it is necessary?
Population will reach 10b in 2050 and food production must increase to reply to growing demand. Currently, traditional production techniques are more and more energy intensive and unsustainable. Clearly an alternative is urgently needed.

nextProtein provides a sustainable solution for major societal issues such as a growing population, food waste and the negative environmental impact of agro-industries.

We are able to produce as much protein in 100 m² with insect farming as 100 ha of a soy bean field. That’s 10.000 times more efficient! How do we achieve that? We can harvest our protein every day, our insect of choice’s cycle is less than a month, has an efficient FCR and we us vertical farming to minimize space use.

We are able to produce protein every day – harvest is 365 days a year compared to traditional sources of protein that may harvest once a year (if weather permits). This makes it an extremely competitive commodity.

Insects contribute to a circular economy. They are able to recover nutrients from organic residues and bring them back into the food value chain. Insects can recover up to 70% of proteins from organic waste. Insect proteins can be produced locally and are a natural diet to many monogastric animals.

The unique features of black soldier fly larvae are that:
• it is not a vector of disease
• it can intake flexible feed,
• it has a fast growth cycle,
• able to live in high density,
• has a high nutrient accumulation (they can take a feed content of 10% protein and convert it into 60% protein)

What should the feed sector and consumers know about the highly-spoken protein deficit? What do you do for fulfilling this gap?
As you may know, in animal feed, the most important component is protein. And of course, with a growing population, comes a growing demand. In Africa alone, the population will double on a continent where economic growth is exponential. In 2006, protein (soya and fishmeal) demand was of 64mT and in 2050 it will be of 265mT. Protein source diversification is crucial.

We produce high quality proteins, oil and fertilizer from insects for animal feed and agricultural use. Insects are fed with pre-consumed plant based food, larvae are then processed and the protein is reintegrated into the food chain.

What about the customers’ concerns about insect-as-feed concept in terms of health, culture and etc.?
nextProtein is a member of IPIFF (International Platform for insect producers for food and feed) – through this association, we have developed a Good Hygiene Practices manual. The guide is developed in line with the objectives of the EU hygiene regulatory framework, to ensure food and feed safety.

nextProtein’s products are 100% traceable, no pesticides, non-GMO, no heavy metals.

There are not sufficient studies on the subject but there is a possibility that those allergic to crustaceans could be allergic to insects. Not enough is known about allergies of people who consume animals (fish, poultry pigs etc.) that have been fed with insect protein.

Studies have however shown that animals (fish for example) fed with insect protein are generally healthier, therefore reducing the need to use antibiotics in the agribusiness.

Are there any differences between feeding an animal with live insects and insects in the powder or extracted oil form?
nextMeal protein meal and fat is sold to animal feed formulators (such as aquafeed, poultry meal, pet food etc.). The product is integrated in their final product and can represent up to 50% of it. It is important for us to provide our clients with a stable and optimal product in terms of nutritional content.

Whole live insects or whole dried insects can also be sold to farmers or pet shops or zoo, which is a natural diet for poultry, birds, reptiles and some fish species.

Is the insect-as-feed concept related with UN’s ‘zero hunger’ goal? Do the official bodies of UN support the sector in any way?
The food and agriculture organization of the UN (FAO) released a report called The Beneficial use of insects for food and feed in 2013. It was the most downloaded report ever. We were invited just last month to speak at the FAO to raise awareness. They are keeping a keen eye on the development of the sector and looking into opportunities for low income countries.

How is the stance of the legal and political authorities (e.g. EU and national governments) with regard to giving the necessary permissions? For example, do you think they act politically?
The EU authorising the use of insect meal in aquaculture is an extremely important stepping stone for the sector. nextProtein first production site is in Tunisia, and thanks to bilateral agreements between the EU and Tunisia (applies to many other African countries), but also the fact that the EU legislation is a global reference in terms of safety, made it possible for us to do so.

As far as I know, within the EU framework, only some specific types of insects are allowed to be used in pet food and aquaculture feed and the studies for poultry and livestock are still continuing. How do you think this will evolve in the future? Where the boundary should be drawn in terms of feed and food safety?
The current addressable global market is already very important (large). Aquaculture and petfood represent 10% of the global animal feed market. We hope that we are able to address the poultry and pig markets, issues we work on with IPIFF.

We think that as the sector grows, other types of insects will be introduced in the list of authorised insects, as long as the strict feed safety guidelines are adhered to.

Some consumers think animals should not be fed with insects. Do you think people will get used to this phenomenon or will we see other alternatives such as cultured meat dominating the market in the future?
In nature, chicken, pork, fish, cats eat insects, it is the natural diet. We need to explain that to consumers and they will accept it. It is also important to remember that in a day and age where people are more concerned about they have in their plates (environmental impact, healthy eating, food waste), insects provide solutions to all these global issues.

Would you inform us and our readers about your products and how you evaluate the bio-waste?
nextProtein has 3 products:
1. nextProtein, our protein meal used as a feed ingredient for aquaculture, pet food and other animal feed
2. nextOil, a source of energy which also happens to have antimicrobial properties,
3. nextGrow, a natural NPK fertiliser

Your office is in Paris while the production-site is in Tunisia. What is the reason lying behind this?
We are a French company with HQ in Paris. The Paris office is mainly responsible for R&D, sales and marketing. We decided to strategically build our first plant in Tunisia because of the obvious advantages such as production costs, climate, accessibility to organic waste and geographical situation.

Where do you export your products? And how would you evaluate your observations regarding the relationship between demand and culture? Do you also observe and expect rapid changes?
Our first markets are the EU and Asia. We do not face any challenges as long as Good Hygiene practices and tractability are strictly adhered to.

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