AgriProtein in conjunction with scientists at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa has developed a natural, renewable and sustainable substitute for existing fishmeal and soy-based protein sources made from dried and milled fly larvae.
The company is in the process of building an industrial-scale plant in the Western Cape capable of manufacturing the large quantities – 100t/day of wet larvae and 25t of pure dried protein – required by the local chicken and fish farming industries. It, however, envisages a rapid technology roll-out to Germany, Saudi Arabia and the UK, which are all displaying material interest in the product.
Industrial farming of chickens, pigs and fish relies on protein from land-based soy plantations and marine fishmeal.
Jason Drew, chairman of AgriProtein, says: “Plant-based proteins are less effective in feeds than fishmeal, and are increasingly expensive to produce as they consume large quantities of land, water and diesel in their production. While 30% of all marine caught fish (facing rapidly declining stock levels) is used in animal feed preparations – with aquaculture operations typically requiring up to 2kg of marine-caught fish to produce 1kg of farmed fish – of which we eat only 25%.”
“These current protein sources are limited and the increasing demand for animal feed and their exploitation has devastating effects on the environment. This motivated AgriProtein to develop and test a new large-scale natural and sustainable source of protein – we use existing abattoir waste products to feed fly eggs as they grow into larvae, which are then harvested and dried into Magmeal – with an equivalent nutritional composition to fishmeal and better than soy. Magmeal contains nine essential amino acids with higher cystine and similar levels of lysine, methonine, threonine and tryptophane as marine fishmeal,” Drew states.
Research and development Testing with the University of Stellenbosch Animal Nutritional Department started three years ago and he explains that it took a great deal of time as well as trial and error to get the flies to live together in such substantial volumes and lay their eggs in one place. “We also had to match the waste product type to the larvae type. A housefly, for example, can lay 1,200 eggs in her lifetime and is a good consumer of almost all abbatoir waste; while black soldier flies have the enzymes to break down very starchy waste like vegetables. ”AgriProtein built an operational mid-scale fly farm and larvae growth facility – with an output of 2t per week of larvae protein – near Cape Town in 2010. Says Drew: “We have cages where our breeding stock are fed a mixture of sugar and milk powder and kept in a very sterile environment. A single female fly can lay 750 eggs in under a week, which will hatch into larvae that grow in weight over 400 times in just a few days. Larvae go through three life stages in a 72-hour period: from egg to larvae (wriggling), pupates into hard shells (hatching) and through metamorphosis into the next generation (maturity)”. “Our main challenge was to develop an engineering solution to ensure that all food Abbatoir waste and fly larvae create sustainable, natural animal feed AgriProtein in conjunction with scientists at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa has developed a natural, renewable and sustainable substitute for existing fishmeal and soy-based protein sources made from dried and milled fly larvae. The company is in the process of building an industrial-scale plant in the Western Cape capable of manufacturing the large quantities – 100t/day of wet larvae and 25t of pure dried protein – required by the local chicken and fish farming industries. It, however, envisages a rapid technology roll-out to Germany, Saudi Arabia and the UK, which are all displaying material interest in the product.
“While we take for granted the imperative to recycle waste paper, glass, aluminium and steel, we have yet to take on board the recycling of waste nutrients. It takes as many natural resources to make the bits of a chicken that we eat as the bits we don’t eat. These and many other nutrient-rich waste products are discarded daily. AgriProtein is leading the nutrient recycling industry by using a bioconversion process that takes ‘free’ waste materials, and turns them into a valuable commodity.”
– Jason Drew, eco-entrepreneur
“Our main challenge was to develop an engineering solution to ensure that all of the eggs are the same age at the same time – as older larvae kill off younger larvae. We also employ a different regime in terms of feeding; heating, moisture and air extraction control every 12 hours to suit their life stage development and to promote optimum growth. “We extract the larvae from the growth trays at 72 hours, dry them in a fluidised bed dryer, mill them into flake form and then pack them according to customers’ preferences,” he states. “Although our equipment is very specific, quite industrialised and requires some local bespoke manufacturing, the modular design of our plant and machinery does enable plants to be built to suit any location. Each line can produce up to 10t of larvae protein per day.”
Product development and sales Using different processes and fly families, AgriProtein has developed larvae of naturally different chemical and mineral composition. These minerals are bio-available to the animals eating them – opening up the possibility of creating a whole range of speciality feed preparations targeted at specific life stages of industrially-farmed livestock. Drew says that extensive testing by the university researchers has proven that larvae protein produces better take-on weight and lower gizzard erosion scores in fish and chickens that are fed this natural food rather than current industrial alternatives.
“We will continue our research and development as well as our understanding of feed opportunities through funding specialised post graduate research. We currently have two University of Stellenbosch doctoral researchers focusing exclusively on end product composition through variants in larvae production systems – to help us deliver specialist life stage feeds in dried, mixed and pelletised form.”
AgriProtein is already working with feed preparation partners to supply the bulk animal feed industry. “The Magmeal is packed into 50kg bags or containerised solutions in bulk dried powder form – so that clients can mix it with other nutrients to create a final feed product that meets their specific needs,” he concludes.
• AgriProtein operates two distinct teams, focused separately on the daily management of the business and production sites, and an advisory board of leading scientists and environmentalists for broader industry development and strategic thinking.
The company’s head office is in Gibraltar, south of Spain, and it has offices in South Africa and Germany.