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A Spanish SME devoted to breeding Tenebrio molitor insect at industrial scale, offers derived co-products. Its disruptive processes enable the production of insect-based protein, oil, frass and chitosan with specific functionalities. Main operational profits are bio-based and sustainable ingredients for agri-food, fertilisers, biotech or pharmaceuticals. Technical cooperation agreements for further development of products are sought or agreement to be part in H2020 call related with Farm2Fork.
The EU Commission established a 50% reduction in the use of pesticides and 20% in chemical fertilisers by 2030 according to its Farm2Fork strategy. Both contribute to soil, water and air contamination. The use of organic frass would contribute to address these problems.
The Spanish SME, stabilised in 2014, and devoted to breeding insects at industrial scale, transformation and commercialization, produces derived co-products. The SME offers a highly efficient production of all its products leading to a reduction of 90% energy and water use and similar decrease in CO2 emissions. The control over key process parameters and know-how on accurate separation techniques puts the SME at the frontline of innovation in the transformation of insect products. Its expertise led to a further optimisation of processes and equipment to enable:
• to optimise the separation and processing of frass to generate a dry and fine powder in contrast humid organic fertilisers,
• to generate a dehydrated protein-rich powder with high content of oleic acid. All these processes have been proved and are currently under expansion to industrial plant production.
• to the optimisation of equipment and methodologies for its production lines. It is a current reference in the European insect industry and the first Spanish company authorised to breed insects at industrial scale.
Collaborations in previous projects proved:
i) the benefits of its insect protein for aquaculture with fast growing rates of fish. A pillar in the Farm2Fork strategy is the shift to sustainable fish and seafood. Animal welfare with reduced use of antimicrobial agents in aquaculture is a targeted challenge. Several studies reported the addition of insect protein to fish diets with benefits in growth and fish welfare. The SME produces insect meal with high protein content (74%) and comprehensive essential aminoacids profile (including lysine, leucine, cysteine, etc.). Its oil content is about 8% with an excellent fatty acid composition. Overall it provides high digestibility (90-92%) for fish and also decreases the incidence of disease and mortality rates related to intensive farming.
ii) the effect of its organic frass on stimulating the growing of crops without synthetic fertilisers. Among them insect frass suitable for organic production according to regulation (EC) 883/2007. In addition to its nutrient content (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) it is a natural product against pest and bacteria (eg. it prevents mould or pathogens such as Botrytis and Alternaria). This organic fertiliser acts as biostimulant by supplying micro-organisms needed for the growth of plants. It increases the development of the nitrogen fixing bacteria (a growth promoter) and the rapid absorption on nutrients by the plant with potential reduction in the use of chemical fertilisers.
iii) the production of a highly biodegradable chitosan from insect chitin. The SME also offers a highly biodegradable chitosan by processing chitin from insects. Such bio-based chitosan is an interesting component for technical uses: excipient for controlled drug release in pharma, component for agricultural mulching or packaging, wound dressing, etc.
The company seeks collaboration with R&D institutions, universities and all size industry from the feed, agritech, bioplastics, fertilisers, aquaculture, agrochemicals and pharma sectors. Their contributions would include systematic studies and analysis of relevant aspects of fish growth and resistance to pathogens, and similarly for plants. The partners would need to be committed to innovation and introduction of new products aligned with the European Farm2Fork strategy. A research cooperation or technical cooperation agreement is foreseen.
Feed formulations for aquaculture, particularly for early breeding stages, require high level of protein content with essential aminoacids and a suitable fatty acid profile. Fish meal is a common additive for these diets but it is a finite resource that generates environmental problems making it economically and environmentally unsustainable.
Main innovations and advantages regarding aquaculture are:
• protein content even higher than the best premium fish meals (74% vs. 70%) with an excellent aminoacids profile,
• lower content in ashes (6% vs 13%) and greater digestibility translate into a better uptake of nutrients,
• renewable source for fish diets with low environmental impact making aquaculture activities more sustainable,
• increase growth rates, improved the utilisation of aminoacids and contributes to reduce mortality rates,
• sustainable alternative for fish diets with significant advantages.
Main innovations and advantages regarding the growing of corps are:
• insect frass promotes higher contribution of nutrients than conventional products (humus, chicken manure, guano, etc),
• guarantee the protection of plants against pests by ISR stimulation,
• inhibit several fungi and bacteria growth because of its chitin content,
• pure organic fertiliser based exclusively on the Tenebrio molitor frass,
• to avoid soil and climate conditions alterations being a great option for organic farming.
Main innovations and advantages regarding the insect chitin are:
• chitosan can be “tailored made” in comparison to traditional shrimp and crab based chitosan,
• able to produce very high molecular weight polymers to monomers with high reproducibility rate and performance,
• better option to introduce this raw material into any industrial application.
All of these products are more sustainable and environmentally friendly due to their insect origin, so the use of them will add exceptional value to any life cycle assessment.
Some already on the market
Open to different type of organisations and partnerships: academia, public research centres, SME and large companies within the feed, agritech, fertilisers, bioplastics, aquaculture, agrochemicals and pharma sectors. It is expected that the potential partners provide an innovative solution in these sectors suitable to be combined with insect frass or protein. Alternatively, they may have well established production capacity and expertise to implement insect products in their manufacturing lines and study their effect.
The Spanish SME will appreciate a technical collaboration to study fish growth, welfare and immunology by addition of insect protein to fish diets. It would be also interested in the effect of insect frass in plant growth and specially in their resistance to pests with accurate methodologies, experts and equipment. The former should include the evolution of the plant all along its development with comprehensive analysis of its performance indicators.
The company is also interested in been part of a consortium in the frame of H2020 Green Deal call, for example in the Farm2Fork area.