Increasing sustainability with insect protein

Welcome everyone. This is AGcelerate. My name is Nikolai Shchetikhin and I have Jim Johnston with me How you doing, Jim? I’m doing good. Nick, and you? I’m doing wonderful. And today we have a very special topic. Today we’re going to talk about insect proteins as a protein source for animal feeds. That’s an interesting topic.

[00:00:28] It really is. It’s an incredibly interesting part of our story now a days. You know, it is there’s a lot going on in the field. And I guess you could say why, why is it important that we have alternative sources for protein, and that we work on it? Well, hopefully, in the course of this discussion, we can explain a little bit about the background. But you know, the main protein source for poultry production is soy or soybean. And that’s grown in certain parts of the world and exported. You know, we we talked a few weeks back and Nick, on a recent show that we did, which was about the price of feed, and the prices of soy has escalated enormously in the last few months. And we all know that story, but it’s one of the reasons and sourcing it from other parts of the world with a big kind of sustainability drive that’s going around the globe at the moment, sort of big ships pulling the soybean to Europe out of South America and America itself. People are pushed to look at alternatives, what protein sources Do we have closer to home that may be of value? And they may help to displace soy and the other major concern, certainly from a European point of view is on sustainability again, is the rain forest and are we burning down rain forests to grow beef cattle graze beef cattle or indeed to grow soybean and that’s becoming an increasing pressure and in the Europeans context, and people are really using it to try and reduce their reliance on soybean and soybeans got protein levels in their sort of the mid 40 percents 44, up to 48% protein levels. So it’s a really good high protein source for livestock. You know, the alternatives we grow here readily in the European context, you know, would be sunflower, we grow canola or rapeseed oil, seed rape, and also peas and beans. But we struggle together much above 35% protein. So there’s a big gap there.   

[00:02:31] Yeah. And also, you need to have quite a lot of space to grow all those proteins, right. And yeah, there are plenty of concerns. But still, the industry should feed the population that is constantly growing. So it’s constantly trying to find new alternatives. And as we know, most of the animal diets are vegetarian, because of the regulations because of the nature of the business. But there are some alternatives, like you said there and the fish meal is one of them, but it’s getting more and more expensive to use. And this is where insect proteins are coming into play a new player in this market in this area, and they have very good volumes of the protein in them, and they’re very digestible. And Jim is a specialist, you probably can tell a little bit more about why it is important to have them digestible. And what’s the difference between for example, soy proteins?  

[00:03:32] Yeah, I mean, look, I’m not an absolute expert on nutrition but as we remove the kind of, you know, meat we have used in the past fish meal and other proteins from the diet, we became singularly almost reliant on soy which, which it can be variable in terms of the cooking quality of the product, if you under cooker is a problem, it’s less digestible, if you overcook it, it also it can be problematic so that that significant reliance on soy can in fact impact digestibility depending on that quality of that product, but also particularly saw in young livestock. So chicks in the first week of growth are young piglets on the on the swine side of the industry, their digestive system isn’t sort of matured and so in when a when are young, they do struggle to digest the plant based proteins to the same extent, of course, you know, it’s such an importance on growth rate in that first seven days of a chicks life. It’s such an important part of delivering a good end of crop and end of cycle weight and bird, that if we can provide more digestible proteins that are easier for that young livestock to digest and that the opportunity to improve its performance is there. And, and that’s what we’ve been looking at as we look at with alternatives to soy, how can we reduce our reliance on soy and shifting to insect proteins is a really good example of that.   

[00:05:09] Yeah, exactly. And also, if we think about chickens, especially in their natural habitat, they would be somewhere roaming on the field. And they will be eating those little bugs and insects. So it’s natural for them to just digest because of the nature, right. And also, one big important moment about the, about the insect proteins is that the way they grow the way they produce, because they use a lot of food waste material, in order to grow the larvies. And as we know, world producing lots and lots of food waste, starting from restaurants, to households, to supermarkets. So all that food is usually just sitting somewhere on the field and becomes a soil at some point. But insects are processing that food waste as as their food and they are producing protein. And also, as a sub product of that process, there is a very good fertilizer, so that food already processed much faster. And that fertilizer, compared to the chicken manure has no smell.  

[00:06:30] Yeah, I mean, that’s a really great aspect of this as well, it’s, and that’s why it’s incredibly sustainable. That’s why, you know, people are looking at this product more and more, that use it using kind of food waste material and putting it to really good use is and so an example of that sort of travels at the end of last year at Uganda where there’s a great little company down there called protein and they’re effectively taking food waste from the markets and and around the city of Kampala and then using that to feed their black soldier flies and, and produce really nice protein, insect protein, and then also the fertilizer. So it’s a it’s a it’s a super little cycle, if you like and there’s a lot of things happening in the sector at the moment, Nick, you know, you’ll see quite a lot of reports in the press and digital media about insect protein. 

[00:07:29] Yeah, and talking about this protein startup, I watched the material about it, I really love that company, you know, they speak with such a passion about what they do. And they really helping farmers, they helping themselves, they helping cities to get all that food waste, composed, you know, it’s just an incredible start up and one thing that I really liked about them they producing those DIY sets for everyone so that you can have the their DIY set instructions and everything. And then you can grow your own black soldier fly and get your own protein for your own little farm. So that’s, that’s incredible. I love I love that.   

[00:08:15] That was a really beautiful little story. And then there was there was one that I saw just in the last couple of weeks for the French insect protein company in overfeed. And they’ve just opened to the end of last year, their own factory in France where they’re producing something like 15,000 tons a year of insect protein. Well, they’ve signed an agreement with big in America can food processor EDM to build what will be the largest insect protein plant in Illinois, and that should start construction this year. So again, you know, a lot of investment in the sector of si p 01. I was reading about who just got into an agreement with Chiang Mai University specifically around developing this whole insect protein knowledge and, and how they should go about it. So a tremendous amount of focus and investment going into the sector at the moment. 

[00:09:17] Yeah, and talking about the NOAA feed French company, right. And they building in Illinois, but was seeing that material from financial times. It was published couple months ago, and they visited several insect plants in France. And those are humongous, big plants, very automated. I mean, there is no DIY kits over there. You know, it’s just like huge vertical farms, where they have produced a lot, a lot of insect proteins. And there was one moment that I really liked about all of that. They said that 100 square meter of insect farm can produce as much protein as 100 hectares of land. That’s incredible. So there is a very big potential over there. And that’s why this business is growing. And talking about the quality, right, we talked about the soy protein levels. But these modern companies in France, they can already control levels of protein that they deliver to the end product from their insect protein. So it could be 35, it could be 45, or whatever. So it’s, it’s also really good, because then you can really control your animal diet to the level you want.   

[00:10:45] Yeah, absolutely. And you know, one of the key things about this is it’s still quite expensive, because the volumes being produced are still relatively low. So I was I was interested in our Rabobank report, which is looking at this whole insect protein sector. And, and they were basically looking at the moment, so anywhere between three and a half to 5000 euros per ton of insect protein is the current kind of price for it. But if you think about scaling this up as the French in overfeeding, investment is doing and as this larger one in Illinois will do, as they improve and scale and grow the sector, the costs will only come down. And you know that’s the other benefits, of course of producing fertilizer, which is a brace, because it’s going to become an organic fertilizer through this process. So again, there are other benefits. And besides just the insect protein itself, the Rabobank looking at the whole sector, there’s about a billion euros already invested in an insect protein globally, and they should produce in 500,000 tons of insect protein by 2030. So this thing is just growing rapidly.

[00:12:03] Yeah, it’s growing really, really fast. And as we see that it’s growing, not only in, in Europe or in America, it’s also growing all around the world. And, of course, you know, the technologies are different. And of course, since it’s fairly new farming type, the technology will be growing and getting better. And the next logical step, because this is farming, right? And we know, we all  know that lots of farming and outputs of that farming depends on the genetics. So now, people start getting into genetics into breeding of those insects. So for example, black soldier flies, so they’re trying to get them better so that they can produce more eggs, and they can produce more larvae. So I mean, it’s it’s incredible. And also companies investing a lot of money into this, because they want to have better genetics for those insects. And one example is better bug, they put quite a large investment into it breeding operation of the insects. 

[00:13:16] I mean, that’s an interesting development, isn’t it? It’s almost similar to poultry genetics, where they’re going to specialize in the genetics of black soldier flies, and sell their stock around the world. I wish them every success. But Nick is a fascinating subject, I’m sure we’ll come back and touch on this in a future and it’s been good discussing the topic today because we need to find replacement for protein, soy protein particularly. And there’s a whole load of factors we’ve discussed some of them that are driving, driving people to look at alternatives. and sustainability is a massive issue. As we know, in poultry production, that’s it’s also important that we have that in the raw materials and feed raw materials we use. So it’s it’s critically important to develop this. I think I’m blown away by the fact you’ve got little businesses on the banks of Lake Victoria in Uganda getting into this thing. You’ve got mega investment in Illinois, where the biggest plant in the world. So it’s bridging developing countries and going out first world, well developed economies, it’s across the world this applies and it’s a really interesting sector to keep an eye on from our point of view. And of course, it’s important being in the poultry sector as we are and the livestock sector generally that we that we continue to follow and track these innovations and these exciting new stories that are coming out of the industry.   

[00:14:49] Yeah, we will definitely keep on following this topic because it’s it’s really influenced what we do and what the industry is doing. Like you said we need to find alternatives. Because it’s it’s not about replacing soy completely or you know, something like that it’s just to have the best balanced diet for animals so they can grow better. And we we can get food. So yeah, we’ll definitely keep on following up on this one and not to miss any new episodes. Please follow us on social media. We are on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on Instagram, and also check out our website. We have plenty of good stuff over there. Jim, thank you very much for joining me on this one and see you on the next episode.   

[00:15:36] Thanks Nick. See you then. 

[00:15:38] Cheers. Bye 

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