Insects are a noteworthy sustainable source of animal protein for food and animal feed. However, insect protein meets heavy price competition in the animal feed market. The standard feed additive is fish protein (fishmeal). It is imported from Peru and Chile in large quantities, but has the drawback of being unsustainable. Although insect cultivation is claimed to be economical and sustainable, the reality today is not necessarily that rosy.
Great promise in insect protein; what has kept the industry from taking off properly?
Insects are typically cultivated in boxes. Efficient space usage can be achieved by stacking the boxes. However, the boxes must be opened and closed for feeding and harvesting. All this requires either a substantial amount of manual labor or high investments on automation. This is why big insect protein companies with centrally located factories have so far dominated the insect protein business. Regarding sustainable protein production, this is an unfortunate situation since potential insect feed sources (agricultural side streams) are widely available in the countryside and may remain unused. However, Entoprot technology has the potential to change this.
Entoprot Ltd. has brought insect growing to the next level with its bioreactors
|Dr. Ari Riihimaa, CEO||Entoprot was founded in 2017. Dr. Riihimaa, an experienced and acknowledged Drosophila scientist, describes the process:
“At the Department of Genetics, University of Oulu, we had to produce millions of Drosophila flies for research purposes. I learned how to feed them, how to make them breed and hatch, and how to rear larvae. Our Drosophila society had researchers working with speciation and the circadian rhythm (development affected by the light cycle). Our technicians were capable of building and running nearly any possible research instrument. Flies require daily care, and everyone took responsibility in their nurturing. This gave me a thorough hands-on training in rearing, physiology and development of insect larvae. I became impressed by their fast development cycle. The first idea of building an insect bioreactor came already 30 years ago – my intention then was to rear Drosophila larvae. During the last decade the worldwide interest in insect protein production has grown vastly. I have followed this topic actively, and after recognizing the potential of black soldier fly (BSF) for insect protein production, I decided to transform my ideas into reality. It turned out that my experience with flies and my ideas about the insect bioreactor worked very well with BSF larvae production.”
Bioreactor full of larvae at the time of harvest!
Entoprot’s cultivation technology is based on a slowly rotating bioreactor which contains patented support structures. This prevents the larvae being crushed when reared in thick layers. One cubic meter space can provide up to 1000 kg of larvae per month. By using an advanced fed-batch feeding strategy, the larvae can fill up to 70 % of the bioreactor volume. The conditions inside the bioreactor are homogenous and consistent, which guarantees a high product quality, ensuring even human food grade purity. The cultivation process can be monitored and controlled with low-cost automation. This enables economically profitable rearing of black soldier fly larvae also for small and mid-size companies.
The Entoprot team has experts in business, insect physiology, microbiology, bioprocess engineering, automation & mechanical engineering. The commercial activities are coordinated by Dr. Ari Riihimaa (CEO, founder) and Dr. Antti Vasala (business development).
Entering the animal feed business
Entoprot Ltd. aims to get a significant position as a provider of insect cultivation technology. These expectations are based on the high productivity and good scalability of its bioreactor technology. By minimizing the amount of manual labour with efficient low-cost automation, insect rearing can be made profitable also for small and mid-size companies. Thereby the production of insect larvae at the sites of low-cost agricultural side streams and other potential feed materials is made possible for a huge amount of new customers, including farmhouses.
Entoprot was honored to be one of the top 10 startups selected for the EIT FAN Accelerator Program 2020. This program entitles Entoprot to extensive business training, provides excellent visibility and promotes networking with other companies, research entities, customers and investors. Entoprot is currently enjoying all the benefits of this program with the final aim to revolutionize animal protein production. Innovativity or academic competence do not guarantee a successful business. Therefore we appreciate having lectures, workshops and high quality mentoring on topics like how to clarify the business model & marketing message, or how to present ideas and products to customers, venture capitalists and press. We believe that it is very important to learn strategic business thinking.
Written by Antti Vasala and Ari Riihimaa
You can learn more about Entropot at https://www.entoprot.com
To learn more about the EIT FAN program, please visit https://www.eitfan.eu/helsinki