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Insects For a Sustainable Aquaculture

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IFASA (Insects For a Sustainable Aquaculture)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2017-06-30

The problem that InnovaFeed contributes to solving is how to support an economically and environmentally sustainable aquaculture that meets both fish farmers’ needs and consumers’ growing demand.
With a 10% yearly growth, aquaculture is the fastest growing sector in the food industry. Farmed fish feed, which needs to contain high-quality protein to produce healthy fish, is currently made mostly from wild fish meal and transgenic soy meal. Such meals are unsustainable resources and are expensive, with fish feed representing about 60% of fish farmers’ costs.

- A third of captured wild fish is transformed into fishmeal for aquaculture, which puts pressure on overexploited wild fish stocks
- intensive cultivation of soy is exhausting soils and overusing water resources and land availability

InnovaFeed’s insect meal made from Hermetia illucens larvae provides a competitive alternative to current fish feed options. Insect-based feed provides highly nutritional protein for aquaculture and is adapted to most farmed fish species’ diet (e.g. trout and salmon). It is produced using local, low-value agricultural by-products and is cost-competitive on the fish feed market.

InnovaFeed is leading the way in insect meal production for aquaculture at an industrial scale. This product will support a competitive European aquaculture sector able to meet consumers’ demand for sustainably produced, high-quality animal protein.

Overall, InnovaFeed’s goal is to produce an insect meal that is qualitatively satisfying for fish meal manufacturers and fish farmers and to establish a large-scale industrial production that will rapidly meet the aquaculture sector’s needs in terms of volume.

At regional level, InnovaFeeds’ short loop production model using agricultural low-value by-products will revitalize the local economy and its product will help strengthen Europe’s aquaculture competitiveness.

At global level, InnovaFeed’s innovative product will accompany the growth of aquaculture, and will thereby contribute to facing the challenge of producing more quality protein for a growing population while preserving limited resources both on land and in our oceans.
This project included tasks aimed at meeting these three main objectives:

• Objective 1: Setting up a pilot unit to assess the technical feasibility of the project at industrial scale and refine the operational model
• Objective 2: Study and confirm freedom to operate in terms of IP and regulation
• Objective 3: Validate the interest of aquaculture feed manufacturers in insect meal, launch commercial testing and build a business model

To meet objective 1, several key steps of the process were optimized to make a large-scale industrial production feasible. Leveraging on the expertise developed over 30 years by the Insect Pest Control Laboratory, a joint FAO/IAEA research program, InnovaFeed’s R&D team further optimized Hermetia illucens’ egg production and breeding system to achieve maximum productivity and consistent quality of the product. During this feasibility study, egg production and breeding were optimized well beyond the set target.
A close monitoring of our operational enhancements enabled InnovaFeed to refine its operational model and secure strategic partnerships for all steps of the process.
InnovaFeed’s progress convinced renowned private and public investors to commit over 15 Million Euros to carry out the next phases of R&D, and commercial and industrial deployment. This includes the scale up of operations which has materialized into the design and construction of 1,000 tons/year capacity production site located in the north of France.

In accordance with the feasibility study’s second objective, we worked with a European Patent and Law office to study the IP landscape in the Insects for Feed sector. The study concluded that there are no restrictions on the production and commercialization of InnovaFeed’s product. The next step for InnovaFeed will be to explore the strategic value of potential patents on our processes and/or final products.
Since July 1st 2017, and as anticipated by the IPIFF, EU Regulation 2017/893 permits the use of insect protein in fish feed, derived from seven insect species including Hermetia illucens. The current EU regulatory context, therefore, allows InnovaFeed’s product to reach its full potential on the European fish feed market.
At national level, all regulatory procedures have been filed and validated. In particular, this covers the industrial aspects of ICPE 2221 and 2150 (exemption procedure granted by the French President on March 23rd 2017) and the sanitary approval at product level for production sites.

Objective 3 was to validate the interest of aquaculture feed manufacturers in insect meal and launch commercial testing of our product, and further structure our business model.
The feedback received from fish feed manufacturers and fish farmers confirmed both the limitations of current options (wild fishmeal and soy meal mainly) and the strong interest in insect meal as an alternative in the diet of farmed fish.
Concerned with the overexploitation of wild fish stocks, fish meal manufacturers are looking for alternatives that will reduce the use of fish meal while still ensuring a healthy high protein diet for farmed fish. Soy meal also presents limitations as fish feed and contains factors that are anti-nutritional for most farmed fish including trout and salmon, which are carnivorous species.
Fish feed manufacturers and fish farmers expressed a strong interest for insect meal because it meets their need to lower the cost of fish feed, to use sustainable resources and to improve the diet and health of farmed fish with an innovative product. Being naturally more nutritious for farmed fish, insect meal reduces the need for potentially harmful supplements such as food colouring or antibiotics. Thus, the use of insect meal positively impacts both the health of fish and the health of end consumers.
Commercial testing on trout with two leading fish feed manufacturers in Denmark and Norway confirmed our insect meal is highly digestible and its amino-acid profile perfectly meets the nutritional needs of farmed fish. Tests also showed insect meal contains significantly less heavy metals than wild fish meal. The positive results of tests led to pre-orders from both manufacturers for over 1,000 tons for 2017/2018. Commercial testing with other fish feed manufacturers and salmon farmers is ongoing.

InnovaFeed’s has built a strong partnership with the retailing giant Auchan, with the signature of a joint Declaration of Intent for Aquaculture on October 17th 2017. Auchan has positioned itself as a champion of responsible fish trade for years. InnovaFeed’s product helps them address one of their main objective which is to use alternatives to a finite wild fish meal supply as the aquaculture sector continues to expand. Confident in the benefits of using insect meal in aquaculture, Auchan’s partnership with InnovaFeed gives feed manufacturers and fish farmers a reliable outlet. Several trout farmers who are suppliers of Auchan are in the process of integrating InnovaFeed’s product into their fish diet.
InnovaFeed’s feasibility studies and up-scaling of its operational model lead the way for insect meal industrialized production. The company’s technology and model can meet the needs of fish feed manufacturers in terms of quality, quantity, and cost.

InnovaFeed has optimized its zootechnic model (i.e. the link between the nutritional need and the final nutritional composition of an insect). Such a model is crucial to precisely formulate the optimal composition of substrate, optimize sourcing and maximize production value. By using local low-value by-products from agriculture, Innovafeed’s activity creates a short loop economy that is environmentally and economically viable with a huge growth potential.

Test results have shown the product provides high quality protein to farmed fish and improves their diet with a formulation that is highly nutritional and closer to the fish’s natural diet. The production model ensures the consistent production of nutritional insect-based meal that fish feed experts support and have committed to incorporate into the feed they produce or give to their own farmed fish. Confident in the quality of InnovaFeed’s product and the relevance of its model, the retailing giant Auchan expressed its strongest support to InnovaFeed thereby guarantying a market for farmed fish fed with insect meal.

By scaling-up its model to specifically meet the needs of the aquaculture sector in terms of quality, quantity and cost, InnovaFeed builds a viable economic model at a time where professionals of the sector have expressed their strong interest in the product and European regulations permit the use of insect-based fish feed. Conclusive commercial test results convinced key actors (feed manufacturers, fish farmers and a major retailer) to embrace InnovaFeed’s approach and product, perceived as both a sustainable alternative and a marketing opportunity to promote innovative fish feed and sustainably produced fish to end consumers.

Ongoing commercial discussions show a strong commitment from our customers and demand for quantities of insect meal that are much higher than InnovaFeed’s production capacities in the short term. Hence, commercial risks are low and focus is on industrial scale-up which will have a direct impact on job creation, European fish feed and fish farming competitiveness, and valorization of agricultural by-products.