Irish start-up Hexafly, based in Meath County, Ireland is producing ingredients from insects, to be used as feed replacement in livestock, and according to its CEO Alvan Hunt, this comes with an array of benefits.
“They’re [flies] extremely efficient in converting organic waste into nutrition,” he explained. “But, it’s not all fly species – the particular one we use is the black soldier fly. They possess a really good amino acid profile, and are high in protein and calcium.”
Scientifically known as ‘hermetia illucens’, these harmless flies are normally found in warm and tropical/subtropical regions of the Western Hemisphere and Australia.
Hunt further elaborated, “The amount of protein that can be produced per square foot (ft²) compared to other forms of agriculture is outstanding, and the amount of water and land usage is minimal compared to other forms of protein production.”
Hexafly operates in a 15,000 ft² near zero-waste facility in Navan, County Meath, where the entirety of their manufacturing takes place.
“The process starts with breeding: There is a dedicated breeding room in the facility where the adult flies are mating in a temperature-controlled environment,” explained Hunt.
“From there, we extract eggs on a daily basis, weigh them and move them to the next stage of the process, which is hatching. After that, they’re introduced to the feed”
“Then, upon reaching the immature or larvae stage, we introduce them to the next level of feed and they go into an incubation room.”
The feed in question is organic waste, from animal based to residual food scraps.
“They consume that feed stock over a 10-day period. What will be left over of that feed is a by-product called frass, which is essentially insect manure and insect castings – it’s used as a fertiliser.”
When the larvae reaches a “ripe” age, Hunt said they process them into dried larvae, or into oils and proteins.
“The proteins products have a 56% protein content, and that goes into pet feed or aqua-feed ingredients,” he said.
“The oil produced is very similar to coconut oil, with both containing glutamic acid. It can be used in gut supplements for weaning pigs, and it can also be used in the oleochemical industry for things like candles.”
Hunt said one of the most significant products they sell is one for poultry.
“We actually sell live larvae to poultry farmers, which sounds crazy, but it is actually what poultry should be eating,”
“This can help with weak shells, because getting enough calcium can be an issue for chickens, and the live growths are packed with them – it has more calcium than any other insect.
“It is also high in protein, so it is a great supplement for chicks to feed on at an early stage.
“The feedback we have gotten aligns with our scientific studies. There is less egg loss, higher egg yields, stronger and darker shells and, actually, a nicer taste to the egg as well – a richer yoke due to the glutamic acid.”
Hunt added that the live larvae also serves as an effective stimulant for the birds’ appetites if they’re not eating enough feed.
He concluded by saying that the company is slowly but surely able to display the tangible benefits of the black soldier fly, regardless if it’s to be used for food security, environmental consciousness or just better nutrition for animals.
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