Culturing insects to use as a basis for foods and pharmaceutical ingredients

Published: 27-05-2016, | Member: Protifarm

Culturing insects to use as a basis for sustainable, natural, healthy foods, and as pharmaceutical ingredients, is the goal of Proti-Farm Holding NV, a Food Valley Society member since May 1, 2016. “We are continuously optimizing the breeding process in the Proti-Farm R&D center,” says CEO Heidi de Bruin.

In 2014, Proti-Farm took over the Ermelo company, Kreca, one of the largest insect farms in Europe. In the ensuing year and a half the company has built a solid reputation. “We are one of only four companies in the Netherlands that are legally permitted to breed insects for human consumption,” says De Bruin. In the case of Proti-Farm, that means grasshoppers, crickets and lesser (small) mealworms, grown without antibiotics, pesticides or hormones and all non-GMO.

High nutritional value
Insects are a sustainable source of protein, and many times more efficient to ‘farm’ than meat – with a very high nutritional value. “Insects have an amino-acid pattern similar to animals and contain all the nine essential amino acids. They are also rich in natural vitamins and minerals; the iron content, for example, is many times higher than that of spinach.”

That makes insects interesting as a component of hybrid or meat products, and as a protein concentrate in sports and nutrition drinks. They are a suitable source of protein for the elderly or people who are sick or recuperating. The company also produces edible oils and specific oils for the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.

Proti-Farm has big ambitions. “We are currently busy upscaling production of lesser-mealworm cultures in our high-tech factory in Ermelo to thousands of tons per year of fresh insects. The factory is food-grade certified. “In our R&D center, we are constantly working on optimizing feed conversion. We also test new sustainable food sources for our insects, such as residues from the agrifood industry.”

Proti-Farm is collaborating with various international bodies in leading-edge projects: “With DTI in Denmark we are researching advanced robotic techniques and, together with Wageningen University, studying the safety of insects as a food source,” illustrates the CEO. Together with TNO, the company is developing the world’s first novel-food dossier for the lesser mealworm.

On the menu
For large segments of the populations of non-Western countries, (whole) insects have been, for many years, just ordinary food. De Bruin expects that, in the foreseeable future, people in Western countries will begin to think the same way. “Insects are safe and healthy to eat, and are easy to incorporate into meat products without having to see or taste them.”

“By working closely with research organizations and other companies in the chain, we can accelerate development,” she concludes. “Reason enough for us to join the Food Valley Society.”