11 Aug 2022

Large-scale insect processing plant – a sustainable animal feed source  


French insect producer Agronutris is building a commercial scale black soldier fly plant using process technology from Bühler Group.

Created in 2011, Agronutris is the first French biotech company dedicated to the development of the insect rearing industry as an answer to the feed challenges of tomorrow. Insects are able to turn by-products from the agro industry into valuable ingredients for the feed market, contributing in that way to the development of a circular economy. Moreover, while the growing world population needs an increasing level of proteins, generating the overuse of the existing sources, insects appear as a sustainable protein source that could fill the widening protein gap.

The facility, which will be built in Rethel, France, and is planned to go into operation in 2023, is a major milestone for both organisations. It reinforces Bühler’s commitment to ambitious targets that will help mitigate climate change and build a more sustainable food system and supports Agronutris’ goal to establish itself as specialist in sustainable nutrition.

The 16,000m2 insect plant in Rethel, France, when operating at full capacity, will process annually up to 70,000 tons of organic residues and produce high-quality protein for the aquaculture and pet food markets.

“With the launch of this new site, Agronutris is entering its industrial deployment stage. The facility of Rethel will be our springboard for the further industrial development of our activity,” says Mehdi Berrada, CEO of Agronutris. “Bühler has tremendous experience in the food and feed sector. This partnership allows our teams to focus on our core activities – insect biology and the operational management of our production flow. Our research and development activities make for our competitive advantage.”

Bühler’s will cover the entire supply chain, including feedstock preparation to provide safe, palatable, and nourishing feed to the larvae and a fully automated larvae growth system with sophisticated climate control. Bühler will also deliver the processing line to efficiently transform the grown larvae into protein meal and lipids with consistent quality, as well as the frass (excrement) handling system for a secure offtake of the rearing residues.

In addition, Bühler will be responsible for the entire automation and the project execution. The latter encompasses engineering, procurement, manufacturing, supply, installation, and commissioning. “The new project with Agronutris is a milestone for us,” says Andreas Baumann, Head of Market Segment Insect Technology at Bühler. “It confirms our goal of establishing ourselves in the insect industry and to increase the inclusion of insect proteins in animal feed, contributing to more sustainable feed supply chains.

Growing demand for insect proteins

To feed 10 billion people who are expected to live on our planet by 2050, about 250 million metric tons of additional protein will be necessary every year. This is an increase of 50% compared to today. The industry must address this challenge with a more sustainable production of existing sources of protein as well as alternative sources for direct human and animal consumption. Edible insects can play a unique role in upcycling food waste streams to high-quality proteins, which makes them an increasingly important source of protein while being environmentally friendly.

The market of insect proteins as feed is expected to significantly grow in the next 10 years. The total turnover of insect feed operators is expected to achieve ∈2.2 billion per year by the end of the decade. This growth will be led by two main sectors: the aquaculture sector, which will make up for 30% of sales volumes of insect producers by 2030, and the petfood sector, which will account for 40% of the insect protein sales volumes by 2030.

Agronutris aims to contribute to the emergence of this industry and to become one of the global leaders of the sector. The growth of its team (joined by entomologists and agro-industry experts), its recent fundraising of ∈100 million, and the collaboration with major companies such as Bühler, are some of the factors that will allow the company to live up to this ambition.

Bühler is committed to reduce water, energy, and waste by 50% in its customers’ value chains by 2025. This will help mitigate climate change and be the foundation of a more sustainable food system. Insects offer a unique opportunity. They are not only a healthy source of protein for food and feed, but they can be fed on waste, therefore converting food waste into protein. And their frass can be used as a fertiliser. That is why they are an source of sustainable proteins for food and feed.

Company info: Bühler Group