A joint venture between a bio-engineering firm and a pet food ingredient maker will focus on black soldier fly (BSF) larvae, an insect which can serve as a novel pet food ingredient among other uses.

Intrexon Corporation, which works in the engineering and industrialization of biology, and Darling Ingredients Inc., a developer and producer of sustainable natural ingredients from bio-nutrients, formed the partnership. The joint venture, called EnviroFlight, plans to significantly expand production of ingredients for sustainable feed and nutrition derived from black soldier flies. The facility will be the largest commercial-scale BSF larvae production facility in the United States, according to an Enviroflight press release.

Plans for novel pet food ingredient facility construction

Construction of the new plant employing EnviroFlight's modular and scalable system will begin in May.  Initial production capacity is expected in the first quarter of 2018, and will be targeted toward supplying livestock, aquaculture and pet food markets.  

"Leveraging more than eight years of applied research and development, the new facility will employ our industrial BSF platform and opens the door to a sustainable source of high quality nutrients for the aquaculture, livestock and specialty pet feed industries," said Glen Courtright, president and founder of EnviroFlight, in a press release.

"This new facility will allow us to produce BSF at commercial volume and sets the foundation for potential future global expansion,” Randall Stuewe, chairman and chief executive officer of Darling Ingredients said.

Sustainability benefits of black soldier fly larvae

EnviroFlight's insect-based approach offers potential to convert nutrients from food surpluses and renewable energy co-products into valuable proteins, oils and fertilizers.  Additionally from an ecological perspective, it also allows for decreasing dependence on other protein sources for animal feed.  Within the fish and poultry markets, BSF larvae also represent a more typical diet for these natural insectivores as compared to soy and other plant-based meals, making them an ideal candidate for nutritive feed ingredients.

"EnviroFlight's proprietary technologies for high quality insect protein production can help meet the growing demand for sustainable, eco-friendly, protein-rich ingredients; particularly in aquaculture where fishmeal is largely reliant on wild caught fish,” John McLean, chief commercial officer of Intrexon's food sector said.

Insects: still under scrutiny as a pet food ingredient

At the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) meeting in January, the Ingredient Definitions Committee deliberated on the use of insect ingredients in pet food and other products, reported David Dzanis, DVM, PhD, CEO of Regulatory Discretion, for Petfood Industry.

The Committee indicated that new AAFCO definitions for each insect, type of ingredient (flour, meal, protein concentrate, etc.) and intended species would need to be established first for the insect ingredients to be considered acceptable. To date, only one insect, black soldier fly larvae (AAFCO #T60.117) has been defined, and that is limited to use in salmonid feeds.