Protix has been running trials of its fishmeal-free food in conjunction with Norwegian research institutions. Photo: Protix

Buzzwords: Insect farmer unveils 'Friendly Salmon'

Dutch protein-from-insects manufacturer Protix is to launch a new salmon brand - called Friendly Salmon - in which the fishmeal content of its feed has been replaced by the company's fly larvae-based Protein X product.

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Protix founder and chief commercial officer Tarique Arsiwalla believes the salmon will appeal to customers concerned about the sustainability of forage fish. The company already has an egg brand, Oerei, promoted on the basis that the layer hens are fed their 'natural diet' of an insect-based feed rather than getting their protein from soy.

The Friendly Salmon is a result of a four-year research project, Aquafly, involving Protix, Norway's Institute of Marine Research (IMR) and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).

Replacing fish oil is next step

Control diets had 35% fishmeal in the freshwater stage and 10% fishmeal in the seawater stage. Arsiwalla said insect-fed fish grew at the same rate as those fed the control diet all the way to market weight of 4kg.

Tariq Arsiwalla: Talking to fish farmers in Europe.

Both the control diet and the Protix diet had the standard amount of fish oil in. "For us, that's the next step," said Arsiwalla. "We've made the first step, but we also see opportunities going forward, and we are also being approached by different companies to replace the fish oil part.

"DSM Evonik's joint venture (in the US) will start omega 3 production from algae in 2019, but there are more producers that are pretty realistic options to be included in the Friendly Salmon diet going forward. If you talk about Fish In: Fish Out, our goal would ultimately be to go to zero. The oil side would be totally taken out."

Expecting big demand

Arsiwalla said Protix would not be growing fish itself but was talking to smaller fish farmers "in Europe" that want to use its product and market the fish as Friendly Salmon.

Protix is staging an official launch of the trial outcomes and its new brand in Bergen on February 27.

"The amount [of fish grown] will depend on the market demand and we have just started, because the trial outcomes are quite recent," said Arsiwalla. "I do expect there'll be quite a big demand for it. I can already see that from the reactions we've got from our press release, from a very wide global audience being enthusiastic about using fewer marine ingredients in our [salmon] diets.

"Many people also feel that it's a natural ingredient as opposed to, for instance, things like poultry proteins that are used in fish feed in some geographies, which doesn't feel too good for many.

Live insects

Protix already has an egg brand promoted on the benefits of an insect-based diet. Photo: Protix

"We believe there's a pretty sizable market interested in it, and we know that a bit from experience from the poultry sector, with an egg concept which in that respect is comparable with salmon in that we have changed the diets for layer hens significantly. All the proteins that are usually soy-derived have been replaced by insect proteins. We even took it one step further because they get live insects, which also changes the behaviour of the chickens.

"They start getting very natural scratching behaviour, and that combination of animal welfare and naturalness is something that we see picking up quite clearly in Western markets."

Concentrated protein

Protix uses a patented method to extract lipids from black soldier fly larvae to get a concentrated protein which is then dried using a low temperature process.

"The Aquafly project started in 2014, so it has been quite a trajectory," said Arsiwalla. "In the first year we tried all types of processing methods for the black soldier fly and in later trials we used those we'd shortlisted from the first screenings."

Protix has one commercial facility that's been running for a couple of years and is building a second, larger plant this year, also in the Netherlands.

Enhancing insect breeding methods

"It will allow us to not only expand in the poultry and pet food sectors that we already serve, but also to expand into aquaculture," said Arsiwalla. "The Friendly Salmon is in our view a very nice market within Europe to start moving. I see potential not only in salmon but also in trout, and outside Europe shrimp is of equal interest."

Meanwhile, Protix has entered into a partnership with Hendrix Genetics in a project to further improve the potential of insects as an efficient protein converter to use for feed.

Hendrix said that as a world leading multi-species company, it is a perfect partner when it comes to enhancing breeding methods and improving each generation: "Hendrix Genetics scientists are experts in knowledge transfer between species and have a lot to offer the nascent insect breeding field."