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Aquafeed fly farmer buys Belgium firm to speed up European expansion

Jason Drew said the acquisition would add an experienced team to AgriProtein. Photo: AgriProtein
Jason Drew said the acquisition would add an experienced team to AgriProtein. Photo: AgriProtein

The world’s biggest fly-farmer, AgriProtein, has agreed a takeover of Belgian insect-based-ingredients company Millibeter NV, the companies said today.

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London-headquartered AgriProtein, which is focusing on producing protein for aquaculture feeds, will fund the construction of the first full-scale Millibeter factory in Belgium and intends to build multiple plants in the region and base its European R&D centre in Belgium.

AgriProtein chief executive Jason Drew said: “We look forward to welcoming Millibeter into the AgriProtein family. It will accelerate our EU expansion, adding an experienced team who will bring complementary technologies to our growing business.”

Millibeter chief executive Johan Jacobs leads a team of experts at Turnhout. Photo: Millibeter.
Millibeter chief executive Johan Jacobs leads a team of experts at Turnhout. Photo: Millibeter.

EU-approved substrates

Millibeter operates from the Open Manufacturing campus in Turnhout, Antwerp, using black soldier flies to convert EU-approved organic substrates into products for the feed and pharmaceutical industries.

EU legislation states that insects reared for manufacturing insect meal can only be fed on vegetable substrates, and former foods that include dairy and eggs. Insects are not allowed to be reared on former food that contains meat and fish, catering waste, slaughterhouse products, and animal manure. This is different to other countries, such as the US, South Africa, and Korea, and is considered the strictest legislation globally.

Millibeter’s chief executive, Johan Jacobs, leads a team of entomologists, organic chemists and engineers who will become the nucleus of a new AgriProtein European R&D hub.

AgriProtein said that in addition to a previously announced joint venture with Sustainable Protein in the Netherlands, the acquisition would give the company a strong presence in the Benelux region, and cement its position as the world’s leading up-cycler of organic substrate to protein.

 AgriProtein, which raised US$105 million in financing in June 2018, also uses black soldier flies and their larvae to convert organic substrates into a high-protein alternative to fishmeal for use in aquaculture feeds.

Increasing demand

Drew said: “The company has recently expanded its R&D capability to over 45 people based in its state-of-the-art chemistry and genetics laboratories in Cape Town. It has also hired senior staff from engineering and organic substrate management backgrounds to increase its project roll-out capacity. The company is focusing on the aquafeed market, where demand is increasing year on year to satisfy increasing consumer demand for farmed fish”.

AgriProtein processes fly larvae to produce MagMeal (55% protein organic animal feed) and MagOil (a lauric acid-rich oil for use in feeds). The by-product, frass, is a compost for use in farming and horticulture. Using 8.5 billion flies, a standard fly farm takes in 250 tonnes of organic substrate per day and produces nearly 5,000 tonnes of MagMeal and 3,000 tonnes of MagOil per year.

The company, founded by in 2008 by brothers Jason and David Drew, established its first full-scale in Cape Town, South Africa in 2015. It has allocated international licences for use of its technology and has fly farm projects under way in several countries including the US, South Africa, Korea, and the Middle East but has not yet reached the stage pf producing or selling its products in Europe.

It is exploring a number of possibilties for production sites in the UK.

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