Protix and Hendrix Genetics have improved the protein and fat content of black soldier fly insect larvae by using selective breeding. The selectively-bred larvae, left, are 38% heavier. Photo: Protix.

Better-bred flies will boost production by 20%, says insect farmer

Insect-based feed ingredients producer Protix expects to boost production by 20% after cooperating with Hendrix Genetics to breed better-performing black soldier fly (BSF).

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The results of the project show that substantial genetic improvement can be realised through selective breeding, Protix said in a press release.  

BSF larvae with desirable qualities were selected and bred to produce improved offspring generation after generation. Due to the short life cycle and large reproductive capacity of BSF, there is huge potential to make the species even more sustainable, for example by using less feed, land, and water.

Bigger bugs

After running the selective breeding programme for two years, a large-scale and fully automated production trial was done at Protix’s production facility in Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands.

An average improvement was found of:

  • 39% heavier larvae
  • 32% more protein harvested per facility
  • 21% more fat harvested per facility

Based on the achieved results in this trial the annual improvement in production is estimated at 20%, meaning that more can be produced with the same energy.

The company has produced 15,000 tonnes of live larvae per year for the last two years.

Kees Aarts: "Animal breeding has a vital role to play in help solving the global food challenge."

A great step forward

Protix founder and chief executive Kees Aarts said: “Being a pioneer in the insect industry means you must lead the way and drive the biggest and most ambitious programs across nutrition, technology and genetics. Our advancements in genetics are a great step forward for the insect industry and the environment. Animal breeding has a vital role to play in help solving the global food challenge.”

“We are really proud of the achievements of the collaboration with Protix,” said Johan van Arendonk, chief innovation and technology officer at Hendrix Genetics, which also works with the genetic selection of farmed salmon and trout, among other species.

“The results clearly indicate that selective breeding on insects is not only possible, but also has significant benefits. Hendrix Genetics is truly multi-species focused and this collaboration demonstrated again that sharing knowledge across species speeds up innovation. Working on the genetics of insects adds a new dimension and opportunity to create added value.”

Click on image to enlarge. Graphic: Protix.


Protix is one of the world’s biggest insect farmers. The company secured funding of €45 million from sustainable aquaculture investor Aqua-Spark in 2017 and opened its €40m factory in Bergen op Zoom in 2019.

Last week it announced that it had raised a further €50 million to fund international expansion and research and development. The funding came from the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF), BNP Paribas, the Prince Albert II Foundation and The Good Investors. Existing shareholders Aqua-Spark, Rabo Investments, and Invest-NL also supported the fundraise.

Aquafeed manufacturer Skretting, a subsidiary of Dutch company Nutreco, has been a leader in adopting alternative ingredients and sources some of its insect-based protein from Protix.


Protix produces ProteinX, which it says has a nutritional profile, amino acid profile, functional properties and extrusion structure-forming capabilities that make it ideally suited for pet food and aquaculture.

It also makes LipidX, an easily digestible insect oil high in medium-chain fatty acids; a wet pet food called PureeX; insects for chicken that lay eggs sold a special brand, OERei; and Flytilizer, a fertiliser made from by-products – food fibres, insect skin and droppings.  

The company is looking at potential expansion in Europe and North America and will consider Asia if it can find the right partners.