Focus on insect feed: Pronofa buys majority stake in fly larval producer Ecoprot

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The acquisition is the second in a row in a short time and part of a larger effort to build up a strong Norwegian industrial player in the sector.

“The demand and interest in insect proteins in both farming and agriculture is increasing rapidly. This will be a major international industry in a few years. It is important that Norwegian insect production is consolidated and moves quickly from test projects to industrial scale in order to compete with international players,” said Hans Petter Olsen.

He leads Fredrikstad-based Pronofa, which was established in collaboration with Denofa, the country’s leading supplier of proteins to agriculture. The acquisition of Ecoprot is a strategic acquisition that both contributes to geographical expansion and brings in important expertise in both insect production and aquaculture.

Read more: Family start-up wants to feed 10,000 tonnes of salmon with soldier fly larvae

Come the farthest
“Ecoprot is among the players who have come the furthest in insect production in this country. They provide us with both capacity and very valuable knowledge about the use of insect larvae in the aquaculture industry,” said Hans Petter Olsen in a press release.

Ecoprot has production facilities in Meløy municipality in Nordland. As of today, the annual production capacity is approx. 80 tonnes of insect larvae, but this is planned to be expanded to 1,000 tonnes already by 2022 in the existing premises. The company is ready for expanded production and has wanted a big player on the ownership side to help scaling of the business.

“We are very proud and happy to have a professional and industrial player like Pronofa on the ownership side. There is little doubt that this market will develop rapidly, and that together we will be able to become a significant player in this new, very exciting industry,” said Asbjørn Torrissen, general manager and founder of Ecoprot.

Facts

Soldier fly larvae

Insects are very sustainable ingredients. The black soldier fly larvae feed on residues from, for example, the food industry or waste products from the aquaculture industry. The larvae utilize the food very well. About 80 per cent of the nutrients from organic waste can be recycled through larval production. The soldier fly larvae are also rich in both nutrients and oils that enrich the feed. One gram of insect egg can turn into 2.6 kilos of protein in 14 days.

Circular feed industry
Worldwide, demand for meat and farmed fish is increasing. This puts pressure on traditional feed ingredients such as soy, fishmeal and other protein and fat sources. Insects will be an important supplement to reduce this pressure. In addition, insect production is a very efficient way of using unused waste streams such as food residues, surplus production from agriculture or sludge from the aquaculture industry.

“This is circular economy in practice. Everything from compost and biowaste can in principle be converted into high-value products that agriculture and the aquaculture industry need. The larvae retrieve and carry very valuable nutrients that are wasted today,” said Olsen.

International race
Rabobank estimates that the market for insect proteins for the feed industry can grow from the current global production of 10,000 tonnes, to 500,000 tonnes by 2030. There is now a significant international race to add scale. Asbjørn Torrissen confirms that they have picked up on interest from abroad.

“The interest in Ecoprot has been great from several international companies, but it is clear that it is extra fun to be part of building a strong Norwegian player. That is why we are incredibly happy to be part of Pronofa’s major investment in new Norwegian feed ingredients.”

Ole and Asbjørn Torrissen. Photo: Steve Hernes

Pronofa also reveals that they have ambitions beyond national borders.

Pronofa’s chairman of the board, Bjørge Gretland, states: “Pronofa is establishing itself as a leader in sustainable production of nutrients from both insects and marine sources for the pre-industry in addition to being able to supply the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry. The company wants to accelerate growth through rapid organic growth in addition to strategic acquisitions, nationally and internationally”.

Ecoprot was established in January 2019 by Romar together with Rune Johnsen. The company produces insect larvae in Meløy municipality. Ecoprot currently conducts commercial sales of animal feed. The product categories are whole dried larvae, protein powder, oil, chitin and organic fertilizers. Total expected production in 2021 is 80 tonnes. This is expected to increase more than tenfold with the construction of a new pilot in 2022 and on to approximately 30,000 tonnes in a new factory in Meløy by 2023/2024.