Investors give South African insect feed firm massive dollar injection

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South African insect derived feed producer, AgriProtein, has generated USD$17.5m in capital to fund expansion into Europe, North and South America and Asia.

This funding round, which included investors such as Australia’s Twynam Group, places the value of the company at over USD$117m and makes it a leading insect feed player globally, said the firm.

Jason Drew, the founder and director of AgriProtein, told FeedNavigator: “Total investment after this round is now approaching USD$30m.” 

The company produces and licenses MagMeal, a high-protein feed made from dried, milled and defatted larvae produced by Black Soldier Flies (Hermetia illucens) that is fed on existing organic waste derived from municipal and other industrial waste partners. 

AgriProtein was founded in 2008. Its insect derived protein product was developed, trialed and proven ‘in the lab’ between 2008 and 2010, but the company said it then had to demonstrate it could manufacture at volume.  The breakthrough, it said, came in 2011, with output at its demonstration plant achieving 100kg per day. “With price per ton key determinant in the fight against fishmeal, the next challenge was to further increase scale while reducing costs to make the product commercially competitive,” said the firm. This, it said, was achieved in 2015 in its first factory in Cape Town. 

It said it can now recycle 250 tons of waste per day, with its rate of larvae production currently at 50 tons per day.

The company has allocated several international licenses on its technology to parties in Australia, Asia, Europe, the US and China.  

MagMeal is in great demand - we have also been exporting - very short term - to our licensees to help them establish their local markets before they build factories,” said Drew.

Under the licensing model the company, he said, selects partners in specific locations that are on its strategic roadmap. “We work with them to develop local waste streams, end users and [to secure] the planning approvals. We have more demand than we can deliver factories at the moment, but we will be building scale shortly.” 

Fish, chicken and pets ..

In terms of target livestock segments, he said AgriProtein is currently focusing on the aquaculture, chicken and pet food markets. “And our licensees are following suit,” he added.

Drew said the company remains optimistic that the EU regulatory barriers will be eased in stages: “I suspect that the timing is more likely to be 2018 [than 2017] and [we will] follow certain US states and Canada [as they pass] enabling legislation.”

The insect producer received two research grants from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in 2011 and 2012, and has been shortlisted as a contestant in the Fish Free Feed Challenge (F3) Awards 2017.

It has collaborated on research with South Africa’s Stellenbosch and Rhodes universities, as well as the University of Swaziland, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of Alicante in Spain.

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