Protein producer Protenga makes use of funds for Sensible Insect Farm

Protein producer Protenga uses funds for Smart Insect Farm

Singapore-based Protenga, a biotechnology company specializing in insect cultivation for pet and animal feed, recently announced that it has secured investments from three other sources – Yield Lab Asia-Pacific, SEEDS Capital – in its latest funding round and JBI Innovations. No amount was disclosed for the round, but the investments will fuel the company’s second-generation Smart Insect Farm and expand its partnerships with the palm industry in Malaysia and Indonesia for their organic waste.

Protenga expects to launch the next phase of its Smart Insect Farm in 2023. The Smart Insect Farm aims to recover nutrients from organic waste as insect food to convert into protein for use in pet and animal feed. The company, which thinks about sustainability, uses larvae of the black soldier fly (BSFL) as insect protein; It is not a pest or vector, has a versatile diet, and is nutritious as a food source for pets and livestock, according to Protenga.

Insect protein producer on the way from niche to mainstream

“Black soldier fly is inherently tasty when properly processed,” said Leo Wein, Founder and CEO of Protenga. “So you can have the most nutritious and healthy protein, but if it doesn’t add to the palatability of the product, it doesn’t help much. BSFL has a very balanced nutritional profile, amino acid profile, fatty acid profile.”

He said that in the growing insect protein market, Protenga hopes to move from a niche product to a mainstream one. “We want to accelerate that with our production,” added Wein. “The establishment of the BSFL protein ingredient as a mainstay, as part of the main flavor; not at the level of crocodile meat, but at the level of poultry and lamb.”

The company previously created a demo pet food brand called YumGrubs to showcase the products and their properties, but has currently decided to refrain from launching its own brand.

“Over the last year we made the business decision to focus on our manufacturer and supplier position, rather than investing in branding and going to the end customer ourselves,” Wien said. “That’s why we are supplying distributors looking to launch an insect-based product and our focus is on soft trials in Malaysia and Singapore in 2023 to onboard OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) customers.”

Wein desires a product development approach where products are ready to sell in a single, streamlined experience and to retailers with their own brands looking for products in the insect or hypoallergenic and sensitive diet space.

“We are currently in the process of onboarding customers from different regions in Europe, North America, Australia/New Zealand and Japan.” Wein explains. “We’re seeing a lot of interest in insect-based pet food here in Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Thailand).”

The right size for an automated insect farm

The company currently operates a 25,000 square meter facility. It is in the process of building a second farming facility that will yield a kibble equivalent of around 10-12 bins per month. “We will be there by the end of 2023,” said Wein.

“That’s a sweet spot sizing that we’ve identified, where automation is justified by size, but at the same time the investment in setup is manageable and innovation is accessible,” added Wein.

The new facility brings together a production system and a developed value chain that focuses on the intelligent insect farm, enabling clean, consistent and traceable production. It comes with a proprietary software system that ensures traceability down to the individual harvest batch.

“We’re basically setting up farms,” ​​Wein said. “In 2023, our next farm will be built with a partner that we will jointly own and operate and we will take all the produce from our farm into manufacturing and that will go into pet food products.”

Wein said the company wanted to replicate its production process not only across Malaysia but throughout the equatorial and sub-equatorial belts where it made the most sense. “We are working to build the foundation of the organization, technically, financially, product and customer wise, to be able to take these growth steps and establish a regional presence,” said Wein. “It’s one step at a time.”

Sipra is a researcher and author. He writes and reviews climate, environmental, business and management articles for academic and industry publications such as GreenBiz.