Protenga exec talks insect-based protein following funding enhance

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Protenga exec talks insect-based protein following funding enhance

09 Jan 2023 — Following a successful funding round, Singapore-based start-up Protenga has secured additional investments in its insect protein technology platform from Yield Lab Asia Pacific, Seeds Capital and JBI Innovations. The CEO and founder of Protenga, Leo Wein, has a say FoodIngredientsFirst on the investments and potential of insect protein as animal feed, pet food, fertilizer and possibly beyond into the food sector.

“Over the last year, we have built up comprehensive know-how on the techno-functional aspects of insect-based pet food formulation and production,” says Wein.

“We want to position ourselves as the preferred supplier and knowledge partner of choice for key insect-based pet food brands, as well as for retailers and private labels looking to launch new, hypoallergenic and sustainable product lines.”

Wine hints at expansion beyond Protenga’s entry into pet food.

“We have developed expertise to convert our farmed insects into clean protein and pet food applications and formulations,” he outlines.

“The pet food sector has become the link between human consumption and animal feed, so that takes us in that direction. We have something up our sleeve that we might be able to talk about as early as 2024.”

Leo Wein, Founder and CEO of Protenga, is excited about the future of insect farming.Turn waste into feed
Protenga’s circular ecosystem platform uses food waste as feed for insects, which is converted into proteins, oil and waste products. These in turn are used in feed and fertilizers for agriculture, aquaculture and pet food.

Being neither a pest nor a vector, but rather nutrient rich and balanced, Protenga’s proprietary insect protein focuses on the black soldier fly, which it uses in pet food applications such as YumGrubs in its wet dog food portfolio.

Protenga’s Smart Insect Farm technology implements the bioconversion process. These modular farms recover nutrients from organic waste and use custom AI and IOT-enabled processes to enable a continuous bioconversion environment.

Wine explains the two most common insect processing routes in industry.

“Both involve separating the insect larvae from the frass, cleaning the insects, a killing step, then drying and sterilizing the insect material, followed by mechanical oil extraction and finally grinding it into a powder before the product is packaged,” he explains.

“In one variant of the process, oil is extracted before drying. In another variant after drying. No chemicals are used, resulting in a natural and pure insect protein meal.”

Additionally, The Yield Lab’s investment will open the door for Protenga to expand its influence in the Asian market, notes Wein.

“The Yield Lab has a fantastic reputation and presence in Asia Pacific and Global, and the expertise to support it. We are strongly aligned with their mission to sustainably revolutionize agri-food systems thanks to our scalable renewable food production platform,” says Wein.

Based on the achievement of several milestones in 2022, Protenga aims to expand and further develop its technology platforms.

“Our most important development goal for 2023 is the successful deployment of our second generation Smart Insect Farm,” adds Wein.

Palm oil by-products can be recycled as part of the process.Palm Trash Integration
In particular, Protenga uses by-products from the palm industry as supplementary feed for insects. Wine explains how.

“In the palm oil milling process, solid fractions are separated from the oils, which can be dry or wet. With our Smart Insect Farms, we can efficiently upcycle and upgrade wet and dry fractions,” he emphasizes.

“Upcycling through our technology maximizes the value of this by-product, both economically and to the food system, by producing high-quality proteins, oils and fertilizers, while generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions.”

For Claire Pribula, General Manager of The Yield Lab Asia Pacific, it was a big investment.

“Protenga’s vertical integration, technology and manufacturing platform, as well as its circular solution that utilizes palm waste to supplement the highly nutritious insect protein food source, provide a sustainable solution relevant to this Asia-Pacific region,” she outlines.

“The finished product will benefit the global pet food and aquaculture industries.”

Wine summarizes Protenga’s system of impact benefits.

“Smart Insect Farms allow for the circular and local utilization of available biomass, keeping a valuable source of soil fertility in the country (rather than being exported) and contributing to high-quality and high-value primary protein production from insects.”

“They also reduce the direct and secondary environmental impacts that palm oil by-products can have in their current use (or non-use),” he concludes.

In related news, the UK recently agreed to open the market to products containing insect protein as an interim measure after being swayed by insect protein advocates, Woven. The deal kept pace with another round of approvals from EU regulators to allow mealworms and crickets for human consumption.

In September 2022, Malaysia-based Nutrition Technologies, maker of animal feed ingredients and organic fertilizers, completed its equity venture round with a $20 million investment. Also, in a new study, scientists at West Virginia University determined the nutritional and functional properties of proteins in insect powders from cricket, grasshopper and silkworm pupae.

Means to combat unsustainable palm oil production continue to be introduced with various legacy palm products either in research or on the market, while conventional palm oil rolls are hit by new EU import restrictions.

By James Davis

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