Insect technology start-up Protenga raises US$1.6 million

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Malaysia-based Protenga, which farms black soldier fly insects to produce animal feed and fertiliser, has closed its latest round of seed investment, raising US$1.6 million with UK agtech company Roslin Technologies and the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore, SEEDS Capital.

Originating from a garage project in Germany, the start-up has become a global pioneer in farming the Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) to produce sustainable, low-carbon insect protein. Its flagship products (Hermet Protein, Hermet Oil, Hermet FertiFly Frass and the YumGrubs pet food line – pictured above) use a novel, scalable, insect-based bioconversion process that recaptures nutrients from organic side-streams via proprietary Smart Insect Farm systems.

The new investment will enable Protenga to ramp up production, conduct cutting-edge genetic research, and take its decentralised Smart Insect Farm model, which transforms agricultural and food waste into valuable products, to waste owners around Asia.

The environmental benefits of this approach are vast, according to the company, which points out the planet faces a 60-billion-tonne protein food shortage by 2030, while around one-third of all food is wasted. Currently, livestock, aquaculture and pets are fed mainly with unsustainable fishmeal and cash crops like corn and soy, it adds. However, insects offer a natural alternative that requires less land, water and food compared to other feed ingredients. Protenga claims its unique zero-waste approach also solves the problem of insect ‘frass’ (faeces) by transforming larvae excrement into high-quality bio-fertiliser.

High-quality bio-fertiliser from insect excrement

High-quality bio-fertiliser from insect excrement

In partnership with Roslin Technologies, a leader in animal genetics and agri-sciences, Protenga is embarking on research to identify genetic insect strains that will further improve bioconversion performance in its Smart Insect Farm systems. The work will be carried out at Roslin Technologies’ soon-to-be-completed bespoke genetic nucleus facility near Edinburgh, Scotland.

To support these activities, Protenga is currently recruiting for a number of biology, engineering, operations and R&D roles, as it approaches completion of its commercial pilot plant by Q3 of 2020.

Production and bioconversion opportunities using the Black Soldier Fly are enormous,” stated Leo Wein, CEO of Protenga. “Working with Roslin Technologies provides the perfect opportunity to expand Protenga’s capabilities and scale up across our key markets. We’re also delighted to receive support and funding from SEEDS Capital – together, we plan to drive transformational change in the global food supply chain.

Glen Illing, CEO, Roslin Technologies, added: “This investment is the start of our journey into the insect protein and nutrition market. Protenga has the right technologies, capabilities and culture to succeed in providing new sustainable production and waste bioconversion practices using Black Soldier Fly. We are also excited about applying enhanced breeding technologies to develop improved insect lines with Protenga from a new genetic nucleus facility currently being built near Edinburgh. Protenga is at the cutting edge of sustainable protein production and is the next important building block in our portfolio of agritech ventures.”

Protenga’s proprietary solutions in black soldier fly production and waste bioconversion enables the company to have a differentiated and scalable business model in the insect protein space, and addresses the growing gap in the demand and supply of animal feed,” concluded Geoffrey Yeo, general manager, Seeds Capital. “The investment in Protenga builds on our existing focus in agrifood technologies and further develops the alternative protein ecosystem in Singapore. We are delighted to be supporting Protenga as they continue to grow and expand their operations.

Black soldier fly

Black soldier fly

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