With the use of insect-derived protein about to be re-authorised in the EU for aquaculture feeds, a new UK business says it is ready to gear up to meet the expected demand.

Multibox is a start-up business based at the Royal Agricultural University’s Farm491 agricultural innovation hub at Cirencester. It intends to produce an insect meal made from Black Soldier Fly larvae that are fed on vegetable food waste. The feed material would be 55% protein and 30% oil.

The use of insect meals in feed was banned by the EU in 1998 along with all animal proteins as a BSE control measure, but a relaxation means the material will be allowed in aquaculture feed from July 1st 2017.

Multibox points out that fish accounts for 17% of global human protein consumption, with aquaculture now providing 74 million tonnes of the 167m tonnes of fish protein consumed globally each year.  But another 15.8m tonnes of wild capture fish is used to make fishmeal and fish oil, much of which goes to farmed fish. With aquaculture growing at 3.5% annually, and natural fish stocks stable or declining, this practice will become less sustainable.

At the same time, the UK wastes around 25% of its food between farm and plate, estimated at 10 million tonnes in 2014. So replacing a valuable natural resource with a former waste product is key to the circular economy vision and sustainable future.

Multibox plans to build commercial scale insect farms to make the protein, and envisages bringing three products to market in the next 18 months. These are an insect meal which can be used to substitute fishmeal in aquafeeds; an insect oil to be used in aquaculture, pig and poultry feeds; and a biofertiliser material from the insect-worked food waste.

 “The EU’s decision to alter the processed animal products legislation has opened the door for companies like us to work with the waste producers and the animal feed manufacturers to deliver a sustainable high quality fish feed whilst ensuring we leave the planet in a better condition for future generations,” states Multibox managing director Paul Wright.

 Director of farming and value creation James Wright adds: “Farming Black Soldier Flies is a like-for-like replacement for fishmeal and can be produced on waste. The issue has always been whether we can upscale the insect farming process to produce enough insects to meet industry demand – Multibox is sure it can.”