AQUACULTURE: Canada opens the door for insect-based feed companies

Lisa Jackson

CFIA approves Oreka Solutions’ black soldier fly larvae as a protein ingredient in aquafeed

Although volume is a shared problem, two Canadian companies are hopeful about the future of black soldier fly larvae as an aquafeed ingredient and are focused on expansion. Shutterstock image.

You may want to swat ‘em or zap ‘em around your house, but when it comes to fish feed, protein-packed black soldier flies are pretty useful, and a potential sustainability superstar.

In May 2019, Oreka Solutions got the green light from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to sell its insect products as a protein ingredient in feed for salmonids, trout, tilapia and poultry. It’s the first company to get such CFIA approval in Ontario, and the second in Canada.

“We made our mandate to harness the power of insects,” said Jon Duschinsky, CEO and co-founder. “Our initial focus for the first five years has been the black soldier fly. We quickly learned that this particular insect had a huge amount to contribute to humanity and the planet.”

Founded in 2014, the “ag-tech” company based in Cambridge, Ontario creates feed ingredients from insects that have been shown to significantly reduce mortality and increase growth rates in livestock. Comprised of an international team of entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers, Oreka breeds and rears black soldier flies (BSF) using proprietary methods to maximize their essential nutrients and healthy fats. They then “capture this goodness” to make a natural feed product for fish and livestock.

“The kind of work that we’re doing, which is focused on really harnessing the power of the insect rather than just using it for its protein, has never been done before,” said Duschinsky, adding that the black soldier fly has a “huge slate of naturally occurring antimicrobial properties, which we are doing a pretty good job of harnessing and making available for livestock.”

Oreka began to scale up production in early 2017 and following successful trials in Canada and the United States it raised $1.8 million in funding from private and public sources to sell its feed ingredient products to the aquaculture and poultry markets. The company is working with a team of globally renowned scientists and researchers from across North America who have expressed hope that Oreka’s products could help boost feed efficiency and animal health.

“We have invested five years of R&D to develop what we believe are the only insect-based feed ingredients that can help farmers of all livestock improve the health of their animals,” said Duschinsky. “What’s been observed in the lab is that it helps support gut health of particularly young fish. Because 85 percent of the immune system lives in the gut, some of our customers have seen significant improvements in mortality and feed conversion ratio and increases in growth phase.”

“Insects are promising feedstuffs for animal feeds, as they contain not only valuable nutrients but also particular compounds that seem to be able to modulate animal microbiota and to optimize animal health,” said Dr. Grant Vandenberg, professor at L’Université Laval in Québec City, specializing in animal physiology and aquaculture. “Aside from the sustainability angle, there is a growing body of evidence that that addition of insects to fish diets increased immune response, reduced oxidative stress and improved survival.”

Cambridge, Ontario-based Oreka Solutions breeds and rears black soldier flies using proprietary methods to maximize their essential nutrients and healthy fats. Photo courtesy of Oreka Solutions.

Bigger picture

Using “bugs as feed” could help tackle a pressing problem faced by the aquaculture industry: the need to increase production – some say tripling current levels – in the next

READ IT ALL AT: Fly guys: Canada opens the door for insect-based feed companies « Global Aquaculture Advocate

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