Growth spurt planned for N.S. company that farms insects for animal protein

·2 min read
Growth spurt planned for N.S. company that farms insects for animal protein

A Nova Scotia scientist who produces protein from insects is hoping to dramatically expand his company's operations by 2024 with the opening of a new facility.

Greg Wanger, the CEO and founder of Oberland Agriscience in Halifax, said he hopes the expansion will allow his company to produce high-quality protein with a low environmental impact.

Wanger recently gave CBC Radio Information Morning Halifax host Portia Clark a tour of the Ragged Lake operation.

According to Wanger, soldier fly larvae raised at the facility and fed organic waste are used as an ingredient to make animal feed rather than for direct human consumption.

The company is already working with poultry farmers and pet food companies, he said, and ultimately hopes to work with aquaculture operations.

He said that bait fish sardines are currently being caught and ground up to feed salmon, but that has a powerful environmental impact on the oceans.

"In nature, salmon would be eating insects for a lot of their lifestyle," Wanger said. "Their metabolism is geared toward eating these bugs so we're working with several fish farms to provide them with a really nutritious feed for their salmon."

Oberland Agriscience submitted
Oberland Agriscience submitted

In the "fly room," Wanger said the pupae metamorphose into adult flies and are then moved into a containment area where up to 60,000 flies live in a 1.5 metre space.

There, he said, they are encouraged to mate using a series of lights and they then lay their eggs in a block with crevices called an egg block.

Wanger said when the eggs hatch the larvae are less than a millimetre long, but grow to 8,000 times that size in 10 days.

In the "farm room," Wanger said the larvae are are placed in bins that can then be stacked 10 to 20 high in what he referred to as vertical farming.

Oberland Agriscience submitted
Oberland Agriscience submitted

The current facility has a capacity of 150 bins, he said, but a 10,000 square metre facility being built next door would have a capacity of 9,000 bins, Wanger said.

Wanger said this means a small space would be producing the equivalent of about 2,300 hectares of corn.

He said when the new facility is completed by the end of 2023 or 2024, it will be creating the lowest carbon footprint of any protein producer, anywhere.

"We will be going 100 per cent renewable," he said.

"We'll have a very large solar array on our roof, which will provide about 50 per cent of our power. And then the rest, we are working at a contract to bring in local wind power."

The fully grown larvae are dried and ground into a powder which looks like coffee grounds and contains 55 per cent protein by weight, Wanger said.

Wanger said the powder is then blended to make dog food, chicken feed or salmon pellets.

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