Insects are great at converting waste into quality protein. Consuming insects as food (called entomophagy) is a common practice in many countries, including Mexico, Thailand and South Korea. This hasn’t yet caught on in North America, but adding insects to livestock feed is a more acceptable way to use insect protein. Black soldier flies are exceptional at breaking down organic waste produced by the agriculture and food industries, and the mature larvae are extremely protein-rich. 

To support research and development in this area, NRGene Canada is opening the North American Insect Center (NAIC), established in collaboration with the Swiss technology group Bühler, marking a significant milestone in the advancement of insect protein production in North America. 

Located at NRGene Canada’s facility in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the NAIC will serve as a hub for innovation, supporting the growth of the insect protein industry in North America. It will serve as a testing and demonstration facility for both companies’ customers, offering them the opportunity to evaluate the performance of chosen Black Soldier Fly (BSF) varieties on the by-product streams available to the customers. Additionally, the NAIC will offer workshops, training sessions, and seminars to educate the industry stakeholders on the benefits and best practices of insect protein production. 

NRGene’s extensive BSF variety collection, combined with advanced genomics and phenotyping capabilities, enables the development of tailored BSF strains with improved functionalities such as better feed conversion rate or higher protein content while considering customers’ specific by-product-based feed. This tailored approach ensures that the selected variety is of the highest quality and efficiency, meeting the diverse needs of the industry. To test the industrial performance of the new strains, Bühler has installed its advanced Trial Rearing Unit (TRU), a climate-controlled larvae growth chamber capable of simulating industrial conditions. The TRU is used for optimizing the growth and development of BSF larvae to obtain a validated mass balance for industrial performance. This validation is a crucial step in assessing the profitability of an insect protein production facility. 

Preliminary trials conducted at the NAIC with the TRU have yielded promising results, demonstrating the potential NRGene’s BSF larvae paired with Bühler’s advanced rearing technology. 

“The performance of NRGene’s BSF larvae in these trials highlights the potential of the collaboration between NRGene and Bühler. This demonstrates the potential of combining advanced technology with genetic innovation, paving the way for impactful advancements in the insect industry,” said Dr. Gil Ronen, CEO and Co-Founder of NRGene. 

Andreas Baumann, Head of Market Segment Insect Technology at Bühler, adds: “The center will serve as a meeting place for our clients, particularly those from North America, to collaboratively optimize insect plant operation. Together, we can fine-tune both biological and technological aspects, to maximize the value of our clients’ projects.” 

Saskatchewan produces tens of millions of tons of byproducts from grain processing plants each year. NRGene Canada is in advanced talks with local food producers to evaluate the suitability of their waste for growing BSF. This initiative not only provides a sustainable solution for waste management but also establishes a new value chain in the local circular economy. 

Dr. Masood Rizvi, General Manager of NRGene Canada, emphasized the significance of the NAIC, stating, “The establishment of the NAIC in Saskatchewan is a testament to our commitment to driving innovation in the insect protein industry. This facility will position Saskatchewan as a global center for insect protein production. By leveraging our advanced research capabilities, we aim to support local and regional economies while setting a new standard for sustainable protein production.” 

The official opening of the NAIC is scheduled for July 30th, 2024 at NRGene Canada’s facility at Innovation Place in Saskatoon. Attendees will have the opportunity to tour the facility, see a live demonstration, and engage with experts from both Bühler and NRGene Canada. 

Thank you to NRGene Canada for submitting the article and photos.

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