The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is to host the Middle East’s first fly farm, following the completion of a licensing deal between Saudi technology hub Sajt and waste-to-nutrient group AgriProtein.
The agreement signals the start of a new industry for the region, namely the commercial-scale production of insect-based animal feed.
Cape Town-based AgriProtein rears fly larvae on organic waste and harvests the larvae to make natural, high-protein animal feed products.
The company believes insect meal presents a more sustainable alternative to fishmeal, with the production process also diverting large volumes of organic waste from landfills to feed the larvae.
Sajt will use AgriProtein’s factory blueprint to build the first of three fly farms in Saudi Arabia, boosting the country’s food security. The country is currently entirely reliant on imported feed for its aquaculture and poultry industries.
Saudi Arabia’s agriculture sector is predicted to increase to $1.7-billion within the next four years.
Farmed fish volumes are expected to reach one-million tons a year and Saudi poultry production is set to increase 52% by 2018, driven by government plans to achieve self-sufficiency.
Also, with water conservation a key priority in the arid region, insect protein production has proven more water efficient than other protein production processes.
“We are delighted that Sajt shares our vision,” says AgriProtein cofounder and CEO Jason Drew.
“Fishmeal production is destroying the marine environment. Replacing it with insect meal leaves more fish in the sea for human consumption, allows the oceans to heal and reduces greenhouse gases at every stage of the supply chain, from point-of-catch to point-of-sale.”
Each AgriProtein fly farm has a population of 8.5-billion black soldier flies, able to convert 250 t of organic waste into protein each day, easily assimilated by fish and poultry, with a similar amino acid and protein profile to fishmeal.
Unlike houseflies, black soldier flies avoid human habitations and are not considered pests or vectors for disease.
AgriProtein is rapidly expanding globally, and the Saudi Arabia deal follows similar agreements in the US, South America and Africa, as well as one in Australasia with Twynam Group to build 20 factories.
In February, AgriProtein announced a partnership with Austrian engineering company Christof Industries, enabling it to roll out its fly farm blueprint on a turnkey basis anywhere in the world.