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Image credit: Protix

Brief: Tyson bets on insect protein with strategic investment in Protix

October 18, 2023

  • Tyson Foods is making a two-fold investment in insect protein startup Protix to increase production for animal feed ingredients, aquaculture and pet food.
  • Through an undisclosed direct equity investment, Tyson will take a minority stake in Protix and fund further expansion of the latter’s insect protein business.
  • The two companies will also build and operate a facility in the US that will be the “first at-scale facility” of its kind to upcycle manufacturing byproduct into insect protein.
Image credit: Protix

Why it matters:

While soy remains the most commonly used ingredient in animal feed, its production is linked to rampant deforestation, particularly in South America, where soy farming has also displaced some smallholders and indigenous communities.

At the same time, consumers are demanding “cleaner” foods in every sense of the word — including products’ socio-environmental impacts.

Insects offer high-protein content for animal feed along with other nutrients and vitamins. And while the sustainability impact of insect production will vary from one scenario to the next, it’s generally agreed that the process is less environmentally intensive than industrial-level soy farming.

The Protix system, for example, is a circular one where Black Soldier Flies feed on byproduct from the food industry and are then processed into proteins and lipids for feed and pet food.

“The insect lifecycle provides the opportunity for full circularity within our value chain, strengthening our commitment to building a more sustainable food system for the future,” notes John R. Tyson, chief financial officer of Tyson Foods.

With Protix, Tyson will construct and operate a facility in the US that will house a system for making more of these proteins. All aspects of production, from breeding to incubating to hatching of larvae, will take place in the new facility.

The investment from Tyson will also enable Protix to expand internationally. The Netherlands-based company currently has products in more than 15 countries and says it produces roughly 14,000 metric tons of LLE (life larvae equivalent) annually at its facility in the Netherlands.

Tyson one in a string of major food companies to invest in and/or partner with startups that leverage insects to make proteins for animal feed and pet food. At the tail-end of 2021, UK-based Better Origin struck a deal with supermarket chain Morrisons to use its supply chain byproduct for insect production. ADM and France-based InnovaFeed partnered last year to collaborate on insect production.


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