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New facility in Decatur makes animal feed ingredients from insects

Black soldier fly larvae wriggle in a tray, where they are being raised to make meal and oil for animal feed, at Innovafeed's new North American Insect Innovation Center in Decatur, IL.

A new facility that raises fly larvae for animal feed has opened in Decatur.

Gov. JB Pritzker helped cut the ribbon Thursday for the North American Insect Innovation Center, built by the French biotech company Innovafeed SAS.

The 10,000-square-foot facility, with a staff of ten, is the company’s first in the Americas. And it is a precursor to a much larger growing and manufacturing plant, with 100 to 300 employees, that Innovafeed plans to build adjacent to the current facility over the next two years.

The Innovafeed facility is located next to Archer Daniels Midland’s Decatur corn works facility, which plays a key role in the plant’s production process. Corn byproducts from the ADM plant are providing food for larvae of the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) to make oil and protein powder marketed under the brand name Hilucia, and sold as an ingredient in food for dogs and other pets and livestock. Waste heat from ADM’s corn works will also be used at the Innovafeed facility.

“By using an agricultural byproduct to breed insects to turn into animal feed, we can feed the world of tomorrow,” said Pritzker. “And now, that revolutionary idea has crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and made a new home here in central Illinois.”

Maye Walraven, the Decatur facility’s general manager, said the products are currently cleared by U.S. regulators to be ingredients in food for adult dogs. She said they are working towards authorization to expand to other types of pet food.

“Oil and protein can be used for adult dogs,” said Walraven. “The cats should go through this year. And then, for different life stages like the puppies and stuff, it takes a bit longer, because there are more things they want to test.”

Walraven said the meal and oil is also cleared for use in feed for swine, chickens and farm-raised fish. 

But Innovafeed officials said there are no immediate plans to make food ingredients from fly larvae for human consumption. The company is working with European Union regulators to get its product cleared for human consumption in EU countries.

Innovafeed CEO and co-founder Clement Ray said customer demand is not high enough to justify marketing insect meal and oil for human consumption at this time.

“I believe it is for the long term, but that is not the curve of Innovafeed development at that stage,” Ray said.

Instead, Ray said he wants to concentrate on promoting insect-based meal and oil as a good high-protein alternative to similar products made from fish.

“For agriculture, pet food, and some subsegments of chicken farming, we believe that insect ingredients can very effectively replace or complement some products which have fishmeal,” said Ray. “We are speaking about markets of several tens of million tons globally. So that is not a niche market. That’s a very large-scale market. Even then, we will not replace soybean for instance for cattle, or soybean for poultry.”

Besides Innovafeed, another company has announced plans to manufacture insect food ingredients in the United States.  Insect ingredients supplier Protix announced it would work with Tyson Foods to develop a facility in the U.S. The site has not been announced.  

Meanwhile, other companies, including the Canadian firm Entomo Farms, has not shied away from marketing insect-derived foods for human consumption. Entomo Farms promotes powder made from crickets as “a natural nutrition powerhouse.”

Picture of Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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