SWITZERLAND – Bühler is set to commission a new mealworm production facility in Netherlands, as the Swiss company continues to expand its portfolio in the insect industry.

The project, which Bühler initiated with a farmer producing yellow mealworm, will see the company design install and commission a complete mealworm production facility in a 2,300 square-meter facility.

Andreas Aepli, CEO Bühler Insect Technology Solutions said that once the first plant is completed, it will offer livestock farmers an alternative option for gaining a sustainable business with attractive margins.

“With this project we will set the bar on modularized mealworm production in an automated and hygienic way. Our technological solutions can be readily integrated into existing farms, but larger-scale facilities can also be realized,” Andreas said.

Amidst the increasing population that is exerting pressure on the available sources, Bühler is seeing growth in the insect industry as an alternative source protein.

In addition, livestock production, especially the pig industry, is under enormous pressure because the already tight margins continue to decline – particularly in Europe.

While retail prices for pork have remained broadly stable, farm gate prices for pigs have plunged to levels where many producers are struggling to break even.

Furthermore, production costs are on the rise, since grain prices have increased substantially, and feed makes up 75% of the cost to produce pig meat.

Producers now looking for alternative but more sustainable businesses, in which they can leverage their animal farming skills.

Buhler has hence developed a string of technologies and capabilities to offer total rearing and processing solutions for the insect industry. The first industrial black soldier fly plant was opened in June this year.

“Our proposition to the market is to support the industry through solutions that produce and process a range of insect species,” says Andreas.

Alternative proteins

Alternative proteins are in high demand and innovative sources such as algae, fungi, single-cell bacteria as well as insects are on the rise.

Insects offer one of the biggest potentials as they can be produced anywhere in the world and can be used almost directly as a high-quality source of nutrition and protein.

The yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) offers interesting market opportunities in predominantly food applications owed to their great nutritional value which includes proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibers.

The mealworms have hence already been used in various food products with very attractive marketing concepts.

While the mealworm market has shown significant growth in the last years, the global market size is predicted to even exceed its current growth rate, Buhler notes.

In addition, mealworm farming could offer a new and stable production and commercialization outlook for farmers.