Start-up cannot produce grasshopper feed for Salmon Group yet

Owen Evans, Stian Olsen

Start up will only be delivering meal from crickets.

In June, SalmonBusiness reported that Salmon Group had entered into an exclusive agreement for a supply deal with a start-up company called Metapod for the purchase of feed raw materials of grasshoppers.

The promising project with an eye on sustainability was widely reported. Metapod said that would be producing insect flour from grasshoppers and crickets to be used in feeds for the group, which represents the world’s largest cluster of family-owned salmon and trout farms in Norway.

In Metapod’s PR release, the main subject of the announcement was that there are “yet to be any salmon farming companies that have introduced insect flour from grasshoppers as an ingredient in feed”.

EU legislation
But currently insect derived processed animal proteins intended for aquaculture feed in the EU must come from the seven insect species listed in Regulation (EU) N° 2017/893.

What is permitted under rules are: 1) black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens), 2) housefly (Musca domestica), 3) mealworm or yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor), 4) lesser mealworm or litter beetle (Alphitobius diaperinus), 5) house cricket (Acheta domesticus), 6) tropical house cricket or banded cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus), and 7) Jamaican field cricket (Gryllus assimilis).

Crickets are permitted, grasshoppers are not.

These regulations are also applied in Norway.  Lise Rokkones, head of seafood at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority  told SalmonBusiness that in the classification of biology there is “an order called straight wings and under this there are two subordinates, one includes crickets, the other grasshoppers. However, this classification may vary, and it asks what one means by “grasshoppers”.”

She confirmed that species of crickets (Acheta domesticus, Gryllodes sigillatus and Gryllus Assimilis) that are approved for use in fish feed in Norway.

“It is not so important if grasshoppers can be used in fish feed, what is important is that there are some species that are approved and only these can be used than for so long (until more are approved),” added Rokkones.

“We are aware this can take some time”
On the 18th of June, SalmonBusiness asked the company the following: Are you allowed or not allowed under the current legislation to produce grasshoppers for salmon feed?

In response, Metapod biologist Åsta Dale said the following:

“Insects are very recently (2017) approved as fish feed by the EU, and new insect species will keep being added to the today’s (now) scarce list of approved organisms. However, we are aware this can take some time, and will therefore work with three different species; two crickets that are currently approved and one grasshopper expected to be approved soon.

“Research show great potential for up-scaling of all three species, and we will be ready to introduce the new species to our portfolio when approval is clarified from the authorities,” added Dale.

Metapod Founder and CEO Frederick Darien, who has an experienced team of biologists and engineers on board, wrote in the press release.

“Primarily, we start breeding of grasshoppers to accommodate a large and growing need for new sources of protein and more, and more nutritious, food to the world’s population. Large-scale grasshopper farming is new, and we have built our technology from scratch. Here we have control of all aspects and factors of the production and can thus ensure a safe and nutritious food source”.

“There are no companies in the industry of Norwegian salmon farming that have introduced insect flour from grasshoppers as an ingredient in the feed. It is very exciting that an innovative and forward-thinking grouping such as Salmon Group, which represents such a large share of the production volume in Norway, invests in this. For us, this means that we can start large-scale production from day one and develop the concept further,” he added.

Read more: “Giving new raw material producers this much marketing space will backfire in the long run”

9 and 15 months
SalmonBusiness asked Christophe Derrien from Ipiff, a EU non-profit organisation which promotes the use of insects for human consumption and insect derived products as a food source for animal feed, how long it would take to add a new species to the EU legislation.

“It all depends on the species you are referring to,” said Derrien. He referred to the 2015 European Food Safety Authority document “Insects as food and feed: what are the risks?”. The research investigated a number of species including number of crickets.

“If there was some interest from operators on the ground, if the nutritional benefits associated with those species could be demonstrated, then the EU Commission could well consider adding those species on that list,” explained Derrien.

But he added that the use of new species such as grasshoppers would have to have to go through a specific safety evaluation, a process which could take between 9 and 15 months.

A spokesperson for the European Commission told SalmonBusiness that the legislation “could be amended to add another species to the seven eligible ones, following an application of a stakeholder who has to submit a file demonstrating the safety of this new species. If the application is well substantiated, the legislative process takes about one year.”

Frederick Darien. PHOTO: Metapod

First feed raw material
In a previous article, SalmonBusiness wanted to know more about the insects’ food sources such as leftover bread as well as fruit and vegetables. SalmonBusiness asked Metapod CEO Frederick Darien the following: “When will you be able to deliver the first grasshoppers feed raw material, and what volumes are we talking about?”

“The first feed raw material will be delivered after the summer. We start at a low volume and then scale up gradually and knowledge-based. Initially, we aim to produce 10,000 tonnes, but hope to increase to 50-60,000 in the long term. The factory is under construction, and the first delivery to salmon group takes place over the summer,” said Darien.

Following this up, SalmonBusiness asked if the company has or has not started any specific safety evaluation to get grasshoppers approved as fish feed by the EU? If so, when did you start?

Metapod biologist Åsta Dale would not answer the specific question. Instead SalmonBusiness received the following statement.

“Our research has focused on the most nutritious and digestible insects for salmon and trout, and both grasshoppers and crickets are more protein rich than comparable organisms. Based on the research we will focus on grasshoppers because we believe this is where Metapod’s future lies.

“We are aware that approval can take time, so our first delivery will be meal from crickets. Salmon Group is fully aware of and has accepted meal from crickets. As crickets and grasshoppers share nutritional properties, cricket meal is a good reference for grasshopper meal,” added Dale.


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