By: Tebogo Mokwena
A Western Cape-based biotechnology company, which manufactures animal feed using insects, is looking to work with a few small-scale poultry farmers to experiment with incorporating insect-based feed with chickens’ diets to supplement their protein intake. While Maltento admits that insect-based feed may be more expensive than soy-based feed, it says it will ensure that the chickens grow faster, which means that farmers will save on the cost of feed, energy and labour in the long run.
Maltento, which is based in Epping in Cape Town, farms black soldier fly (BSF) larvae on a large scale. It produces insect-feed used largely in the United States and Europe for pet chickens, pigs and aquaculture. It says that by supplementing chicken feed with insect-based feed, chickens can be harvested between three to four days faster. This was informed by screening trials done on 200 Cob 500-day-old chicks, according to Maltento Commercial Director and Co-founder Dominic Malan.
They observed that over the first 10 days, the chicks that fed on the 5% inclusion of BSF meal grew quicker than others, and this was driven by the palatability of the feed. Also, Malan said the fatty acid profile of the insect-based feed helped relax the chicks, making it easier for them to grow and thrive. He said that this source of protein could be used in conjunction with chicken feed through “micro-inclusion”, which was the introduction of insect-feed on a small scale.
Malan said this method would introduce a more sustainable feed solution to small-scale poultry farmers. “What we observed is that feeding broiler chickens with 5% of the feed will get the chicken to harvest 3 to 4 days earlier,” Malan said. “In this regard, we are fundamentally substituting soy, and through the manufacture of the feed we will be able to create new job opportunities, employ more people and teach them skills.” He said that the company wanted to partner with poultry farmers specifically in the same region as them on a trial basis to see if incorporating the insect-based feed would work for poultry farming.
“Ideally we would be happy to work with just one farmer, but we can do up to 10 trials to see if it will work,” he said. Malan also told Vutivi News that the $3.3 million they recently secured through venture capital firm Sand River Venture Capital would be used to build a team of experts, who would include scientists and engineers, as well as spending on specific equipment and working capital to scale their operations.