Protifarm is a Dutch agri-tech company that farms and processes insects into functional and sustainable ingredients under the brand AdalbaPro for the food industry. CEO Tom Mohrmann told Foodvalley Update about the company’s vision – and why the barrier to mainstream insect consumption is smaller than many people think.

Is the world ready for Protifarm’s ingredients?

Everybody is talking about two billion people eating insects, but we believe in breeding insects and processing them into functional ingredients for the food industry. The industry doesn’t want to buy whole insects, but protein powders and lipids they can use in their products.

I don’t believe people are ready to adopt edible insects quickly. You have to provide them with ingredients so they can produce and buy products they recognise as part of their regular diet. That’s why we transform insects into something the food industry can use.

Tom Mohrmann | CEO Protifarm

What are the main applications?

We can enrich meat or plant-based alternatives with higher quality proteins, but for us the core focus is Insect Protein Concentrate, a soluble high concentrate protein powder perfect for performance nutrition, like protein drinks and bars. We foresee that our other core ingredient, textured insect protein, will find its way into the meat industry for enriching and fortifying meat, making meat products more sustainable. It could also play a role in vegetarian foods, or even in 100% insect-based meat alternatives.

Umm…vegetarian?

You have to look at the drivers behind the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle. Sometimes it’s about animal welfare, but mostly the drivers are health, clean label and sustainability. As people eat more vegetarian foods for these reasons, it is a very small step to move to even more sustainable insect proteins.

How are you approaching the challenge of consumer acceptance?

People are willing to switch to sustainable solutions, but don’t bother them with whole  insects. We don’t ask people to eat whole chickens or pigs either. They have already switched to plant-based proteins for sustainability and health reasons. Serve them high quality products that are part of their regular diet – tasty products they recognise. Families in The Netherlands often eat pasta with a red sauce once a week, with or without meat. For kids, it doesn’t matter if it’s beef, pork, soy or mycoprotein. It’s not a big leap to insects.

Replace the existing meat with minced meat made from textured insect protein and transform your bolognese sauce with a sustainable alternative. We believe if you start processing ingredients made from insects in a different way, it’s much easier to bridge that assumed fear.

Where does this fit in with other protein options?

The best quality proteins come from animal sources but most are not very sustainable. Plant-based is a fast-growing solution, but some people get a bit bored of that and lack quality proteins. With insects we bridge these two worlds, high quality and sustainable proteins.

The main functional hurdles with plant-based proteins are structure, binding, flavour and fat – and with our textured insect protein we have a solution for that. We have more moisture and natural fat in the product, it has a natural, neutral taste and it colours like meat. Our ingredients fit perfectly in both worlds, animal and plant-based proteins. After that, there’s a lot of interest about the benefits insects could bring to human health.

How do you plan to expand?

We are setting up a network of partners, including distribution partners in the ingredient world, and flavour houses. The ingredient houses work a lot on application development,
so that helps expand our business because those companies have very broad scope and leverage in the food industry.

Throughout the food chain we try to bring key stakeholders together. Ingredient houses, food producers, creative chefs, brands, retail and foodservice. They all play an important role in bringing high quality products to market and telling the right story.

There is huge interest in ingredients made from insects, only development needs to be pushed and facilitated. Basically we are farmers who process the insects we farm into ingredients, but what we can do is bring people together.

Protifarm will join Foodvalley for its New Frontiers in Food tour to the USA in March. What are your expectations of the tour?

It’s about further building on our innovative AdalbaPro ingredients and exploring what more we can learn from the industry about using our ingredients. We aim to build our network in application development and find new partners that would like to expand their business with our AdalbaPro ingredients.

Meet Protifarm during the Future-Food Tech in San Francisco 21-22 March

More information please contact: jeroen.wouters@foodvalley.nl. Foodvalley NL is a partner of the New Frontiers in Food project.

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