Nova Scotia

Growth spurt planned for N.S. company that farms insects for animal protein

A Halifax based life science company farming fly larvae says it plans to open a new 10,000 square metre facility by 2024 .

Oberland Agriscience aims to produce protein with the lowest carbon footprint anywhere

Greg Wanger, the founder and CEO of Oberland Agriscience, examines ground up larvae. (Oberland Agriscience submitted)

A Nova Scotia scientist who produces protein from insects is hoping to dramatically expand his company's operations by 2024 with the opening of a new facility.

Greg Wanger, the CEO and founder of Oberland Agriscience in Halifax, said he hopes the expansion will allow his company to produce high-quality protein with a low environmental impact.

Wanger recently gave CBC Radio Information Morning Halifax host Portia Clark a tour of the Ragged Lake operation. 

Portia tours a facility in Ragged Lake just outside Halifax that makes protein for animal food using fly larvae. The founder and CEO of Oberland Agriscience, Greg Wanger, says the company is hoping to complete a new 10,000 square metre facility run entirely on renewables by 2024.

According to Wanger, soldier fly larvae raised at the facility and fed organic waste are used as an ingredient to make animal feed rather than for direct human consumption.

The company is already working with poultry farmers and pet food companies, he said, and ultimately hopes to work with aquaculture operations.

He said that bait fish sardines are currently being caught and ground up to feed salmon, but that has a powerful environmental impact on the oceans.

"In nature, salmon would be eating insects for a lot of their lifestyle," Wanger said. "Their metabolism is geared toward eating these bugs so we're working with several fish farms to provide them with a really nutritious feed for their salmon."

Soldier fly larvae can grow to 8,000 times their size in 10 days. (Oberland Agriscience submitted)

In the "fly room," Wanger said the pupae metamorphose into adult flies and are then moved into a containment area where up to 60,000 flies live in a 1.5 metre space.

There, he said, they are encouraged to mate using a series of lights and they then lay their eggs in a block with crevices called an egg block. 

Wanger said when the eggs hatch the larvae are less than a millimetre long, but grow to 8,000 times that size in 10 days. 

In the "farm room," Wanger said the larvae are are placed in bins that can then be stacked 10 to 20 high in what he referred to as vertical farming.

When they are fully grown, the larvae are dried and ground up into a powder. (Oberland Agriscience submitted)

The current facility has a capacity of 150 bins, he said, but a 10,000 square metre facility being built next door would have a capacity of 9,000 bins, Wanger said.

Wanger said this means a small space would be producing the equivalent of about 2,300 hectares of corn.

He said when the new facility is completed by the end of 2023 or 2024, it will be creating the lowest carbon footprint of any protein producer, anywhere.

"We will be going 100 per cent renewable," he said.

"We'll have a very large solar array on our roof, which will provide about 50 per cent of our power. And then the rest, we are working at a contract to bring in local wind power."

Protein from insect larvae

2 months ago
Duration 0:28
While getting a tour of the Oberland Agriscience Inc. larvae producing facility in Halifax. Information Morning host Portia Clark was invited to plunge her hands into a bin of the fully grown critters.

The fully grown larvae are dried and ground into a powder which looks like coffee grounds and contains 55 per cent protein by weight, Wanger said.

Wanger said the powder is then blended to make dog food, chicken feed or salmon pellets. 

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With files from Information Morning Halifax

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