Netherlands-based insect meal producer Protix is stepping on the accelerator of operational and international growth following the private equity-backed funding it received last week from Rabo Corporate Investments.

And the company will have big announcements in the coming year, including new product derivatives, a new commercial director with experience with feed ingredients across the spectrum and locations for the new facilities.

At present, Protix is in the third phase of its evolution, marked by the inauguration of its Bergen Op Zoom production facility last summer, CEO Kees Aarts told IntraFish.

"This phase was really to show the world that the transition has happened for us as a company, for the industry and for the customers," Aarts said.

"It's still early as an industry and within that we are maturing quite fast as a company and with our production facility," Aarts said.

"That's a level of maturity we want to bank on and we want to further invest in our pool of talent and in the new operational management teams that will manage the new facilities and train them."

Aarts refused to disclose the size of Rabo's investment, apart from to say it was "very significant".

Global expansion

The company plans to invest deeply in the next couple of years and is engaging in discussions with potential partners and investors, with a lot of interest from the Asian market in particular, where it has decided to hire a team of strategists to develop a license and technology model.

The company also plans to grow further in its core markets of Europe and the Americas.

In 2017, Protix received €45 million ($50.4 million) in funding from a joint contribution between Aqua-Spark, Rabobank, BOM and various private investors.

However, there is no direct relation between that and the current investment from Rabo Corporate Investments.

"It's a private equity arm, which in general observes investments of its own merits," Aarts said. "It's not because we get lending from Rabobank, we get Rabo Corporate Investments."

Unique selling proposition

Feed companies such as Skretting, Nutreco and BioMar are already banking on the emergence of insects as an ingredient to stay in the aquaculture space, Aarts said.

But, what makes it all the more interesting from a production perspective is the productivity per cubic meter of asset.

For insects, the dry matter nutritional content is up to 30 percent compared to less than 10 percent for single-cell protein or algae.

The operational environment is also fast. Protix runs batches in the range of seven days, after which, it controls, cleans and harvests again.

"Whatever you build, you always measure it in terms of return on asset level, i.e what type of asset do you need to produce a certain nutritional output," Aarts said. "Insects, here, have a very strong criteria for success."