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Have you heard the latest buzz out of Saskatoon?

An agricultural technology firm will be opening its North American Insect Centre in the Saskatchewan city this month, with a focus on creating livestock feed out of flies.  

NRGene Canada said that its new facility will be open on July 30 and will be developed in collaboration with Swiss technology group Bühler to conduct research and development of soldier fly strains, notably the black soldier flies, native to South America.

The company’s goal is to promote insect protein as a sustainable source for livestock feed.

The insects feed on decaying organic matter, making them a prominent choice for reducing composting and manure, and NRGene plans to use such agricultural byproducts to feed them.

NRGene uses data analysis and artificial intelligence to develop better genetics, creating flies with larger larvae and reduced hatch time.

Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison said the facility sent a good signal about the province’s business climate.

“This announcement is good news for Saskatchewan and it is a positive sign that the province’s investment climate remains strong, despite the current challenges due to the global COVID-19 pandemic,” said Harrison in a press release.

“NRGene will be a great fit for Saskatchewan’s agricultural sciences cluster, bringing good jobs and capacity that will enhance our innovative AgTech, and increasing productivity in the agri-food sector.”

Climate-controlled larvae growth chambers simulate industrial conditions while the company is still in preliminary trials, it says that the results have been promising.

The original cycle length, from egg to maturation, is 42 days. NRGene has reduced that to 37 days. It takes only 12 days to harvest the larvae.

“The performance of NRGene’s BSF larvae in these trials highlights the potential of the collaboration between NRGene and Bühler. This demonstrates the potential of combining advanced technology with genetic innovation, paving the way for impactful advancements in the insect industry,” said Dr. Gil Ronen, CEO and co-founder of NRGene. 

As far as regulations go, the technology and the industry is still quite new. 

Canada began making changes to its rules regarding insect-based animal feed over the past eight years, including approvals for pet food, and feed for poultry, hogs and fish. 

Similar facilities have opened across Canada, with Aspire Food Group opening the world’s largest edible cricket production facility in London, Ont. last year.  

That facility uses cricket flour to produce pet food and the company is interested in branching out into producing crickets for human consumption.

“Crickets are the insects with the most traction from a consumer standpoint and they’re also lower in fat than mealworms or black soldier fly larvae, so you don’t have to de-fat them and the powder has a 24-month stable shelf life,” explained cofounder Mohammed Ashour, while discussing plans to open a second facility. 

“On the human food side, the low hanging fruit is in Asia and parts of Europe, but for petfood we’re seeing excitement across the board.”