Move over vegetable burgers, Insect-based pet food is the new focus in reducing the use of animal protein to feed the world, whether you have two or four legs.
Sydney entrepreneur Shaun Eislers was previously a banker before launching his startup BuggyBix, a combination of climate and agricultural technology, using insects — black soldier fly lavae — as the primary protein in pet food.
“As I sat at the local dog park with my wife, it occurred to me that the burgeoning pet market and the trend to feed pets human-grade meat proteins exacerbated the pressure on our food system,” he said.
“By digging a little deeper, I learned about the beneficial nutritional qualities and beneficial environmental proposition that edible insects could provide. They are a great source of protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, making them excellent for pet food.”
Black soldier flies are found worldwide and are increasingly used in animal feed and waste recycling. Last year, Melbourne startup Bardee raised $5 million in seed funding to convert food waste into insect protein and fertilizer.
They are harmless to humans and are not considered pests or pathogens and are a high protein food source.
When Eislers founded BuggyBix five years ago, he commissioned independent market research to see how the idea would catch on with pet owners, and in recent years he’s noticed a shift in favor of his idea. He also engaged experts from Western Sydney University (WSU) to analyze various food substrates and their impact on the nutritional profile of the black soldier fly and mealworms to shape the design of the BuggyBix dry food lines for dogs and cats.
“We were fortunate that the WSU Food Science department is one of the best equipped labs in Australia,” she said.
“Black soldier fly larvae have a beneficial nutritional profile and they are hypoallergenic, meaning they are great for pets who may be allergic to traditional proteins such as beef, pork or lamb.”
Eislers also focused on environmental benefits.
“For example, depending on production techniques, per kilogram of protein, black soldier fly larvae need only four square meters of land, compared to about 50 square meters for poultry,” he said.
“They also produce less greenhouse gases and use about one-sixth of the water.”
His next step was to tackle supply in a burgeoning industry. BuggyBix is also in a race with Swedish food tech startup Petgood, which aims to launch its insect-based pet food range in Australia by the end of this year, in partnership with a WA-based supplier.
“The industry is only now reaching a point where a stable supply at a raw material price becomes available,” Eislers said.
And now he is working with AgriFutures growAG to help him find investors, wholesalers and distributors for BuggyBix
“In the near term, we are targeting domestic distribution opportunities with the major pet food retailers and online channels,” he said
“We are also exploring opportunities to expand the distribution of BuggyBix products into Southeast Asian markets. The growAG team continues to provide invaluable support and ensure our work is showcased and shared with a curated audience.”