Hipster flies help SA biotech company take flight – Dominic Malan Maltento

Maltento, a pioneering biotech company based in Cape Town, has successfully concluded a capital raise of £3.3 million (R63.78 million) from Sand River Venture Capital. The funding injection will enable Maltento to significantly scale up its business, which centers around farming black soldier flies for animal feed. Operating from their factory located in Epping, Cape Town, Maltento is currently shipping more than 15 tonnes of processed black soldier fly larvae to the United States every month. Dominic Malan, the Commercial Director and Co-founder of Maltento told BizNews that highlighting the gut health and hypoallergenic benefits of insect protein rather than focusing solely on the origin and the insects could shift the narrative and encourage the adoption of insect-based products among humans. – Linda van Tilburg

A novel source of hypoallergenic protein and an insect smoothie

At the moment we have three key lines of business. The first line is a whole dried larva. Typically, this line of business really targets wild birds and pet chickens. It’s effectively a nutraceutical treat. It improves their calcium uptake and is a ~50% protein product. The second product is a Full Fat Insect Meal,  is essentially the same product that we mill and that’s positioned as an insect protein. I guess the key differentiator on that product is it’s a hypoallergenic novel source of protein that contains antimicrobial peptides, known to improve gut health. This product is primarily going into pet food at the moment and in parts of aquaculture. But more importantly for us, and probably the most exciting product is a liquid format, insect smoothie. We use that product to coat dried dog food and fish food, and it’s there as a palatability enhancer. It creates an even more enjoyable feeding experience for your companion animal, your dog or your cat and from an aquaculture perspective, it stimulates and increases the feed response from fish.

A Vegan hipster non-pathogenic fly without a mouth

Our CEO,  Dean Smorenburg looked at a number of different insects and he came across the black soldier fly and what makes the black soldier fly such an impressive little fly, is two-fold. As an adult, it has no mouthparts and why that’s important is more from a phytosanitary perspective, from a hygiene perspective. So, it’s a non-pathogenic fly and poses no risk from a pathogen transfer perspective. But I guess more importantly, because it has no mouth, what makes the larvae really interesting is the fact that they are almost designed to eat for their lives. So, the little insect in larva form only lives for ten days. It hatches out as a tiny little neonate and for ten days it’s a larva and then it pupates, goes through metamorphosis and hatches out as a fly. This little larva can convert biomass into proteins and oils like no other organism.

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Solution for waste streams 

The inspiration of Maltento was to address a really critical issue globally, which is on the one hand that there are millions of people starving and on the other hand there are huge amounts of waste in the food production system.Dean looked at ways of taking these waste streams that ordinarily would go into either a landfill or compost heap, and looked at how can we upcycle these and convert them into products, proteins, functional proteins that actually add value to life and life being either the human, the pet, the fish or the planet or all three.

Changing the narrative on insect-based proteins to improve adoption by humans 

We’ve already done work with a partner, Dr. Leah Bessa. She formulated an ice cream called Gourmet Grubs using our insect protein and Leah won awards from a science and technology perspective globally. So, that’s just one application, I would say, left field, where humans didn’t actually know that they were eating insect protein. But, I think globally you will definitely start seeing a movement away from traditional proteins. Already cricket powder is a very well-known and adopted insect protein into energy bars, into protein bars. I know in Europe, mealworms are very high on the priority list. The industry markets and segments the proteins and they’ll reference the source animals, so they’ll say cricket or mealworms. Our perspective on this is, to position the benefit. 

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It’s a novel protein, it’s hypoallergenic, it improves gut health and can stimulate brain function. So, I think when the industry starts changing the narrative and starts focusing more on the benefits of the product and not the source origin, you’ll get better adoption by humans.  

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