Insects have the x-factor, poultry meal has potential for impact at scale; Opportunity study on circular proteins for aquafeed in Egypt.

Egypt can feed fish with local poultry waste or insect protein rather than imported soya or fishmeal. This could save foreign exchange, create local jobs, generate a return on investment and have a lower environmental footprint by saving water and agricultural land and avoiding deforestation and overfishing elsewhere. There are opportunities to exploit circular proteins for aquafeed, according to a study commissioned by the Netherlands.   

Egypt is the eighth largest aquaculture producer and number three in tilapia worldwide, making it the aquaculture leader in Africa. Fish contribute to healthy diets, by providing a protein source that Egyptian consumers are willing and able to pay for. To feed farmed fish, aquafeed companies, such as Dutch – Egyptian companies Skretting Egypt (part of Nutreco) and Koudijs Kapo (partner of Royal De Heus), produce between 1.5 and 2 tons of feed per year. As Egypt is a water scarce country, prioritizing its limited agricultural land to grow crops to feed its growing population or generate export earnings, most of the feed ingredients are imported. 

Circular Proteins News Article

Inspired by the vision on circular agriculture of Carola Schouten the outgoing Dutch minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the agricultural team of the Netherlands embassy in Cairo wondered what circular opportunities exist for fish feed in Egypt. Together with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, they contracted Hans Boon of Aquaculture Experience and chairman of the Dutch Aquaculture Experts with Egypt-based VD Agri to explore and validate such opportunities. Three of such opportunities were explored in depth: 
•    Brewery by-products
•    Insect protein 
•    Poultry by-products 

The consultants saw great opportunities in rendering poultry by-products as ingredients for feed. Good quality poultry meals have the potential to supply 16% of the required protein of all tilapia feed used in Egypt today. This would greatly reduce the imports of raw materials and reduce feed cost. To achieve this however, processors and regulators would have to invest in guaranteeing quality by improving hygiene, collection practices and processing methods. 

“Most of poultry consumption in Egypt is through live poultry vendors. The biggest opportunity in this industry is centralizing, when centralizing you can control what is exactly being put into processing, to improve traceability and quality.” -Ahmed Salem, Sharkia Poultry.

Insect protein production may be an opportunity for the not too distant future. Proteinea is an Egyptian start-up with plans to scale up production of black soldier fly larvae. This would produce insect proteins and oil from agricultural waste. The economic and environmental impact look promising, but a proof of concept is still lacking. From a regulatory perspective, steps will still have to be taken to allow the insect industry to develop.

Finally, internationally brewery by-products are used as aquafeed ingredients and Al Ahram Beverages (part of Heineken Group) has two waste streams (spent grains and yeast) which could be used for this purpose. However as the volumes are rather small the extra cost to process these products for fish feed provides little added value over direct use for cattle or poultry feed.

Circular Proteins event

The findings from this study were discussed during the second NL-Masr Agrifood Network hybrid event. With 25 professionals attending the event live and over 35 on-line, there was a vibrant discussion about the opportunities offered for circular fish feed. After a presentation of the report and a pitch by insect start-up Proteinea, a panel consisting of representatives of Feed Company Skretting Egypt, Sharkia Poultry and representatives of the Egyptian and Dutch governments shared their questions and views. Questions from the audience showed a clear fascination with insect farming, but also some apprehension with cultural acceptability. It was clear however that the direct opportunities for investable business cases and technical cooperation lay in rendering poultry waste. 

At the end, it could be concluded that from a circularity perspective there is no waste, rather resources that have yet to be valued.    

NL-Masr Agrifood Network will join with the Dutch Aquaculture Experts to continue the conversation on Circular Aquaculture during the Aquaculture Africa 2021 Conference and Trade Fair in Alexandria, Egypt between 11 and 14 December 2021. 
The opportunity study commissioned by the agriculture team of the Netherlands Embassy in Cairo together with the RVO, Netherlands Enterprise Agency can be accessed through this link: