Tyson Foods has invested in insect-protein supplier Protix and plans to build a partnership US production facility primarily to serve the pet-food market.

The US-headquartered meat giant did not disclose the precise size of the minority stake it has taken in Protix, which is based in the Netherlands and produces ingredients based on insects, not only for pet-food applications but for animal and fish feed.

Tyson Foods and Protix have also entered a joint venture to establish and operate an insect-ingredients factory, which will be located in the “continental United States”, the Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm brands owner said in a statement.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Tyson Foods said: “The strategic investment will support the growth of the emerging insect-ingredient industry and expand the use of insect-ingredient solutions to create more efficient sustainable proteins and lipids for use in the global food system.”

Based in Dongen in the south of the Netherlands, Protix opened its local operation in 2019, processing 14,000 metric tons annually through liquid-to-liquid extraction (LLE). The company supplies global companies operating in pet food, aquaculture feed, livestock feed and organic fertiliser.

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John Tyson, Tyson Foods’ CFO, said: “Our partnership with Protix represents the latest strategic investment by Tyson Foods in ground-breaking solutions that drive added value to Tyson Foods’ business.

“The insect lifecycle provides the opportunity for full circularity within our value chain, strengthening our commitment to building a more sustainable food system for the future.”

Tyson Foods added its investment will help fund Protix’s global expansion and the scaling of insect-based ingredients.

The human meat major added with respect to the planned factory: “Upon completion, it will be the first at-scale facility of its kind to upcycle food manufacturing by-products into high-quality insect proteins and lipids, which will primarily be used in the pet food, aquaculture and livestock industries.”

It will centre on all aspects of production, from breeding and incubating to the hatching of insect larvae.

A spokesperson for Tyson Foods told Just Food the two companies are currently working to “identify” the location of the joint-venture plant and initial expectations are that it will become operational in 2025.

In terms of the potential in the human foods’ insect-protein segment, the spokesperson said: “Human food compositions exist, and Protix is leading the development of high-quality proteins from animal and fish feeds to consumer-level products.

“While consumer adoption is very low and human-food applications are not the focus of this joint venture, opportunities exist in the long term to create more sustainable protein products.”

Kees Aarts, the CEO of Protix, added: “We are very excited to announce the next step in our international growth strategy. Tyson Foods’ and Protix’s strategic partnership advances our joint work towards creating high-quality, more sustainable protein using innovative technology and solutions.

“This agreement is a major milestone for Protix and significantly accelerates our ambition to grow through international partnerships.”