Bangkok-headquartered Thai Union Group PCL, one of the world’s largest producers of value-added frozen and canned seafood, and Flying Spark Ltd., a food technology startup company based in Ashdod, Israel, are leveraging their expertise and capabilities in the alternative protein business to further develop insect growing and processing capabilities in Thailand and concentrate efforts on cost reduction and process improvements.
Thai Union recently announced the foundation of a venture fund with an initial commitment of US $30 million to channel to innovative companies that are developing breakthrough technologies in food technology, and Flying Spark is the first recipient of such an investment. The fund is focusing on three strategic areas: alternative protein, functional nutrition and value chain technology.
“We are excited to collaborate with this leading multinational seafood company,” said Eran Gronich, chief executive officer and founder of Flying Spark. “Both companies see eye-to-eye on the need for future alternative products to offer high-value protein while minimizing the ecological footprint. This marks a significant step forward in bringing insect protein into the food industry mainstream.”
Flying Spark uses larvae from Ceratitis Capitata (AKA Mediterranean Fruit Fly), which feed on fresh fruits. The larvae have a lifespan of only seven days yet multiply their body mass 250 times during that period. The company’s technology enables easy and low cost cultivation and processing, with nearly zero waste, as all parts of the larvae are utilized. This reportedly gives it an edge over conventional protein sources – not only those from meat and plants, but also over other insects, such as crickets and grasshoppers.
“Over the last years, Thai Union has made significant investments to become a leader in seafood innovation and sustainability,” said CEO Thiraphong Chansiri. “As we move into the coming decade, we will increasingly cooperate with innovative startups in strategically interesting areas. This will complement our own activities as we are broadening our business beyond our traditional core.”
About the Process
After boiling and grinding the larvae, protein is separated from the fat, then dried and turned into a powder. Flying Spark is producing 70% protein powder that is rich in iron, calcium, magnesium and dietary fibers, and is a good source of amino acids. Its white color and mild taste and aroma facilitate easy incorporation of the protein into a variety of food and feed products by further processors.
The protein production process is highly sustainable. Flying Sparks’ technology requires very little water and land, creates no methane emissions, and does not use hormones or antibiotics.
The startup company received its seed investment, and is supported by the Israeli FoodTech incubator “The Kitchen Hub,” a part of the Strauss Group Ltd., the second largest food producer in the country.