In the next 3-4 years, insects in Russia can account for a 5% share of protein used in pet food production, said Denis Ter-Akopov, general director of ONTO, a Moscow-based company producing zophobas, mealworm, black soldier fly, and dried cricket.
Currently, the Russian pet food market is undergoing a transformation, which involves a departure of foreign brands and a shortage of pure proteins, including Ento proteins, Ter-Akopov told to Russian publication Veterinary and Life. Sales on the Russian pet food market now reach 300 billion roubles ($4 billion) per year, but most of the demand for insects comes from the owners of the terrarium and exotic animals: aquarium fish, rodents, hedgehogs, birds, he added.
It is possible to reduce or increase the protein composition of the pet food, as well as fat, sodium, or calcium content, through introducing certain necessary nutrients into the insects’ diet.”
In a bid to expand the demand, ONTO has recently released a line of insect-based pet food for cats. “We produce cat food from meat ingredients and add protein-lipid concentrates from the black soldier fly. We are also testing a number of compositions involving mealworm and cricket,” Ter-Akopov said, adding that one of the key advantages of insect meal is that it allows fine-tuning the nutritional value of pet food.
“It is possible to reduce or increase the protein composition of the pet food, as well as fat, sodium, or calcium content, through introducing certain necessary nutrients into the insects’ diet. In this way, we can create specialised pet food for sterilised cats or pets that are losing their hair,” Ter-Akopov explained.
During the past year, Russian pet food owners complained about a lack of medicated, holistic and specialised pet food on the grocery shelves. In the wake of Western countries, some share of foreign suppliers suspended sales to Russia, leaving the market in short supply. On the other hand, Russia is almost not manufacturing medicated and some other types of pet food.
ONTO plans to fill the gap in the market and start manufacturing medicated and specialised pet food, Ter-Akopov said, adding that this would require extensive research. The company is now installing a new production line to ramp up output.
Ter-Akopov said that breeding insects is a rather challenging business since, to make it right, you need to ensure full isolation of the colony from the outside world since insects can swiftly absorb both useful and hazardous substances from the environment. For this reason, all feed entering the farm must be carefully tested, while all workers at the beginning of the working day pass through a disinfection chamber utilising ultraviolet light and certain vapours.