BuggyBix insect-based pet food range, on track to proving a commercial success
Feeding the growing population is one of the most pressing issues being addressed by global agrifood innovation – but it’s not only human nourishment that’s being investigated. Sydney entrepreneur Shaun Eislers has developed a pet food range using insects as the primary protein source, and is now working with AgriFutures growAG. to connect with investors, wholesalers and distributors.
For most of us, taking the dog for a run at the local park is a chance to stretch the legs, grab a coffee and enjoy watching your loyal friend having fun with their canine pals.
But for BuggyBix Founder, Shaun Eislers it was a light bulb moment for an exciting business idea.
“Sitting with my wife at the local dog park it occurred to me that the rapidly growing pet market and trend towards feeding pets human-grade meat proteins was exacerbating the strain on our food system,” said Eislers.
The United Nations projects the global population will rise from 7.8 billion in 2020 to 9.7 billion in 2050. In less than 30 years, the additional number of people who will need to be fed will equate to the combined residents of China, the United States and Indonesia (three of the four most populous nations on Earth).
On top of that, everyone needs to feed their pets. According to estimates by the RSPCA, there are about 29 million pets in Australia alone, with 40 per cent of households owning a dog.
Having already heard about edible insects, Shaun thought insects may be the perfect solution to help alleviate the growing pressure and consumption patterns.
“Digging a bit deeper, I learned about the favourable nutritional qualities and beneficial environmental proposition edible insects could deliver,” said Shaun.
“They’re a great source of protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals which makes them an excellent pet food inclusion.”
And so, BuggyBix was born.
To validate the opportunity Shaun’s first step was to consult experts and potential customers, including undertaking independent market research to understand pet owner preferences towards the use of edible insects in pet food products. BuggyBix also engaged experts at Western Sydney University (WSU) to analyse different feed substrates and the impacts of these on the nutritional profile of the black soldier fly and mealworms. This information was then collated and informed the design of the BuggyBix dry dog and cat food lines.
“We were fortunate in that the WSU Food Science department is one of the most well-equipped laboratories in Australia,” said Shaun.
Black soldier flies are found across the world and are increasingly being used in animal feed and waste recycling. They are harmless to humans and are not considered pests or vectors of disease. Adult black soldier flies have one goal – to lay eggs – and the resulting larvae can devour a wide range of food scraps and waste materials to quickly convert into protein. From hatching, black soldier fly larvae take only 13 - 18 days to fully mature. At this stage they are a protein-rich source of food.
“Black soldier fly larvae have a beneficial nutritional profile and they’re hypoallergenic, meaning they are great for pets which may have allergies to traditional proteins such as beef, pork or lamb.”
Beyond the nutritional benefits there are significant environmental advantages. The entire insect is used so no waste or by-products are created during the production process. The BuggyBix product boasts a low carbon footprint compared to its competitors, requiring substantially less water, land, feed and energy inputs.
“For example, depending on production techniques, per kilogram of protein, black soldier fly larvae require just four-square metres of land, compared to around 50 square metres for poultry,” said Shaun. “They also produce lower levels of greenhouse gases and use about one-sixth of the water.”
Having applied the findings from WSU to develop pet food formulations, the greatest challenge was finding insect farmers able to produce quantities at the scale required for a commercial enterprise. Operating in such an emerging industry, it was essential to establish the supply chain and ensure volumes of consistently high quality. “The industry is only now reaching a point where stable supply at a commodity price point is becoming available.”
BuggyBix has a vision to transform the insect-based pet food industry and create an alternative for pet owners who want nutritious, Australian-grown and environmentally sustainable food. Having filed a patent, the company is also sharing its project findings with partners at AgriFutures Australia and the Insect Protein Association of Australia.
“In the short term we are focused on domestic distribution opportunities with the major pet food retailers and online channels,” said Shaun.
“We are also exploring options to expand distribution of BuggyBix products into Southeast Asian markets.”
In addition, AgriFutures growAG. is currently hosting an opportunity for interested participants to enquire about BuggyBix’s pet food range.
“The growAG. online marketplace has amplified our exposure with potential distribution partners in relevant markets,” said Shaun.
“This has translated into numerous enquiries, including from local and international parties, which we are currently reviewing. The growAG. team continues to offer invaluable support, ensuring our work is showcased and shared with curated audiences through print and web-based media.”
“Small businesses have limited budgets and are constantly walking a tightrope of where to allocate funds. Platforms such as growAG. not only assist from a financial perspective, it also creates awareness which helps open doors to new opportunities and stakeholders.”
BuggyBix has come a long way from a daydream at a dog park. With sales of BuggyBix products on the rise, Shaun’s persistence is now helping to shift ‘insect proteins as pet food’ from being a niche concept toward being a commercially successful enterprise.
“The most rewarding part is seeing the idea come to life and creating value for the world, with a food that is great for pets and great for the planet.”
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