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The local business EnviroFlight, located at MillWorks, was recently purchased by Intrexon, a global company with a focus on synthetic biology. Shown above is EnviroFlight’s founder and president, Glen Courtright, in a 2013 interview with CNN about his new process for creating fish and animal food from insect larvae. (News Archive Photo by Lauren Heaton)

The local business EnviroFlight, located at MillWorks, was recently purchased by Intrexon, a global company with a focus on synthetic biology. Shown above is EnviroFlight’s founder and president, Glen Courtright, in a 2013 interview with CNN about his new process for creating fish and animal food from insect larvae. (News Archive Photo by Lauren Heaton)

Global company purchases EnviroFlight

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Seven years ago, Glen Courtright launched EnviroFlight, a tiny business sparked by a big dream: to alleviate world hunger by creating a sustainable and affordable way to feed fish and animals.

Specifically, Courtright aimed to find a way to feed distillers grain, a plentiful waste product from breweries, distilleries and ethanol production, to the larvae of a common insect, the black soldier fly, then process the larvae into fish and animal feed.

“How are we going to feed 9 million people? The answer is fish. How do we feed fish? We believe it’s insects,” Courtright said in a 2012 News interview.

Courtright’s vision gained corporate support last month, when EnviroFlight was purchased by Intrexon, a global company that specializes in synthetic biology. Intrexon officials declined to name the purchase price.

With the purchase of EnviroFlight, Intrexon plans to form a joint venture with Darling Ingredients Inc., the world’s largest publicly traded producer of sustainable natural ingredients from bio-nutrients, to create sustainable and high-nutrition fish and animal feed, according to a Feb. 25 Intrexon press statement.

“Current trends in human population growth drive increased demand for protein supply in food production, and we believe that BSF larvae provide the potential to revolutionize the animal feed industries,” said Intrexon Senior Vice President Corey Huck in the press statement.

In the same press release, Courtright stated, “EnviroFlight has focused on driving necessary change in the global food supply chain, and we look forward to working with Intrexon and Darling Ingredients to realize the considerable promise of insect bioconversion to offer solutions that meet this goal.”

Intrexon is a U.S.-based public company with more than 700 employees in more than 10 locations across the U.S. and abroad, according to an email from Senior Manager of Technical Communications Marie Rossi this week. The company “utilizes the engineering of biology to help address some of the world’s most pressing problems in the health, food, energy, consumer and environment sectors and works with industry and government leaders to realize a better, healthier planet,” she wrote.

Yellow Springers shouldn’t see any immediate changes in the day to day operations of EnviroFlight, which currently has 17 employees and is housed at MillWorks, according to Rossi. While EnviroFlight will expand in the areas of research, engineering and regulatory, “many of these skills are coming from Intrexon and Darling as a means of bolstering the EnviroFlight team,” the email said.

Courtright will continue to serve as president, and will “lead the effort to commercialize and expand EnviroFlight”; however, the company did not make Courtright available for an interview for this article.

Intrexon also declined a request for a phone interview with its representatives, although Rossi answered questions via email.

For the past two years, EnviroFlight has collaborated with Darling Ingredients to refine its production processes for the insect larvae and upgrade its MillWorks pilot facility, according to the press release.

Intrexon chose to purchase EnviroFlight because “in working to generate sources of sustainable, high-value nutrients, Darling and EnviroFlight’s efforts are aligned with Intrexon’s vision to develop efficient, low-environmental impact solutions to meet the needs of a growing population and increased demand for protein supply in food products,” Rossi wrote.

And while a “handful” of other companies are working with black soldier fly larvae, EnviroFlight “has differentiated itself from the others because of its technology and approach to commercialization.”

In a follow-up email, Rossi said that, specifically, the EnviroFlight process can be located anywhere in the world and is “able to support mating events and eggs in a broad range of climates. This flexibility with regards to geography and climate combined with the ability to produce significant amounts of protein within a small footprint enables industrial scalability of the EnviroFlight platform.”

EnviroFlight has not yet received regulatory approval to market its products for fish and animal feed. However, according to Rossi in the email, EnviroFlight is in the “process of preparing a dossier for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, for Dried Black Soldier Fly Larvae Meal. The dossier will assist the FDA in recommending to the Association of American Feed Control Officials that BSFL meal is safe for use in animal feeds for aquaculture and other livestock.”

Currently, EnviroFlight sells its product to select zoos and pet food distributors.

The soldier fly larvae “may represent a very useful ingredient in aquaculture and importantly, it has no impact on the marine ecosystem,” said Rick Barrows, research physiologist for U.S. Agricultural Research Service  in the Intrexon press statement.

According to the Intrexon press release, the joint venture plans to begin construction of a commercial plant this year, and -Courtright has already started engineering on the plant. However, Rossi didn’t respond to a question as to the proposed plant’s location.

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Global company purchases EnviroFlight

by Diane Chiddister