LONDON, ONTARIO — Aspire Food Group, an insect processing company, has purchased 12 acres of land in London, Ontario, Canada to construct the largest automated, food-grade cricket processing facility in the world.

The London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) in Canada shared details of Aspire Food Group’s plans on July 20.

“This first-of-its-kind commercial facility will enable not just Aspire Food Group, but our entire growing sector to take an important stride forward in our mission to deliver an excellent-value protein at a fraction of the environmental impact of most conventional protein sources,” said Mohammed Ashour, co-founder and chief executive officer of Aspire Food Group. “We are thrilled to be building this facility in Canada, where our journey started seven years ago as graduate students at McGill University.”

The facility will include state-of-the-art technologies and energy-efficient systems for insect protein production, which will serve demand for premium protein alternatives in the food and pet food markets.

“We have significant interest in the pet food market and indeed, we are seeing tremendous interest from pet food processors in North America,” Ashour said. “Specifically, we have obtained purchase orders for very significant production volumes and are actively in discussions with some of the largest pet food companies in the world.”

Aspire plans to employ 60 people at the new plant. Construction is scheduled to begin in August and complete by the end of 2021.

“Aspire is a great addition to our agri-food cluster of more than 90 companies employing over 7,000 people at leading businesses including Labatt, McCormick, Dr. Oetker, Cargill, Original Cakerie and Nestlé, as well as several fast-growing food and beverage start-ups,” said Kapil Lakhotia, president and chief executive officer of the LEDC. “We are delighted to attract the jobs, innovation and technology that this state-of-the-art project brings to our community, a boost to our post-COVID economic recovery efforts.”

Aspire Food Group has received a $10 million investment from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) towards the construction of its new facility. SDTC funds Canadian entrepreneurs to accelerate the development and expansion of clean-technology solutions.

“Clean-tech companies like Aspire are investing in today and helping to position Canada as a leader in an expanding market as investors and businesses seek sustainable growth,” said Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry. “Investments in clean technology support the work of Canadian innovators to reduce Canada’s environmental footprint and grow economic opportunities.”

The facility will be constructed in London’s Innovation Park, on the corner of Veterans Memorial Parkway and Highway 401.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Aspire Food Group to London,” said Ed Holder, mayor of London, Ontario. “…With our economy in the early stages of recovery, Aspire Food Group’s imminent arrival is proof that London’s industrial land strategy is succeeding at expanding and growing our workforce in new and diverse ways.”

Although insect protein is not yet included in the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) approved list of pet food ingredients, Ashour said he is confident the ingredient will be approved soon.

“Our industry is quite far along the process of obtaining AAFCO compliance and we are confident this will be attained, considering the long-established history of pets consuming insects and the established precedent in this regard,” he said. “Additionally, we are supporting long term feeding trials as part of this initiative to provide greater comfort and confidence to our customers.”

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