DECATUR, ILL. — Innovafeed, producer of insect ingredients for animal feed, pet food and plant nutrition, inaugurated its North American Insect Innovation Center (NAIIC) in Decatur on April 18. The pilot plant and innovation center is the French company’s first step in its expansion into North America, the culmination of which will result in a large-scale production facility for insect protein ingredients on a neighboring site by 2026.

Innovafeed strategically chose Decatur as its North American home to capitalize on its partnership with Decatur-based ADM. Innovafeed will repurpose ADM’s agricultural corn-based byproducts to aid in its breeding of black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, larvae (BSFL) in the indoor farms at the NAIIC. The proximity to the ADM facilities will provide easy access to the corn byproducts to create what Innovafeed calls a “pioneering zero-waste framework.” 

“We chose Decatur for our first US operation because of its location in the heart of the Midwest corn belt and its proximity to our partner ADM and other agribusiness leaders,” said Clément Ray, chief executive officer of Innovafeed. “ADM’s corn byproducts are a rich resource that we will leverage to fuel our black soldier fly production. At the same time, this circular process will present a tangible solution to contribute to our mission and the US Department of Energy’s objectives of decarbonizing the industrial sector.”

Chris Cuddy, senior vice president of ADM and president of the company’s Carbohydrate Solutions business, added, “We are thrilled to partner with Innovafeed on this exciting project that highlights our commitment to responsible and sustainable sourcing. Our collaboration is a great example of how we are constantly seeking innovative solutions to meet the growing demand for alternative protein sources in animal and pet products.”

Innovafeed uses black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) to produce sustainable ingredients

Innovafeed uses black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) that are fed corn byproducts from ADM's nearby operation to produce sustainable ingredients.

| Source: Sosland Publishing Co. / Kimberlie Clyma

City, state and international dignitaries were on-site in Decatur to help celebrate the NAIIC’s inauguration, including Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Kristin Richards and Consulate General of France Clément Calais.

“Thousands of miles away from Decatur, a group of people in France had an idea about how to make our collective future more sustainable. By using an agricultural byproduct to breed insects to turn into animal feed, we can feed the world of tomorrow,” Pritzker said during the inauguration event. “And now, that revolutionary idea has crossed the Atlantic Ocean and made a new home here in Central Illinois — you’ve come to the right place. Illinois has long been a land of resourcefulness and a state that uses our natural resources to produce the finest agricultural products in the nation and in the world. We are No. 1 in the nation for soy production and No. 2 for corn. And now, we will be known for being a leader in this new type of protein production.”

Innovafeed’s innovative process produces insect meal, oil and soil amendment, which the company has marketed in North American under the Hilucia™ brand since 2023. As part of its partnership with Innovafeed, ADM has invested in an R&D study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to demonstrate the nutritional and health benefits of the ingredients. Results will be released later in 2024. 

“Sustainability in food production is a growing consumer demand worldwide and pet owners are no different. They expect healthy and responsibly sourced products for their whole family,” Cuddy said. “Insect based ingredients provide high quality nutritional content with a smaller carbon footprint and land requirement than other types of proteins. Our proprietary consumer insights indicate that consumers are becoming more acceptable to insect protein used for animal and pet nutrition.”

Founded in 2016, Innovafeed currently operates two industrial plants in northern France, producing insect protein for animal and pet nutrition. However, the French facilities use wheat-based byproducts to feed the BSFL instead of the corn-based byproducts that are being used in Decatur. These changes in formulation contributed to the company’s decision to first build an innovation center at the Decatur site before opening a full-scale production facility. 

Innovafeed's Hilucia™ brand

Innovafeed's Hilucia™ brand offers BSFL-based ingredients for the pet food, animal feed, aquaculture and agriculture industries. 

| Source: Innovafeed

The plans are underway to build the full-size 100,000-square-meter (1 million-square-foot) facility next door to the NAIIC’s current location. In the meantime, Innovafeed intends to use the pilot plant’s capabilities to finetune the processes and the product development before production goes full scale.  

“This site is really only the first phase of a much larger venture and it’s preparing us for the day when we launch our much larger US flagship facility on the same site,” said Maye Walraven, US general manager for Innovafeed. “This site is much more than a small version of what’s to come — this innovation center is where we deploy a very new technology to a new geography. “

A pipeline will connect the larger plant to ADM’s corn processing wet mill, allowing Innovafeed to directly recover up to 300,000 tons of byproducts per year. These corn byproducts will be transformed into BSFL insect ingredients producing up to 60,000 metric tons of animal feed protein, 20,000 metric tons of oils for poultry and swine feed, and 400,000 metric tons of soil amendment. 

“We are proud to be a part of this job-creating project and look forward to the positive impact it will have on our communities,” Cuddy said. 

While the innovation center currently employs only 10 people, the long-term project will create around 300 jobs after the larger facility is operational.

“This facility, Innovafeed’s first in North America, brings millions of dollars of investment and exciting new jobs for Decatur all while bolstering our access to sustainable agricultural supply,” Pritzker said. “It’s a win for sustainability. It’s a win for our agricultural industry. It’s a win for our economy. And, it’s a win for Innovafeed.”

Read more about insect-based ingredients and trends in pet food.