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Oman Flour Mills mulls foray into insect farming for animal feed

Publicly listed food producer explores commercial opportunities in niche areas such as cultivation of Spirulina, water lentils and Azola for protein-based animal feed, nutraceuticals, medicines and food supplements
Clockwise from top left: Water lentils, Spirulina, Azola and Insect Meal
Clockwise from top left: Water lentils, Spirulina, Azola and Insect Meal

Oman Flour Mills (OFM), the nation’s biggest food producer, is eyeing investments in cutting-edge sectors of the food economy as it seeks to evolve into an integrated company with interests across the food value chain.

Adding to its list of niche areas that the publicly traded company, which is minority owned by the Omani government represented by Oman Food Investment Holding Group (Nitaj), is actively weighing insect farming, with the goal to sustainably support the animal feed requirements of the Sultanate of Oman’s burgeoning livestock, poultry and aquaculture sectors.

Details shared by OFM officials at an investment roadshow hosted by Muscat Stock Exchange (MSX) recently indicate that the company is exploring the farming of Black Soldier Fly larvae for the manufacture of protein meal for animal feed.

According to experts, Black Soldier Fly larvae – the most common ingredient in insect meal production globally – contains up to 50 per cent of crude protein, up to 35 per cent lipids, and an amino acid profile that is similar to that of fishmeal. Insect meal from this larvae species is widely used as an alternative source of protein for animal feed catering to poultry, farmed fish and shrimp, and other livestock.

Another area of innovation being actively looked at by Oman Flour Mills is the farming of Spirulina – cyanobacteria from blue-green algae species which can be processed into nutritive products consumed by humans and animals alike.

In its dried form, spirulina is about 60-70 per cent crude protein and can be used in pill of powder form, say OFM officials. It is high in nutrient contents such as protein, vitamins, essential fatty acids, amino acids and minerals considered as alternate food for vitamin supplements.

A third area of interest is the cultivation of water lentils – a plant with a roughly 45-48 per cent protein content that can be used as a soybean meal replacement in animal feed. Additionally, water lentils can also be used in nutraceutical, pharmaceutical and FMCG products.

Also being studied for possible implementation in the Sultanate of Oman is the cultivation of Azola – a floating plant leaf, dubbed ‘The Green Goldmine’, because of its potential use as a bio-fertiliser, animal feed, and also in its ability to improve the nutritional status of soils.

Similar in appearance to water lentils, Azola has about 25-28 per cent protein, and can be used in the production of medicines and nutritive foods for human consumption.

Recently, the company’s Chief Executive Officer Haitham al Fannah also revealed plans to study the introduction of plant-based meats in the Sultanate of Oman in line with the global trend towards meat substitutes – a worldwide industry currently valued at over $20 billion.

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