A third of all food is wasted
Food waste – one of the biggest problems facing society today.
Each year over 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted globally, that's about 1 trillion US dollars of lost value. If food waste were its own country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. With an increasing population and modern lifestyles, the burden of food waste on society and the environment is set to increase in the future.
Traditional composting solutions are difficult to commercialise at large scale, while modern technology like anaerobic digestion is capital intensive and reliant on government subsidies. But there is an alternative...
1.3 billion tonnes
Annual food waste worldwide
9 full Wembley Stadiums
15 million tonnes - food wasted in the UK annually
1 trillion US dollars
Value loss via food wastage globally
Greenhouse gases released from food waste globally
Valorising waste through insects
Insect biomass conversion (or insect farming) is an emerging practice, where waste is fed directly to insects. These in turn convert low value biomass into higher value insect mass, rich in proteins, fats and chitin. These can in turn be used as sustainable inputs for a variety of sectors, most notably high quality animal feeds demanded by the aquaculture sector & premium pet food markets.
There are multiple species of insects that have been shown as viable for this type of activity, with industrial favourites such as the Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) and mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) leading the pack. Although species vary in their ability to grow on particular biomass wastes, and the efficiency in which they assimilate waste into insect nutrients, the underlying concept remains the same.
It is therefore no surprise we've been seeing an explosion of commercial insect operations globally over the past couple of years. From fully autonomous plants in Europe, to part-manual operations in South East Asia, the insect revolution has begun.
Biomass logistics hack
The magnitude of biomass change between insect egg and harvestable forms is exceptional: 1,000-10,000 fold changes in biomass can be observed over a fortnight in some species.
Insect farming appears to be a highly sustainable practice. Reduced land use, negligible water use, and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions are key examples.
Dried insects often contain above 40% crude protein. Many insect larvae are exceptionally rich in fat, too. Their shells are made of chitin, a biodegradable material with applications from food&feed to pharma.
The relatively low-tech nature of this solution, and ubiquity of biomass waste, makes insect farming a truly global solution
What we do at Entomics
Entomics is developing enabling technology solutions for the growing insects for food&feed sector.
Our work stretches across disciplines, and is primarily focused around the 'crown jewel' industrial species, the Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens).
Here are two examples of the work we are currently performing.
Flagship engineering: METAMORPHOSIS
Holistic processing methodology for better performing insect meals
There are increasingly many large-scale production facilities in operation or under development, that will be capable of producing many thousands of tonnes of insect meals per year.
A key challenge remains the processing of insects into meals: despite it being possible to merely dry insects and mill them into a powder, this in fact misses many potential nutritional, health and well-being benefits brought through a rich medium like insects.
At Entomics, we've developed a comprehensive insect biomass processing pipeline, that seeks to transform raw insect biomass into functional meals aimed at maximising the benefits for target animal species. We call this process METAMORPHOSIS.
We are currently focusing our efforts on developing functional insect meals for atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), in particular in our meals' ability to stimulate salmonid immune system strengthening and overall well-being.
Metamorphosis R&D is generously supported by grants from Innovate UK & the European Institute of Technology (via EIT FoodKIC).
Flagship engineering: GENESIS
Decentralised waste biomass solution & on-site insect production
Insect farming addresses two issues commonly faced by larger agricultural operations: firstly, it gets rid of the waste; and secondly, it leads to the production of a protein-rich source of feed.
Logistics present one of the key challenges in low value biomass waste valorisation: it often costs more to transport the waste than the value that can be harnessed from it.
However, with insect eggs & nymphs weighting only a fraction of harvest-weight larvae/pupae, it is possible to avoid this logistics bottleneck by delivering these onto the site where the waste originates.
Entomics' GENESIS arm is developing a data-driven engineering solution that will enable the customer to perform both tasks on site, removing the need for complex and often cost-limiting logistics steps.
Genesis R&D is generously supported by grants from Innovate UK.
Multidisciplinary & international.
Entomics is already working with organisations across the public and private sector, in the UK and Europe.
We are always looking to develop new partnerships, and look forward to chatting with anyone who is interested in transforming food waste into a positive resource.