Insect farming: the sustainable future of food production
Among the most pressing environmental issues that need to be addressed are food production and food waste. Fortunately, we now have a host of sustainable technologies that can help us grow food without destroying our planet. One of them is insect farming. Founded in 2019, agri-tech start-up FlyFarm has positioned itself as a leader in this growing market, cultivating black soldier fly larvae on organic waste to reduce emissions and produce sustainable protein foods.
The protein crisis
Driven by the relentless growth of the human population, the global demand for protein is expected to increase by around 60% by 2050. Besides this exponential increase, what is really concerning is the fact that current protein production uses extremely unsustainable methods. Traditional farming systems put enormous pressure on our environment, contributing to the depletion of already stressed wild fish stocks and water sources.
To sustainably meet the protein needs of a global population of 10 billion people by 2050, new farming methods are needed. But what is the best solution? More and more experts would answer this question with two words: breeding insects.
Insect farming: everything you need to know
Insects are incredibly easy to breed due to their rapid reproductive rate and they are also incredibly high in protein. Believe it or not, insects such as mealworms, crickets and black soldier fly larvae have been shown to provide significantly more protein than meat.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of producing edible insects for human and animal consumption is that they can be reared on food scraps. Modern insect farms can produce protein at low cost by recycling organic waste. It doesn’t stop there. When combined with renewable energy, the production process also has a significantly lower carbon footprint. Research suggests that treating waste through the bioconversion of insects generates up to 90% less greenhouse gases than landfilling or composting. In addition, breeding insects saves about 100 times CO2 emissions and requires between 50% and 90% less land compared to conventional farming, freeing up space for growing food for human consumption.
Considering the multitude of benefits, it is no surprise that the insect protein market is growing extremely rapidly and is expected to be worth $10 billion by 2030. About 400 companies worldwide have so far taken up the challenge of producing protein feed from insects and the number is expected to grow very rapidly in the coming years. One of them is flyfarm. Striving to develop insect farms as a means of producing animal feed, the Singapore-based agri-tech company hopes solve some of the most pressing problems in the food chain. We caught up with Constant Tedder, Founder and CEO of FlyFarm, to discuss how Black soldier fly larvae are cultivated for pets as well as for poultry and fish feed.
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How FlyFarm is shaping the insect farming industry
Founded in 2019 by entrepreneur Constant Tedder and Andres Crabbe, Flyfarm Worldwide Ltd., the agritech start-up builds biorefineries that grow black soldier fly larvae on organic waste to reduce emissions and produce sustainable protein foods.
Between 2019 and 2020, the company secured US$1.2 million in seed funding to develop its first highly automated, cloud-connected pilot farm in Brisbane, Australia, where the livestock industry contributes approximately 31 billion Australian dollars (22 billion US dollars) to the national economy every year.
“Our vision is of a world where pets, farmed fish and poultry are fed sustainable protein from insects raised on organic waste,” says Tedder.
Since its inception, FlyFarm has worked with different partners to secure different types of organic food waste to feed their black soldier fly larvae, including farm waste, agro-industry and food preparation waste, leftovers from retailers as well as food and beverage manufacturing waste – such as brewers’ spent grains.
FlyFarm’s choice of insects is no coincidence. Black soldier fly larvae have enormous potential. These tropical insects are a super converter of organic waste with an incredibly high growth rate. Not only can they eat 50 times their body weight in virtually any type of food waste, but female flies can also deposit between 200 and 600 eggs, which hatch after about four days, making them an extremely prolific species. Additionally, black soldier fly larvae are very high in protein, making them an excellent food source for pets, poultry, and fish.
Based in Singapore, Tedder and Crabbe work with a team of passionate and skilled engineers and biologists located in Brisbane – where they are working to build a demonstration plant that proves FlyFarm’s latest technology – and are now looking to develop their activities in Tasmania. The company recently embarked on an innovative collaborative research partnership with James Cook University (JCU) to better understand and advance Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae production at industrial scale.
FlyFarm Systems builds robots and software to automate the farming process.
By choosing to be part of the protein production industry, FlyFarm is tackling some of the most pressing environmental issues while generating high value products and promoting a circular economy“The issues we are tackling are organic waste, the emissions and the costs it generates – and the unsustainable supply of protein for the growing pet food and aquatic animal feed markets. ” – explains Tedder.
“Our goal is to build a technology-driven, cutting-edge protein production company become a global agri-tech company with high impact, and we want to do it with negative emissions. »
Large-scale insect production requires little land, water or energy, and many species can be nurtured using organic food waste or by-products of industrial processes. In addition to reducing manufacturing costs, this also solves the problem of food waste, making insects even more durable.
Earth.Org believes there is a gargantuan opportunity to recycle organic waste and believes companies like flyfarm show that insect bioconversion eliminates emissions while producing high-value, sustainable proteins.
Challenges remain for post-consumer waste regarding segregation of waste and incentives for consumers to ensure their waste is free of contaminants. Governments should ensure that organic waste can be recycled.
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