SINGAPORE (CNA) – Singaporeans love their food. Unfortunately, this also means that food waste is a huge problem in Singapore too.
Food waste is one of the largest waste streams, according to the Singapore Department of Sustainability and Environment. The amount of food waste generated in Singapore has increased by about 20 percent over the past 10 years. In 2019, Singapore generated 744 million kilograms of food waste – the equivalent of 51,000 double-decker buses.
Only 18 percent of food waste is recycled while the rest is incinerated. For Nathaniel Phua – the founder and CEO of a biotechnology company that uses insects to consume and reuse food waste – the numbers were shocking.
The former fashion retailer’s first foray into waste management was while working at Tiong Lam Supplies for his father-in-law, who converts food waste into fish feed for aquaculture farms. Traditional waste management involves certain types of food waste, but Phua started looking for something that could break down all types of food waste. That led him to the black soldier fly.
These insects are natural decomposers that spend most of their lives eating. They only eat when they are in their larval form and can consume up to twice their body weight daily. The flies are not simply cleared of food waste. They can be processed into higher quality products such as animal feed and fertilizers. “It was really a challenge for us to figure out what conditions are best for them to live in,” said Phua, who told Money Mind that the insects were constantly crawling out of their trays.
The black soldier fly larva breaks down food waste. PHOTO: CNA
“What would be the best condition for them to just eat all that food waste and stay happy in those trays. It took us a while to figure that out. “Phua founded Ento Industries last year and received a social enterprise grant from the DBS Foundation in November.
With the proceeds from the grant, Ento Industries plans to move to a 5,000 square meter facility with a capacity to process 10 to 20 tons of waste per month.
DBS Foundation Director Claire Wong said Ento Industries’ efforts target “a real problem”. “There is a real problem with food waste that they are trying to solve and no one has really figured out how to get rid of waste and reuse it properly. So don’t just throw and burn, find a purpose for it, ”said Wong. “There is a real problem they are solving … There is great market potential with that problem,” she added.
DBS said if Ento is able to expand on its existing capabilities, the opportunities for growth are huge.
With the government’s plan to produce 30 percent of the country’s food supply by 2030 and the Lim Chu Kang area slated for development into a high-tech agro-food cluster, Phua sees the future as bright. A commercial pilot project is planned to recycle one tonne of waste per day.
“Our vision for our support for the food manufacturers is to be able to take their responsibility for dealing with this food waste. We want to be able to deal with this food waste and show them that the circular economy is possible within the industry, ”said Phua.
“We want to convert all of this food waste into more feed ingredients so we can get it back into our local industry and support food production in Singapore.”