Among the most pressing environmental issues that need to be addressed are food production and food waste. Fortunately, we now have a variety of sustainable technologies that can help us grow food without destroying our planet. One of them is insect breeding. Founded in 2019, agritech start-up FlyFarm has positioned itself as a leader in this fast-growing market, raising black soldier fly larvae on organic waste to reduce emissions and produce sustainable protein feed.
The Protein Crisis
Driven by inexorable population growth, the global demand for protein is expected to increase by around 60% by 2050. Aside from this exponential increase, the fact that current protein production uses highly unsustainable methods is of real concern. Traditional farming systems put tremendous pressure on our environment and contribute to the depletion of already stressed wild fish stocks and water sources.
In order to sustainably meet the protein needs of a world population of 10 billion people by 2050, new cultivation methods are required. But what is the best solution? More and more experts would answer this question with two words: insect breeding.
Insect breeding: everything you need to know
Insects are incredibly easy to breed due to their rapid reproduction rates, and they’re also incredibly high in protein. Believe it or not, insects like 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 farmed using food waste. Modern insect farms can produce inexpensive protein by upcycling organic waste. It doesn’t stop there. In combination with renewable energy, the production process also has a significantly lower carbon footprint. Research suggests that processing waste through insect bioconversion produces up to 90% fewer greenhouse gases compared to landfill or composting. Insect breeding also saves about 100 times CO2 emissions and requires between 50% and 90% less land compared to conventional livestock farming, freeing up space to grow food for human consumption.
Given the multitude of benefits, it is not surprising that the insect protein market is growing extremely fast and is expected to be rewarding $10 billion by 2030. Around 400 companies worldwide have so far taken up the challenge of producing protein feed from insects, and their number will grow very rapidly in the coming years. One of them is fly farm. Headquartered in Singapore, the agri-tech company aims to develop insect farms as a means of producing animal feed address some of the most pressing issues in the food chain. We sat down with Constant Tedder, the founder and CEO of FlyFarm, to discuss how Black soldier fly larvae are farmed for pet, poultry, and fish food.
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How FlyFarm is shaping the insect farming sector
Founded in 2019 by entrepreneurs Constant Tedder and Andres Crabbe, Flyfarm Worldwide Ltd., the agritech start-up is building biorefineries that breed black soldier fly larvae on organic waste to reduce emissions and produce sustainable protein feed.
Between 2019 and 2020, the company secured $1.2 million in seed funding to develop its highly automated first cloud-connected pilot farm in Brisbane, Australia, with livestock contributing 31 trillion AUD ($22 billion) to the national economy annually.
“Our vision is a world where pets, farmed fish and poultry are fed sustainable protein made from insects raised on organic waste,” explains Tedder.
Since its inception, FlyFarm has worked with various partners to secure various types of organic food waste to feed their black soldier fly larvae, including agricultural waste, agribusiness and food preparation waste, unsold food from retailers, and food and waste from beverage manufacturing – like spent grains from breweries.
FlyFarm’s selection of insects is no accident. Black soldier fly larvae have enormous potential. These tropical insects are super converters of organic waste with an incredibly high growth rate. Not only can they eat up to 50 times their body weight on virtually any type of food waste, but female flies can also lodge between 200 and 600 eggs, which hatch after about four days, making them an extremely productive species. In addition, black soldier fly larvae are very high in protein, making them an excellent food source for pets, poultry, and fish.
Headquartered in Singapore, Tedder and Crabbe work with a team of passionate and experienced engineers and biologists in Brisbane – where they are working on building a demonstration plant showcasing FlyFarm’s latest technology – and are now looking to expand the business in Tasmania. The company recently entered into an innovative joint research partnership with James Cook University (JCU) to better understand and advance industrial-scale larval production of the black soldier fly (BSF).
FlyFarm Systems develops robotics and software to automate the farming process.
By deciding to become part of the protein farming industry, FlyFarm addresses some of the most pressing environmental issues while producing high quality products and promoting a circular economy: “The issues we are tackling are organic waste and the emissions and costs it creates – as well as the unsustainable supply of protein for growing pet and aquatic food markets.” – explains Tedder.
“It is our goal Building a world-class, technology-driven protein manufacturing company and to become a global agritech company that makes a big 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 fed on organic food waste or by-products from industrial processes. In addition to reducing manufacturing costs, this also addresses the problem of food waste, making insects even more sustainable.
Earth.Org believes there is a gigantic opportunity to recycle organic waste and thinks companies will like it fly farm demonstrate that insect bioconversion eliminates emissions while producing high quality sustainable protein.
Challenges remain for post-consumer waste in terms of waste segregation and incentives for consumers to ensure their waste is contaminant-free. Governments should focus on ensuring that organic waste can be recycled.
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