Better Origin launches world’s first fully automated AI-powered insect mini-farm
Is it possible to feed the world sustainably?
By 2050 global food supply will need to increase 70 per cent to cope with demand, food waste accounts for 11 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions – and in the UK, a third of all food is wasted. As if this wasn’t enough, increasing pressure on land use means farmers need to produce more with less.
These pressing issues are being answered by Better Origin, a Cambridge start-up which has launched the X1, the world’s first fully automated AI-powered insect mini-farm to help farmers produce more sustainable, better-quality food.
Better Origin – which rebranded from Entomics in May – is a spin-out from the University of Cambridge which started off with a concept to grow black soldier fly larvae using food waste, working closely with them to develop a detailed process to grow the larvae.
The X1 system the Future Business Centre-based company has developed is fully automatic: food waste is put in at one end and trays of mature larvae are taken from the other for processing into animal food.
Using artificial intelligence and the insects, Better Origin’s new mini-farm converts local waste – including “ugly” fruit and veg (bruised or misshapen produce), agricultural residues and industrial food waste – into high-quality animal feed in the form of insect larvae to improve welfare, productivity and yield.
The X1 is self-contained and uses AI together with patented engineering processes to replicate the role insects play in the natural food cycle. Its app-based user interface means the farmer always knows exactly what is going on inside the X1 at any given time.
Fotis Fotiadis, CEO and co-founder of Better Origin, says: “Until now there was no accessible way for food producers to turn abundant feedstock or food waste into usable food. We’re now delivering a vital solution to this global opportunity.
“In nature, insects convert waste into essential nutrients for animals and humans in a complete ‘no-waste’ cycle, but this link is absent from the modern food chain.
“Our technology uses natural processes to fix the broken food system, restoring insects as the missing link in the modern food chain. With farmers facing unprecedented needs to diversify and improve productivity, Better Origin technology provides a vital solution on farms.
“We’ve created the future of sustainable food production that will bring about a new harmony between nature and technology – and, by so doing, transform livestock productivity and welfare and, at the same time, reduce carbon emissions and ensure global food security.”
Earlier this year, the X1 completed a successful pilot project on Wood Farm in Cambridgeshire and is now poised to collaborate with farmers to support happier, healthier hens on farms across the UK.
Charles Mear, owner of Wood Farm, said: “We love the ethos and concept of Better Origin, which fits well with what we are trying to achieve here at Wood Farm, producing a carbon neutral free-range egg. The health and wellbeing of my hens is of utmost importance to me.”
Better Origin also has plans to market the X1 for the salmon farming and pet foods sectors.