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Better Origin’s insect bioconversion technology given £1.1m government boost

‘Metamorphosis Technology’ from Better Origin that converts insects into viable products will be given wings with £1.1million in government funding.

The Cambridge start-up is part of a consortium working in the insect bioconversion sector that has secured a £10million package from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Fotis Fotiadis, CEO of Better Origin
Fotis Fotiadis, CEO of Better Origin

The company, based at the Allia Future Business Centre , will scale up its insect processing and value extraction technology with the funding, creating products such as animal feed and human food.

Fotis Fotiadis, founder and CEO of Better Origin, says: “Farming the insect is proven to be pretty straightforward - however, the real value comes from converting the farmed insect into products.”

“Over the last three years, we have developed a solution, which can convert the full-grown insect into ingredients for salmon feed, pet feed and human food in a sustainable and scalable way.

“This funding represents the single largest investment by the UK into the insect protein space and we are delighted to be a recipient. It will enable us to accelerate our product development, deploy the first dedicated insect processing facility in the UK, and expand rapidly to the rest of the world.”

Insect larvae provide food for animals
Insect larvae provide food for animals

Launched in 2018 by Fotis and fellow University of Cambridge graduate Miha Pipan, Better Origin aims to tackle the twin challenges of food security and food waste simultaneously, cutting carbon emissions along the way.

Globally, it is thought that a third of all food produced is wasted - an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of biomass waste, leading to the release of 4.4 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as it degrades.

“If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases,” says Better Origin.

The company’s solution is to make use of a missing link in the food chain - insects.

Its decentralised, local insect farming model has focused so far on the black soldier fly, the larvae of which have voracious appetites.

Better Origin is focused on the black soldier fly
Better Origin is focused on the black soldier fly

These can be used to consume food waste, such as bruised fruit and vegetables, second-grade grains and industrial food waste, before being harvested after seven to 14 days to create a protein source for animals.

In June - a month after rebranding from Entomics - the company released the Better Origin X1, the world’s first standalone artificial intelligence-powered insect mini-farm.

A fully autonomous solution, it is designed to remove the significant capital demand and knowledge entry barrier that have so far prevented farmers and food producers from embracing the insect option.

Under its ‘plug-and-play approach, feedstock is delivered into the module and prepared to ensure it is free of bad bacteria.

The processed feedstock is automatically delivered to the seed larvae.

Better Origin’s insect larvae can be fed directly to animals without additives
Better Origin’s insect larvae can be fed directly to animals without additives

The AI-powered Overmind software oversees the feeding and inspection of the larvae’s health, removing the need for the farmer to get involved. An app-based user interface means the farmer is aware of what is happening inside.

The length of time the larvae are allowed to grow depends on the type of feed required.

Then when harvested, the larvae are delivered directly to animals, with no processing or additives required.

A successful pilot project was completed at Wood Farm in Cambridgeshire.

The vision is to democratise insect farming by developing tools allowing any farmer to grow insects in a cost-effective and resilient way.

This Metamorphosis Technology has already been successfully tested with all other major farmed insect species.

Better Origin provides food for fish
Better Origin provides food for fish

Simon MacKenzie, deputy head at the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling, said: “We’ve been working with Better Origin since 2018, successfully testing their Metamorphosis Technology to highlight the potential for insects in salmon aquaculture. This opportunity allows us to bring this state-of-the-art technology to the market.”

The three-year government funded project also includes fellow insect companies Entocycle, Insect Technology Group and Beta Bugs, along with retailer Tesco and key feed supply chain companies AB Agri and Cooke Aquaculture Scotland.

The University of Stirling, Durham and Warwick, the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre and Zero Waste Scotland are also involved in the project to improve agricultural sustainability.

Better Origin's insect processing facility
Better Origin's insect processing facility

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