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Better Origin’s new protein source could really fly




The common fly could help sustain fish which have become over-reliant on soya meal for growth
The common fly could help sustain fish which have become over-reliant on soya meal for growth

As the world’s population continues to grow, so too does the demand for food, particularly sources of protein. Insects are recognised as a potential protein source which can be grown using waste food.

However, in the developed world, there is no equipment or infrastructure in place to re-use waste to grow insects for food - which is where Better Origin comes in.

Better Origin - which rebranded from Entomics this week - 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 understand user needs and the detailed process to grow the larvae.

The 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. This provides the necessary infrastructure to re-use food waste economically and efficiently. The system is designed for modularity and flexibility, and can be installed in a range of organic waste contexts.

‘Better Origin’ is a better name for Entomics as it heads past the R&D stage towards commercialisation, says CEO Fotis Fotiadis of the new name and logo (below) for the technology company that could end food waste.

The original name is from the Greek work ‘entomon’, meaning insect or insects.

“Nature has already solved most problems,” Fotis told the Cambridge Independent. “There’s no waste in nature, and what we’re aiming to do is to transform anything biodegradeable, which insects work their way through and transform into proteins.”

Fotis Fotidis,CEO of Better Origin, with new logo in the background
Fotis Fotidis,CEO of Better Origin, with new logo in the background

The proteins can then be used as food for animals.

“We are taking a natural process and bringing it to life using technology,” Fotis explains, adding that the old name had had a good run but lacked immediacy. “It’s been a scientific journey so far, and now we’re emerging from the R&D stage to commercialisation, so the name needs to support our vision for the future.

“We’ve been thinking about a name change for a year. It has been a long process but the new name needed to be easy for people to understand, and convey the vision of nature and technology working in harmony together - as it does, for instance, with solar panels or wind turbines. Also the word ‘origin’ has the idea of going back to nature, to the roots of how nature works, and restoring that.

“The brand needed to be something that consumers can engage with, that reflects the circularity of the food chain, and that resonates with farmers and food suppliers. The vision is built around nature and technology working in harmony, the sustainability of the planet’s systems, and having a secure food supply.”

The company was set up in 2015 by a group of students from the University of Cambridge, with support from the Cambridge Judge Entrepreneurship Centre’s ‘Accelerate Cambridge’ programme. It is now a team of eight, comprising members from the Department of Biochemistry, from Engineering, and from the Cambridge Judge Business School.

If the next stage works - and stand by for evidence of progress in the next few weeks - then these insects could become the sustainable food of the future, at least for fish and animals, and will help reduce the reliance on resource-intensive proteins such as fishmeal and soy, while also mitigating the use of antibiotics in the food chain, one of the causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria.

The Better Origin logo, developed for the move away from its starting name, Entomics
The Better Origin logo, developed for the move away from its starting name, Entomics


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