UK unveils insect industry funding for greener animal protein production

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Insect

The UK government has released a £10m funding package to help build the country’s first large-scale industrial insect farm and accelerate the development of sustainable food production systems.

The project, led-by London-based insect farmer Entocycle, will deliver a plant to rapidly convert food waste into insect-based animal feed for the aquaculture and pet food industries. It aims to reduce CO2 emissions related to the sourcing and production of traditional sources of protein and help the UK improve its food security in the future through more localised supply chains.

The project consortium involves a wide range of organisations including fellow UK insect companies Better Origin and Beta Bugs, and other organisations including the UK’s largest supermarket Tesco and food waste campaigner Zero Waste Scotland.

Launched in 2017 by University of Manchester Environmental Design Masters graduate Keiran Whitaker, Entocycle makes insect-based ingredients for animal feed and the aquaculture and pet food industries. It claims that the use of Black Soldier Fly larvae as a source of protein to feed animals has a far smaller environmental footprint than traditional sources such as meat, soy and fishmeal.

The company says it uses natural biological processes combined with proprietary technology to create sustainable products to feed animals, reducing the environmental impacts of traditional feed ingredients and enabling the restoration of natural ecosystems while improving food security through its localised production model. Alongside insect-protein, the biotech startup also supplies lipids (insect oils) for use in feed and frass (insect’s excrement) as a natural fertiliser for the horticulture industry.

“The UK is making an ambitious commitment to becoming a leader in sustainable food production systems,"​ said Whitaker. “Through the use of insects we can guarantee local supply chains – the early experience of COVID-19 has shown just how important this will be in the future – while making significant reductions to CO2 emissions caused by the production of traditional feed ingredients. The positive environmental impact could be huge, helping to support the UK’s transition to a net zero carbon economy and the restoration of our natural ecosystems.”

The £10m funding package is from the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). Katrina Hayter, challenge director of UKRI’s Transforming Food Production challenge said: “The Entocycle-led project is one of the most interesting and exciting projects we have funded. Our aim is to make the UK a global hub for Black Soldier Fly farming. Successful development and scaling of this technology should lead to a significant boost in recycling of food waste and a reduction in emissions.”

Laurence Webb, Responsible Sourcing Manager at Tesco, which has partnered Entocycle since since 2017, said the funding would help take the start-up’s feed production ‘to the next level’ and potentially help reduce the food industry's reliance on ingredients seen as unsustainable, such as soya.

“Tesco recognises the significant potential of insect protein in making many of our supply chains more environmentally sustainable. The ability of insects to efficiently convert low-value waste streams into high-value protein suitable for animal feed means this could one day help to reduce the current reliance of animal agriculture and aquaculture on wild-caught fish and plant proteins such as soya.”

Nick Rousseau, from the Woven Network, which promotes the role of insects in the human food chain, said he was excited to see this investment into the sector.

“We know there is growing interest around the world in the potential of insect farming to provide sustainable sources of protein and those that are able to convert waste and bi-products of other processes have a particularly strong potential in this regard.

“This comes at a good time with WWF UK and Tesco having commissioned a roadmap for the growth of the farmed insect sector in the UK, which will set out further interventions that the UK Government could take to unlock the potential we see."

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