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How the Black Soldier fly is ‘Closing the loop’ by building a zero-waste food system

Key players in the Black Soldier Fly marketplace, Beta Bugs Ltd continue to drive the insect farming industry to success.

Beta Bugs Ltd have been shining a light on the ever-growing insect farming industry since it provides a solution to addressing the ever-growing need for regional production of protein and other feed ingredients. Now more than ever, it is important for the insect-farming industry to step up and scale-up – a feat which is largely possible through new market entrants such as farmers and entrepreneurs setting up their own insect farming operations. Come and visit Beta Bugs along with FlyBox at The British Pig & Poultry Fair’s Innovation Theatre at 12.45pm where Beta Bugs CEO, Thomas Farrugia will be presenting ‘Insects Unleashed: Turn an old shed into a Protein Factory’, alternatively you can visit us on stand number 10-431 where the Beta Bugs team will be on hand to answer any insect related questions.

How the Black Soldier Fly is Tackling Environmental Issues Head On

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates around  £31.5M per year of food, or 14% of global food production, is wasted from harvest to shelves. Consumers waste another 17% of food after retail purchase, according to UNEP’s food waste report. In a world where 40% of the food, on average, goes to landfills or into other waste streams, BSF provides an attractive solution to the problem. BSF can be fed onsite waste from other food processes, recycling organic waste into high-value end-products used by the same industries to produce other products, minimising the use of new raw materials.

BSF has applications in aquaculture, terrestrial protein, pet food, human supplements, biopesticides, and pharmaceuticals. These sectors, which need to reduce unsustainable inputs, have well-established, high-volume demand end markets with attractive margins for top-quality proteins.

How Farmers Can Leverage Insect Farming into Current Processes

As a result of the industry’s efforts to date, insect farming has become increasingly accessible, with multiple turnkey solutions now available, removing the need for spending time in extensive R&D and planning phases. As a result, a new generation of operators and insect farmers will enter the market to compete in supplying current and future demand for insect protein.

Farmers are seriously considering farming insects as a means of generating revenue, reducing their use of soya in animal feed, and localizing their protein production. There are a range of production options, from small, on-farm units to units that are as large as a farm in its entirety. By producing protein locally using locally derived materials, insect farming provides perfect opportunities for farmers who want to use insect protein directly in their feed, or to sell it on to feed manufacturers.

Now is an exceptionally good time to farm insects as there is more off-the-shelf insect farming equipment and know-how available from well-known suppliers, making it easier to farm insects. By joining in at this moment, farmers are able to leverage a local, yet global, opportunity and be part of one of the world’s fastest growing industries.

The Benefits of Insect Farming Diversification

When it comes to diversification, insect farming equipment providers give existing farmers the means to produce their own protein on-farm using on-farm surplus heat, space, and energy they have available. Insects such as Black Soldier Fly Larvae can be reared at high densities, meaning tonnes of protein can be produced from a relatively small footprint, reducing feed ration costs at small-scale. As a result, the best way for farmers to leverage insect farming is to become an insect farmer themselves. By working with established technology and BSF egg and/or juvenile BSF larvae suppliers such as Beta Bugs, farmers can now produce Black Soldier Fly larvae at a range of scales – be it small-scale systems (12 tonne of live larvae/year) that produce larvae for on-farm usage or by supplying neighboring farms, or large-scale facilities (1000+ tonne of insect meal/year) that will supply animal feed manufacturers. Both these routes allow farmers to diversify their operations in a low-carbon manner.

For those who want to establish large-scale production, the diversification opportunity is similar to setting up large-scale animal production where farmers target a scale of production in the thousands of tonnes/year, with the resulting insect protein and fat being supplied to feed manufacturers in the livestock, aqua and pet sectors to generate revenue. Alternatively, the protein is used directly within large-scale animal production operations, especially if a feed mill is available on site. If on-farm production is not possible or desired, farmers can still use insects within their feeding regime by working with local suppliers of insect protein.

Furthermore, farmers can use agricultural product that has not been taken up by the supply chain as a feed for growing black soldier fly larvae on, turning a potential waste stream into a circular protein source. Lastly, the frass (insect excreta) is rich in Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, meaning it can be used as an on-farm fertiliser to reduce fertilizer costs or sold on to create a further revenue stream.

How Beta Bugs Are Contributing to the Insect Farming Industry

At Beta Bugs, we have created Just-Fly™, which is available in the form of BSF eggs through our dedicated multiplication and BSF egg production centre – The Multiplier™. Multiplication is a key part of all genetics sectors and ensures we can supply our industry with the scale it requires. Just-Fly™ is our first product, reared to the same high zootechnical standards as our elite BSF egg product, HiPer-Fly®, but not put through our breeding programme. It provides market entrants with the opportunity to fast track towards creating profitable and scalable impact whilst developing an understanding of Black Soldier Fly husbandry and stockmanship, establishing key processes to rear it. It also caters to operators who are simply looking to up-scale production rapidly or avoid running a fly rearing operation whilst becoming familiar with working with a genetics partner that is dedicated to enabling their operation. Our flexible batch sizes and pricing enables operators to conduct the R&D, piloting and production that they need and when they need it, so that they can then bring larger facilities online.  This also streamlines operations as focussing on larval rearing simplifies the rearing operation significantly. It means that the entire facility footprint can be dedicated to the step that generates revenue – protein production and processing.

The Importance of Insect Genetics

The global climate crisis and the growing human population present an existential threat never encountered before. Harnessing nature’s solutions like the BSF unique traits to mimic nature and create a circular bioeconomy with proper waste management systems is essential in addressing these challenges. Insect farming and BSF as the leading species in it, is evolving a new industry that should be named InsecTech. InsecTech refers to the utilization of insects in the industrial production for food and feed, novel applications (like biofuel), and waste valorisation. All of which are resulting in novel biomanufacturing processes and more resilient feed and food supply chains, and sustainable biomass to biofuel.

“Harnessing nature’s solutions like the BSF unique traits to mimic nature and create a circular bioeconomy with proper waste management systems is essential.” – Beta Bugs Ltd

The BSF industry is currently focused on improving technologies for waste handling, cheaper and more efficient rearing processes, optimization of diets, product extraction methods and more. Implementing genetic programs in BSF facilities, including selective breeding and genetic engineering, offer a repertoire of solutions to optimise the bioreactor itself – the BSF. The importance of managing genetic diversity for the long-term viability and productivity of BSF colonies is becoming more and more prevalent in the scientific community.

By applying tried and tested breeding techniques, utilising high-throughput technologies and leveraging Black Soldier Fly biology, Beta Bugs is achieving improved genetic performance and bringing it to market with their genetics-based development of the HIPER-FLY® selective breeding programme, taking into account key principles which play a major role in expanding the value proposition of InsecTech and the BSF market.  Innovative opportunities armed with high-throughput sequencing technologies and powerful tools for genome editing are primed to yield promising results that will give substantial contributions to fighting climate crisis and food shortage, and position the BSF-based InsecTech at the forefront of bioeconomy and biomanufacturing.

ABOUT BETA BUGS LTD

Beta Bugs Ltd are an insect genetics company developing and distributing black soldier fly breeds to the insect farming sector. Founded in 2017 by Thomas Farrugia, the company is based at the Easter Bush Campus, a world-leading agri-food research, work, and study environment, just outside of Edinburgh, where it works on unlocking and disseminating the full genetic potential of insect farming.

For further enquiries on Beta Bugs Ltd please contact Nicola Gardner, Creative Marketing & Media Manager – nicola@betabugs.uk