UK Government awards £10m to industrial insect farm project

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Stef Bottinelli

[Picture: Instagram/Entocycle]

The UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenger Fund (ISCF) has awarded £10 million to help build the country’s first industrial insect farm to rear insects for the animal food industry.

The farm, the UK’s first large industrial scale insect facility, will rear black soldier flies who will feed on food waste. The flies will then be turned into insect protein to be used in animal feed and pet food.

The industrial insect farm will be built outside of London and will have be able to process 33,000 tonnes of food waste a year.

A number of companies are behind the project, including supermarket giant Tesco.

Insect farming is relatively new in the UK, but the Netherlands has invested in this alternative protein for some time. French insect farming company Ynsect, whose Chairman and CEO Antoine Hubert was recently a guest on the Table Talk podcast, has just raised $224 million in Series C funding, after raising $148m in February 2020, bringing the total investment in just over a year to $372.

“Insect farming has had almost 10 years of existence. We are 200 people (working at Ynsect), we raised more than about $450 million in total from us scaling a very small lab to a huge farm which is going to be the largest in the world”, Antoine Hubert said to presenter Stefan Gates in the podcast.

After selling insect protein to the animal and pet food industry, Ynsect is now looking at its potential usage in the wellness and sports food industry.

“We are farming mealworm beetles, and we process them into proteins to feed animals, pets, fish, and now (we are looking into) human sports nutrition.”, Ynsect CEO revealed.

Insect farming is becoming popular for its sustainability credentials, as it doesn’t require huge areas of land to operate, unlike the farming of soy crops and other grains used in farm animal feed. The area needed to rear insects is also dramatically smaller than that used to rear animals such as cows and pigs – whose meat and parts are also used in pet food.

However critics argue that as insect protein is used to feed farm animals – who produce a large amount of greenhouse gases – this type of farming cannot truly be called sustainable or environmentally friendly.

The building of the UK’s facility will be overseen by London insect farming start-up Entocycle, which already has a factory under the railway arches at London Bridge.
Founded in 2017 by former scuba diving instructor Kieran Whitaker, Entocycle farms black soldier fly larvae, whose meat and lipids are used in animal feed, whilst its excrement, known as frass, is used in horticulture.

“The UK is making an ambitious commitment to becoming a leader in sustainable food production systems,” Entocycle founder Kieran Whitaker said to The Guardian. “Through insects we can guarantee local supply chains – the early experience of Covid-19 has shown just how important this will be – while making significant reductions to CO2 emissions.”

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