The UK’s first large-scale farm breeding insects for animal feed and pet food has moved a step closer after the government backed the project with a £10m funding package.
The new facility will be built by the insect farming start-up Entocycle, which will use it to raise black soldier flies fed on food waste to create sustainable insect protein.
At its existing operation, under railway arches at London Bridge, the company feeds local food waste – typically surplus fruit and vegetables, discarded brewer’s grains and coffee grounds – to the insects. It says this has a smaller environmental footprint than traditional ingredients for animal feed such as meat, soy and fishmeal.
The new factory, earmarked for a site outside London and with funding from the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), will be able to process 33,000 tonnes of food waste per year.
The damaging environmental impact of global meat production has spurred interest in insects as an alternative, sustainable food source. Unlike cows or pigs, they can be bred in significant numbers without taking up large amounts of land, water or feed. Most existing insect farms are on the continent, with many in the Netherlands.
Entocycle was set up in 2017 by Keiran Whitaker, who received a master’s in environmental design from the University of Manchester. “The UK is making an ambitious commitment to becoming a leader in sustainable food production systems,” he said.
“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.”
The project consortium involves a range of organisations including fellow UK insect companies Better Origin and Beta Bugs, along with Tesco, which has provided it with seed funding.
In the UK, manufacturers and big supermarkets have also been testing consumers’ appetite with insect-based crunchy snacks and staples such as pasta, flour and cereal. Sainsbury’s this year delisted bags of roasted crickets made by the London food company Eat Grub but they are still for sale online.
A startup, Small Giants, will this month launch a range of savoury crackers made with cricket flour, initially via Amazon, and with supermarket listings on the horizon via Tree of Life for wholesale.