There is a Finnish-based company called Volare that has developed a more energy-efficient version of an insect-based system for converting various food processing “sidestreams” into pet, bird, fish, chicken and pig feed. Did. It represents both technological and regulatory advancements and has great potential for expansion.
Most crops grown for human food must go through some sorting and processing steps so that we can consume them directly or use them as ingredients for our favorite things. In the process, various unpalatable or inedible “sidestreams” are produced. The food industry has economic incentives to find uses for these products instead of simply throwing them away. In some cases, alternative human food can be generated, such as turning “picked” apples into juice or sauce. Another option is to capture the potential energy of the sidestream by putting it into an anaerobic digester to produce renewable natural gas. Some sidestreams can be fed directly to animals, in which case they provide both energy and nutritional potential.
One very interesting option is to harness the “super power” of an insect called the Black Soldier Fly (or BSF) to unlock the nutritional and energy potential of the sidestream. The Black Soldier Flies may have originally come from the New World, but they have effectively hitchhiked around the world with humans and become “cosmopolitans.” Although they are harmless to humans, they have an amazing ability to eat almost anything because they produce at least 17 different digestive enzymes. Their larval stage allows them to thrive in many sidestreams of normally low value, which can then be processed to make high-quality protein meals and desirable fats. Although it is already widely used in the production of fish, it is also excellent as feed for fish, swine and poultry. This column has covered several key BSF-based technologies throughout 2022 as BSF is rapidly becoming a large-scale industry. However, it has great potential for expansion and may even compete with some secondary uses of bioenergy.
BSF technology is now more widely used in Europe than in the United States, but it is also heavily regulated there, especially when used to produce animal feed intended for human consumption. This constraint is related to the unfortunate history of mad cow disease or ‘BSE’ which has fueled the strong impact of the precautionary principle in many EU regulations. Currently approved processes for making animal feed from BSF larvae add significant amounts of water and large amounts of energy not only to treat pathogen contamination, but also to ensure a “killing step” that destroys prions. is needed. The type that caused mad cow disease.
There is a Finnish-based company called Volare that has developed and patented a process to make high-quality protein and fat animal feed from BSF larvae, but without the need to add significant amounts of water. Because of this, their process requires significantly less energy than existing methods, allowing him to reduce operating costs by 50%. Volare has gone through a difficult process of convincing EU regulators that it can meet safety standards in a new way.
Volare has its first plant in Finland, capable of processing hundreds of tons of sidestreams per year to produce BSF-based proteins and oils. They are planning another facility and hope to be able to process 50,000 tons per year by the end of 2024. They use a variety of raw materials such as oat husks, potato trimmings and distillates from the brewing industry.
Currently, they mainly produce pet food and bird feed, but EU approval will allow them to expand into the fishmeal market for aquaculture and their poultry and pork business. There is great global interest in using BSF systems, which are even more challenging from a regulatory perspective as they involve meat. Still, nearly two-thirds of his sidestreams across the food system are more valuable to his BSF products than biogas production, so Volare sees more room for expansion. Also, the facilities required for BSF production have capital costs similar to installing an anaerobic digester, but are simpler to operate. Insect-derived proteins and oils are becoming an important part of the animal feed supply, and we hope this technology can help accelerate that change.