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Insect farming: a way to a sustainable future

Global climate change is affecting every aspect of human society. The need for environmental protection and the growing population of the planet are driving humanity to innovate and develop out-of-the-box solutions. The food industry is at the forefront of this renewal, as more and more food is needed, our natural resources are finite and the industry’s ecological footprint is significant. The cooperation between Food Autonomy and Grinsect, one of the most promising Hungarian agricultural startups, is rooted in sustainability and environmental protection.

Insect farming: a way to a sustainable future

Photo: Grinsect

The notion that insect consumption is one of the keys to sustainability and a balanced diet may sound highly unusual to Europeans. However, in certain regions of the planet this is common practice; think of the Far East, Africa, or many South American countries where insect consumption has a solid tradition. Approximately 2 billion people consume insects on a daily basis and there are more than 2,000 species of insects suitable for human consumption.

In the 2010s, the insect industry revolution reached Europe as well, as the continent’s growing protein needs are mostly covered by soy imports, thus increasing Europe’s exposure to non-European countries, said Sándor Aszalai, CEO of Grinsect. European authorities have so far rubber-stamped the farming of 7 insect species and their use as fodder. Legislators primarily aim at revolutionizing the fodder industry and, to a lesser extent, meeting human dietary needs for now. Of the 7 insect species that have been approved by authorities, only a couple can be used in human food for the time being.


Hungarian company in the service of sustainability

Grinsect is the only Hungarian company licensed by a government agency to engage in the mass breeding, rearing, and processing of the black soldier fly (BSF) for feed purposes. The company is also involved in developing and automating BSF breeding and processing technology. It strives to produce protein in an environmentally friendly way, leaving as little ecological footprint as possible. The company aims to provide alternative solutions for global and local problems such as the growing environmental pressure of the huge amount of unprocessed organic waste and the protein crisis brought about by changing consumer behavior.

BSF larvae have not yet been authorized for human consumption in Europe, so Grinsect produces flour and oil made from BSF exclusively for animal feed. These products are used in pet food and the feed of aquatic animals (fish farms), poultry and pigs. The company based in Csongrád county is expanding dynamically and a second plant with a capacity of six tons of larvae per day is currently under construction, said Sándor Aszalai.

Joint developments with Tungsram and Food Autonomy

Grinsect’s collaboration with Tungsram and its partner company, Food Autonomy, started with lamps. Grinsect was working on developing a modern lighting solution at the time, as flies can only pair effectively when an appropriate light spectrum and brightness are provided. “When the BSF is farmed under artificial conditions, sunlight must be replaced. We knew what nanometers they needed, and we developed such a lamp with Food Autonomy,” said Grinsect’s CEO.

The LED-based 200-watt toplight device in use at the Grinsect plant
The LED-based 200-watt toplight device in use at the Grinsect plant
Source: Grinsect

Photo: Grinsect

The LED-based 200-watt toplight device has been in use at the Grinsect plant for more than a year. The product is available commercially. "Our experience so far shows that the lamp works very efficiently and precisely, we managed to achieve what we were aiming for, and the outcome of the project is very positive," added Sándor Aszalai. The original lamp has an upgraded version, and the two companies are working on developing another versions too.

Circular production


The list of joint projects does not end with the development of lamps and special devices; the two companies are looking for further means of cooperation. One such area is the vertical farm operated by Tungsram.
 

Root medium used in the microgreen plant
Root medium used in the microgreen plant
Source: Food Autonomy powered by Tungsram's Vertical Farm

Photo: Food Autonomy powered by Tungsram's Vertical Farm

In the microgreen plant, soil is replaced with a root medium, which are degradable materials. The root medium that contains stem residues is valuable fodder for the larvae, and the two companies are investigating how this material could be used effectively at the Grinsect site to feed the larvae and thus achieve a zero-waste cycle. Using the biomass produced by vertical farms to feed insects seems like a viable solution and the partners will assess how effectively BSFs grow on this substrate.

“So far, our cooperation with Food Autonomy is highly positive; the company is flexible and responds quickly to our requests and feedback. I definitely see an opportunity to work together on further projects in the future,” said Sándor Aszalai.

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