Innovation That Matters

Engineered flies turn waste into proteins and more

Agriculture & Energy

Using the flies reduces emissions and keeps biowaste out of landfill

Spotted: When we think of recycling, materials like plastics and metals are often the first to come to mind. But there is value to be had in organic waste. Globally, around 931 million tonnes of food is wasted annually – most of which ends up in landfills. Once there, biowaste generates leachates that pollute water tables, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. This is the problem that startup ByBug is hoping to tackle.

ByBug is a Chilean company that uses insects to process organic waste and transform it into recombinant proteins that are used to generate new products and ingredients. The company uses Hermetia illucens, or black soldier flies, which feed on decomposing organic matter in their larval stage. Crucially, the company uses molecular biology techniques to engineer larvae with the ability to produce specific proteins for a wide range of uses cases – from vaccines to industrial enzymes.

The company also produces a daily food supplement for domestic and farm animals made from dried black fly larvae. This contains high levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals — and no antibiotics or hormones.

The startup is in the early stages of development but has already validated its technology and demonstrated that it is 60 per cent more cost-effective for producing proteins than traditional bioreactors. It has also raised $1,320,000 in funding and signed a number of memoranda of understanding and letters of intent with partners to validate, test, and commercialise the technology.

ByBug still faces a number of challenges, including navigating the regulatory landscape for entering the US market and obtaining FDA approvals. In the meantime, it has developed ByBug Farms, which are easy-to-operate 20-foot insect breeding modules. These will enable farms, food companies, and other generators of organic waste to turn their organic waste into income-generating products such as insect flour and fertiliser.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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