A circular revolution in the forecast for aquaculture feed

22-08-2022 | |
Photo: Canva
Photo: Canva

Innovators Future by Insects and strategic partner Fera Science Limited, winners of the WWF and Tesco Innovation Connections accelerator scheme award, are working with commercial partners to revolutionise the production of aquaculture feed.

The collaborative project will validate Future by Insects’ innovative and sustainable solution which is designed to repurpose organic waste streams and captured CO2 emissions to grow algae as food for insects to produce animal feed ingredients. Hilton Food Group and Greencore – both major suppliers to Tesco – are centrally involved in supporting the project.

Collecting data on insect feed

Future by Insects chief executive Evelyn Peters told the Innovation Forum podcast, that the funding through the initiative would enable the company to collect data and evidence from partners by product streams, such as Greencore’s fruit and vegetables. These would be fed to insects and upcycled to produce protein meal, designed to go into fish feed, enabling another partner, fish processor Hilton Food Group, to use the feed for its fish bound for Tesco’s shelves.

Sustainable fish feed

Peters said all the groundwork had been completed through pilots and the key aims now were to produce a sustainable source of fish feed and also be able to show evidence that the impact is sustainable on a larger scale.

Collaboration was crucial, she said: “Not only do we need a large amount of substrates for what we want to achieve – sustainably produced insect meal being readily available in the UK, locally produced… not only going into fish feed but also going into poultry for example, or later on, depending on the approval status, potentially the pig sector and wider applications than that.”

New insect research unit

Dr Maureen Wakefield, principal scientist, Insect Research Unit, Fera, said the organisation’s collaboration with Future By Insects will enable “them to work with our extensive scientific and practical technical knowledge and our new Insect Research Unit specialising in insect farming. The new facility will provide large scale trial facilities utilising the huge volumes of organic food waste required to carry out the scaled-up testing to build the evidence base necessary to support Future by Insects project work.”

Fera’s £1m insect bioconversion laboratory at its Bioscience Campus in York was opened in August and is designed to help scale up the production of insect protein for animal feed – the first of its kind in the UK and one of the first in Europe.

Hilton Food Group

Both Future by Insects and Fera recognise the importance of the involvement of Hilton Food Group and Greencorre, due to their scale and position in the market. Both can contribute hugely to Tesco and WWF’s ambition to halving the environmental impact of every household’s shopping basket by the acceleration of the adoption of new technologies at scale.

Nigel Edwards, Hilton Food Group CSR director, said the company had decided to be involved in the initiative as the partners offered a credible scale up solution for insect derived fish feed in aquaculture as well as extensive scientific expertise: “This project will validate Hilton’s ambition to lower environmental impacts compared with traditional feeds, measured in terms of CO2, water use, circularity and biodiversity.

And Greencore Group’s sustainability manager Norman Watson added: “We will provide food ingredient by-products from our production sites to be trialled as insect feed, thereby creating a high-value product from our food by-product waste streams aiding the creation of a closed loop system with our fish product related supply chain.”

Tony McDougal Freelance Journalist