SUCCESS STORIES

Cycle Farms

A growing population and the consequent increase in demand for food and protein is putting pressure on agricultural land, which in turn is leading to deforestation. Protein from insects is one possible solution – it’s efficient, has a small environmental resource footprint and can be fed with biowaste.

French start-up Cycle Farms is developing a biorefinery that converts organic matter into protein-rich black soldier fly larvae, which are then processed into feedstock for aquaculture.

Key points

  • Global food production will have to increase by 70 percent by 2050 to keep pace with a growing population
  • The demand for protein is increasing, too, to feed both humans, and the livestock and fish we consume
  • These demands put increasing pressure on existing agricultural land and on natural ecosystems that may be cleared for food production
  • Insects are a potentially sustainable source of protein that could feed livestock and fish, reducing pressure on existing food production methods
  • French company Cycle Farms has developed a biorefinery that converts food waste into insect protein, which is then processed into fish food
  • The firm hopes to begin operation in Africa next year, selling food pellets to farmers

Project Background and Drivers

With an estimated 2.3 billion more people on the planet by 2050, global food production will have to increase by 70 percent to keep pace. Demand for livestock and fish is growing too, placing extra pressure on the protein sources needed to raise them. Three quarters of the world’s soybeans are used in animal and fish feeds. In South America, the amount of land used to farm soybeans increased from 17 million ha in 1990 to 26 million ha in 2010, largely on land converted from natural ecosystems including rainforests, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Deforestation is estimated to account for around 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Our relationship with food is a major contributor to climate change in another way, too. Around one-third of all food produced globally is wasted. The carbon footprint of this uneaten food is an estimated 4.4Gt of CO2 yearly. If food wastage was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of CO2 after China and the US.

Project Detail

Over recent years, interest has grown in farming insects as a sustainable way to inject protein into the food chain, while at the same time, reducing pressure on existing food production methods. Not only does insect protein have a much smaller environmental footprint than traditional agriculture – a 150 m2 insect farm can produce as much protein as a 150 ha soybean field – insects can be raised on food waste rather than raw materials.

Start-up Cycle Farms has built a 40 cubic metre biorefinery in France that uses black soldier flies, a friendly species that is neither a pest nor a disease vector, to turn food waste into fish food. The flies’ protein-rich larvae are miniature waste-processing plants, fattening themselves on leftovers and food industry by-products that would otherwise end up being thrown away. The larvae also produce a rich compost that the firm hopes to sell to farmers or cooperatives.

Cycle Farms’ proprietary, self-contained system oversees every stage of the process, from hygiene of the food waste it uses as raw material to processing the insect meal into complete food pellets, which can then be sold to fish farmers. The company has been testing food waste provided by a French supermarket chain to identify the widest range of diet used in producing insect meal.

At present the company is piloting and refining its process in France, but it plans to establish an operation in Africa in 2017, selling food pellets to fish farmers. Currently, African fish farmers spend around 70 percent of their production costs on feed – a figure Cycle Farms intends to bring down significantly with its all-in-one production system. “We would like to help these people,” says Cycle Farms’ CEO Marc-Antione Luraschi. “And we need to reduce pressure on soya producers.” He also points out that the black soldier fly is perfectly suited to equatorial or tropical climates. “We don’t need to use any other source of energy to heat or cool this system.”

EIT Climate KIC Support

The company has just been selected to join the EIT Climate-KIC accelerator programme in France, following a six-month stint in EIT Climate-KIC’s Greenhouse pre-incubator programme for entrepreneurs. The Greenhouse provided the startup with €5,000 to help develop its first stage experimentation, as well as offering mentoring, workshops and support.

“We worked on developing our business model,” says Luraschi. “How can we deal with the innovation we have, how can we market it, and bring it to market? That was the most important work we did [in the Greenhouse]. During that process we decided to form Cycle Farms, and we now employ seven people.” They include an entomologist and an industrial designer, as well as a business developer and marketing director.

 

The carbon footprint of uneaten food is an estimated 4.4Gt of CO2 yearly. If food wastage was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of CO2 after China and the US.

Marc-Antione Luraschi, CEO, Cycle Farms

 

For more information visit cyclefarms.com

 
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