Cycle Farms is an all-in-one insect farming system producing sustainable fish and livestock feed, with support from EIT Climate-KIC’s Greenhouse programme.
With an estimated 2.3 billion more people on the planet by 2050, global food production needs to increase by 70 per cent to keep pace. Growing demand for livestock and fish is pressuring the protein sources required to raise them. Currently, three-quarters of the world’s soybeans are used in animal and fish feeds. In South America, the land used to farm soybeans increased from 17 million to 26 million hectares between 1990 and 2010. According to the World Wildlife Fund, this was largely on land converted from natural ecosystems including rainforest. Deforestation is estimated to account for 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Our relationship with food contributes to climate change in another way, too. Approximately one-third of all food is wasted, creating an estimated annual carbon footprint of 4.4Gt of CO2. If food wastage were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of CO2 after China and the US.
Insect farming offers a sustainable way to inject protein into the food chain. It has a smaller environmental footprint than traditional agriculture, and insects can be raised on food waste.
Start-up Cycle Farms has built a 40-cubic metre bio-refinery in France for breeding black soldier fly larvae (a species that is neither a pest nor a disease vector), fed with food waste and processed into food pellets for fish farmers. The flies’ protein-rich larvae act as miniature waste-processing plants, fattening themselves on produce that would otherwise be thrown away. The larvae also create rich compost that the business hopes to sell to farmers and cooperatives.
Cycle Farms is establishing an operation in Africa, where farmers spend up to 70 per cent of their production budget on feed – a figure Cycle Farms intends to bring down significantly with its all-in-one production system. And as the black soldier fly is suited to equatorial and tropical climates, there will be no need to mechanically heat or cool the system, bringing further sustainability benefits.
EIT Climate-KIC’s role
Cycle Farms was selected for 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 venture 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 Cycle Farms’ CEO Marc-Antoine 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.”