Fera Science launches £1m laboratory for insect bioconversion

Fera Science is to open a  specialist insect laboratory today at its Bioscience Campus (YBC) location in York, UK.

The £1m expansion involved converting a former storage unit on site into a purpose-built insect research unit, increasing Fera’s presence at YBC by over 2,000 sq. ft.

This expert research and development (R&D) facility will support the rapid growth of insect bioconversion to upcycle biomass residues into valorised products. Fera’s R&D services will help a variety of industries to evaluate the feasibility and scale up processes by which they can best adopt the technology.

Fera, a pioneer in expert agri-food and environmental science services, has led insect bioconversion R&D in the UK and EU for the past 10 years.

The laboratory, which is the first of its kind in the UK and one of the first in Europe, enables Fera to help meet the needs of global clients from across the food industry by expanding the scope and scale of its current insect services to ‘twin’ the process of insect bioconversion at factory production scale.

Insect bioconversion is the process of feeding insect biomass residue to create valorised products, such as high quality proteins and oils, packaging materials or soil nutrients. It is a circular economic practice that reduces waste, provides alternative – sustainably sourced – ingredients for animal feed, according to Fera.

Most of Fera’s work has focused on developing this application with black soldier fly larvae for a multitude of reasons which lend themselves to an efficient production process and yielding product which is protein rich, contains a good balance of essential amino acids, minerals and fats – highly suitable for feeding to monogastric animals (such as poultry, pigs and fish).

Fera is able to advise its clients on the cost reductions as well as optimising the circular economy benefits of insect bioconversion in line with net carbon zero objectives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). The laboratory will also enable collaborations with universities, start-ups, insect farms and associated national and international regulatory authorities, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Food Standards Agency.

Dr Andrew Swift, chief executive officer at Fera Science said the launch of a specialist insect laboratory is an important step in the delivery of expert support to help the food production industry.

“The rising pressure to meet consumption for the growing population globally estimates that more than 250 million metric tonnes of additional protein will be needed per year in the decades ahead,” Swift said. “This puts immense pressure on our current animal feed protein sources such as soy and fishmeal which are derived from unsustainable sources. Insect bioconversion presents one route to provide sustainably sourced protein into the food chain to help overcome this challenge. Under a circular economy, this technology can reduce biomass waste through consumption and conversion into high quality protein for animal feed as well as other bi-products of high value to food production.”

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