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Optimising insect protein production

Matt Simmonds, Managing Director, Entocycle.

“Funding from the UK science and research investment community allowed us to develop ground breaking technology and patentable intellectual property. This was fundamental in enabling us to attract further venture capital investment for commercialisation.”

Rapid human population growth and growing food supply shortages have led to a need for more sustainable food production. Black soldier fly larvae can provide a source of sustainable, nutritious protein as an alternative to traditionally sourced proteins. However, harvesting the insects at a production scale requires precise control throughout their life cycle. Entocycle has developed technology to allow scale up and automation of insect farming which has previously been unavailable to the sector.

A Machine Vision Neonate Counter.
A Machine Vision Neonate Counter.

Successful black soldier fly production relies on controlling the number and density of neonates which emerge from the eggs. Neonate numbers have previously been estimated using manual methods, such as by weighing larvae. Entocycle have developed a machine vision neonate counter which can count over 3,000 neonates per second, allowing precise seeding into growth crates and controllable harvesting with lower mortality and larger insects on farms.

Throughout the breeding process only one percent of the fly larvae are required to reach maturity to breed, leaving the rest to become protein product. Once ready to breed, the efficiency of egg production depends on a number of environmental parameters, such as fly density. To ensure that this density is optimal for egg production, the company has developed an AI-powered fly counter and associated software which can count the flying adults in 3-dimensional space in their fly-rooms.

Climate control and ventilation systems ensure that the temperature and environmental conditions remain optimal for each stage of fly and larval growth until harvest. The by-product from the growth crates, frass, is an excellent natural fertiliser for plants.

Matt and his team provide new market entrants with blueprints to entire bespoke insect farms. They also provide existing black soldier fly breeders with their technology to dramatically improve the efficiency of production plants. Their main objective now is to expand the roll-out of their products, commercialise the technology and scale-up the business.

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