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7 October, 2020 - 21:37 By Tony Quested

Better Origin awarded government cash to scale insect processing tech

Cambridge startup Better Origin has earned £1.1 million of a £10m haul from the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund designed to help grow the insect bioconversion sector – accelerating a transition to sustainable methods of farming. 

Better Origin will use the money to focus on scaling its insect processing and value extraction technology to convert insects into products such as animal feed and human food. 

A result of years of research and development, the company’s patented ‘Metamorphosis Technology’, which processes insects into different products, is felt to represent the most cost-effective, tailored processing line developed to date.

Fotis Fotiadis, founder and CEO of the business, says: “Farming the insect is proven to be pretty straightforward – however, the real value comes from converting the farmed insect into products.

“Over the last three years, we have developed a solution which can convert the full-grown insect into ingredients for salmon feed, pet feed and human food in a sustainable and scalable way. 

“This funding represents the single largest investment by the UK into the insect protein space and we are delighted to be a recipient. It will enable us to accelerate our product development, deploy the first dedicated insect processing facility in the UK, and expand rapidly to the rest of the world.”

The funding plays to Better Origin’s strengths. Focusing primarily on Black Soldier Fly processing, the technology has already been successfully tested with all other major farmed insect species. 

Simon MacKenzie, deputy head at the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling, says: “We’ve been working with Better Origin since 2018, successfully testing their Metamorphosis Technology to highlight the potential for insects in salmon aquaculture. This opportunity allows us to bring this state-of-the-art technology to the market.”

Launched in 2018 by Cambridge University graduates, Fotis Fotiadis and Miha Pipan, Better Origin focuses on promoting a decentralised, local insect farming model. 

The company launched the Better Origin X1 – the world’s first stand-alone AI-powered insect mini-farm – earlier this year. This fully autonomous solution removes the significant capital requirement and knowledge entry barrier that has prevented farmers and food producers from exploring insects as a viable and sustainable option. 

Better Origin’s vision is to democratise insect farming, developing tools that will allow any farmer in the world to grow insects in a cost-effective and resilient way.

The ambitious three-year government funded project includes a number of different organisations, including fellow insect companies Entocycle, Insect Technology Group and Beta Bugs; retailer Tesco; and key feed supply chain companies, AB Agri and Cooke Aquaculture Scotland. 

Leading academic institutions, University of Stirling, Durham and Warwick, the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre and Zero Waste Scotland are also taking part in this pace-breaking project aimed at improving UK food security and agricultural sustainability. 

Better Origin arose from collaboration between the academic research of Cambridge University and the technical expertise of the Cambridge Technology cluster.

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