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Commercialising High Performance Insect Breeds via a Platform for Typing of Insect Strains

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CHiPInB (Commercialising High Performance Insect Breeds via a Platform for Typing of Insect Strains)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-06-30

Issue - A rising population to 9.5Bn by 2050 will see livestock and aquaculture demand increase by over 70%. To meet these demands, aquaculture, pig and poultry producers rely on high quality feedstocks with high protein levels. The animal and aquaculture feed markets are currently dependent on soymeal and fishmeal as main sources of protein feed, which are already suffering the consequences of disproportionately high demand. The global market is expected to experience a shortage of 60 million tonnes of protein by 2030 (the protein gap), and the economic impact is especially felt by the EU, whose soya supply is 95% import dependent. Rising protein prices indicate that current protein sources are not only environmentally devastating, but cannot sustain the increasing demand. Insect protein has huge potential to be produced efficiently: insects naturally live in high densities, grow rapidly and can be reared on agricultural by-products, or organic waste streams. This ensures a reliable, cost-effective and low footprint alternative source of protein that simultaneously closes the protein gap, strengthens regional supply chains and enables a circular economy. As a result, a growing number of companies worldwide are already commercially farming the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) and are actively targeting the “insects as feed” sector, estimated to be worth €2.1B by 2030.

Challenge - Insect farming is a rapidly emerging industry, with over €450M invested in the industry. Over 30 European BSF producers are scaling through a combination of private equity and public funding. However, as the industry is reaching commercial scale, high production costs are a current challenge for BSF producer profitability and entry into the livestock feed market, as they face price point competition with soya and fishmeal protein. This provides an opportunity for targeted genetic improvement efforts in BSF that can significantly improve BSF producer productivity (e.g. faster growth rate) and BSF protein quality (e.g. nutritional profiles tailored to different livestock).

Opportunity - As a developer and distributor of Black Soldier Fly breeds, Beta Bugs enables the industry by supplying insect breeds that deliver cost-effective and climate-friendly protein for animal and aqua feed. Beta Bugs sells performance gains: Performance that improves on-farm productivity and the bottom line.

This is important because in contrast to traditional protein sources, soya and fishmeal, insect meal has negligible environmental impact, ensures continuous and consistent supply and presents no price volatility, making it a more desirable long-term alternative that can help meet the growing demand for protein and avoid the protein gap. This innovation also fulfils the main aims of the Horizon 2020 programme by creating a circular economy which facilitates economic growth free from the increasing consumption of resources and waste production, and meeting numerous UN Sustainable Development Goals, most notably goals 12: Responsible Consumption and Production and 13: Climate Action.

The CHIPINB project is designed to underpin Beta Bugs’ commercial strategy and will enable the company to distribute its genetics within its key target markets, including the EU.
During the CHIPINB project to date, Beta Bugs has established and launched a dedicated insect genetics nucleus facility for Black Soldier Fly. This houses specialized technologies and processes that have been developed by the company to find the best performers within its nucleus population.

The company has also executed on its route to market strategy, having developed key relationships within its industry through direct outreach and membership bodies. It has also mapped out the required production requirements to enable breed distribution.

In order to achieve this progress, Beta Bugs has also grown its operational team by securing new talent spanning Operations, Manufacturing, Financial Modelling and technical expertise required to manage the breeding programme. It has progressed further with its R&D relationships and has commenced work on a scientific advisory board comprised of multiple industry experts.
By establishing and developing on its breeding programme, and implementing its market entry strategy, Beta Bugs has established its position within the insect protein industry as a developer and distributor of BSF breeds. This is a new niche, occupied by a minority of players, which has developed further during the project’s duration to date.

Results expected by project end include the full commissioning of the insect breeding facility, along with fully validated marketing and commercial strategy. In achieving these goals, the company is forecast to create up to a further 20 STEM roles in the next 4 years as it scales operations and undertakes further R&D with its research partners. Through achieving this scale, the company will also provide a means for existing agriculturalists and agri-food companies to diversify into insect farming, creating new socio-economic growth within Scotland and the UK.

The company is also partnering with stakeholder organizations across the agri-food and insect farming supply chain to further develop the future of the European insect breeding and genetics sector, ensuring that it is able to contribute to the growth of the insect farming industry.
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