Fera Science opens US$1m insect feed research laboratory

UK— UK research organization Fera Science has opened a £1million (US$1.02 million) laboratory at its York Bioscience Campus (YBC) to study insect bioconversion for use in animal feed.

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. The lab, described as the first of its kind in the UK, will ‘twin’ the process of insect bioconversion at factory production scale.

The 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.

By expanding the scope and scale of its current insect services, Fera will be able to meet the needs of global clients from across the food industry.

The rising pressure to meet consumption for the growing population globally estimates that more than 250m metric tonnes of additional protein will be needed per year in the decades ahead.

Andrew Swift, CEO, Fera Science Tweet

Andrew Swift, CEO, Fera Science, said the launch of the specialist insect lab was an important step in the delivery of ‘expert support’ from the group to help the food production industry to respond to the opportunities the technology presented.  

“The rising pressure to meet consumption for the growing population globally estimates that more than 250m metric tonnes of additional protein will be needed per year in the decades ahead,” he added.

However, producing higher quantities of food alone isn’t enough. Instead, food needs to be produced sustainably, including protein, to reduce its negative impact on the environment.

“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,” Swift added.

Tamara Finkelstein, permanent secretary at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “This is a critical time for innovation in biotechnology and the insect unit has the potential to reduce our impact on the environment, making progress towards a more circular economy.”

Fera will use the lab to help 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.  

The laboratory will also enable collaborations with universities, startups, insect farms and associated national and international regulatory authorities, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency.

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