Technology from Murcia uses insects to revolutionise waste treatment

Entomo Agroindustrial outlines the keys to achieving a real circular economy thanks to black soldier fly larvae. The technology developed in Murcia enables organic substrates to be converted into raw materials with high added value for animal feed, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Biowaste treatment represents a threat that plagues all of our planet’s major cities. We generate more waste than the planet can cope with. However, technological developments have enabled the development of a circular economy-based solution with a key element provided by nature: the larvae of the black soldier fly.

Hermetia illucens (the scientific name of these flies) have been studied by scientists due to their capacity to devour organic biowaste, which enables subsequent use of their larvae for a multitude of industrial applications. One such researcher is Diego Amores, CEO at Entomo Agroindustrial, a leading Spanish start-up in the breeding of these insects. The company has developed a business model that is already enjoying success outside Spain.

The larvae eat the organic substrates in a matter of days, thus speeding up treatment times exponentially. These insects can feed off organic matter from a wide variety of sources, including vegetable by-products, manure, the organic fraction of municipal solid waste and supermarket waste.

Entomo AgroIndustrial carries out a detailed study for each of its clients to determine the best way to treat their biowaste, which will vary depending on waste type. The Murcia-based company has a well-defined objective, i.e., that the biowaste of clients is transformed onsite, thus reducing logistics costs. In other words, clients themselves take charge of the management of their biowaste, a model that sets Entomo AgroIndustrial apart from its competitors.

From biowaste to raw materials of high added value

This Entomo AgroIndustrial development represents the first stage of the loop associated with the action of the black soldier flies. The next step is to use these insects as bio-converters once they have been fed. The possibilities are endless. One of their main uses is associated with the proteins that can be extracted from the larvae, which can be used in the composition of different foods. These proteins are now being used in animal feed for nutritional purposes, subsequent to the passing a few months ago of an EU Directive ratifying their use for this purpose.

However, all 27 millimetres of the potential length of black soldier fly larvae are availed of, meaning that the fats they contain can also be used to benefit sectors such as the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Further uses include the generation of biodegradable plastics and substrates for fertilisers, amongst many others.

Now that it has developed a unique model already being offered to customers to address the first stage of this loop, Entomo AgroIndustrial is looking at the different options available to close the loop and continue to grow its business.

There is a significant market for the black soldier fly in Southeast Asia and it is gradually expanding into Europe, where it will soon become established as the future of waste treatment.