Over the past thirty years, we've seen composting and anaerobic digestion take the lead as methods to manage surplus food that turns into waste. However, technologies that were once niche are now ready to make a real impact.
Insect agriculture is an exciting new solution for reducing food waste by managing nutrient-rich organic materials. Insects have always been a vital part of our ecosystem, yet until recently, they've been overlooked in our food systems. At Stratium, an organization that is initiating the global shift to sustainable insect protein through technology and innovation, our focus is on using black soldier flies to tackle several pressing challenges — reducing food waste, providing high-quality proteins and lipids for animal feeds, and improving soil health. Black soldier flies are exceptional, because they can consume nearly any organic waste and grow 2,000 times their original size in twenty days.
Now you might think insect agriculture sounds strange, especially in North American markets where it's relatively new. However, our team isn't new to this idea at all – we have been perfecting our technology to turn food waste into black soldier fly feed for 13 years.
The process of rearing black soldier flies is both simple and complex. We raise a colony of these flies, allocating 10% to regenerate the colony while nurturing the remaining 90% to an optimal stage for harvesting protein. From there, we use minimal processing techniques to extract the protein and to preserve the nutrient quality.
Just as insects play a vital role in nature by decomposing organic matter and providing nutrients, nothing goes to waste in our process. When our partners in the animal feed industry request protein in powdered form, we also extract a valuable oil rich in lauric acid, suitable for animal feeds and cosmetics. Even the bedding material from our process serves as a nutrient-rich soil amendment called “frass.” Our team has also developed special methods to extract other valuable nutrients, like melanin and chitin, for soil amendments and other applications.
Insect agriculture isn't just environmentally friendly, it's a regenerative business model. We generate multiple value-added products, and Stratium has established partnerships with experts at every step of the supply chain. Our upstream partners are enthusiastic about maximizing nutrient recovery from their food surplus and organic waste byproducts. And our product partners include top fish feed nutritionists, pet feed specialists focused on nutrition and quality nutrients, and soil health experts ready to bring our products to market as we expand our operations.
Many insect companies, including Stratium, have conducted lifecycle analyses and found significant savings in water, carbon, and land use compared to traditional protein production methods. However, there's no universal system to measure the broader benefits of our processes. Insects can provide a sustainable source of protein by converting organic waste, which has the potential to reduce the need for overfishing and using land for low-grade protein from crops like corn and soy. Both practices harm biodiversity, yet we lack a recognized system to measure the impact of preserving fish stocks or enhancing land biodiversity.
As a closing thought, I recently had a chat with a friend who runs a local landfill. He mentioned how he constantly sees reports about efforts to reduce waste, but every day, trucks keep rolling in. This is worrisome, especially considering that most reports show limited landfill capacity over the next several years in the northeast United States.
Reducing surplus food may seem overwhelming, but with the emergence of new technologies, I'm confident that we can make a real impact. Insect agriculture is a technology that has the potential to drive significant change, and Stratium is more than ready to take on the challenge.
If you are interested in learning more about Stratium’s efforts, please follow us on LinkedIn or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get in touch with Bobbie Thoman, Managing Director at Stratium, on LinkedIn.
The views and opinions expressed in this guest blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of ReFED.