Saving the planet one insect at a time

Morton Fraser Senior Associate Julie Nixon
Dr Julie Nixon, WS
Senior Associate
09 November 2021

On Monday the 1st of November, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined world leaders at a reception during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The Duke was pictured recoiling from a jar of dead bugs offered by his wife.

Unfortunately for the Duke, the United Nations has predicted that the market for edible insects could be worth $6.3 billion (£4.6 billion) by 2030, and 2 billion people already eat them around the globe as part of their diet. Mars Petcare recently announced a new insect-based cat food range, Lovebug, and insects show great potential as feed in aquaculture and for livestock. Insect protein in animal feed could replace 20% of the UK’s soya imports by 2050, according to a report by WWF.

On Tuesday the 2nd November at COP26, the UK Research & Innovation, a non-departmental public body of the government, hosted a talk on climate change solutions in which they discussed edible insects and the work UK scientists and innovators are doing in the industry.

One such UK based innovator, Beta Bugs Limited, is headquartered here in Edinburgh at the Roslin Innovation Centre. Founded in 2017 by CEO Thomas Farrugia, Beta Bugs is committed to "making better insects". The company's state of the art genetic breeding programme is generating breeds of Black Soldier Fly which are optimised for industrial needs. These breeds grow bigger and faster, and enable insect farmers to compete on price with existing animal and aqua-feed ingredients.

Beta Bugs does not manufacture the insect protein itself, but rather it produces the eggs. These are then sold by weight to other businesses to hatch and to farm. Beta Bugs has developed its Just-Fly product, which is available in the form of Black Soldier Fly eggs. The company is also growing, and its workforce has expanded from four to 11 in the last year.

Thomas says "insects could help save the planet as they are a great means of producing protein locally, which means we can supplement existing protein sources which can't keep up with expanding populations". Scotland is an ideal base for Thomas to grow his company. "As Beta Bugs is a genetics company, the Roslin Institute is an excellent location as it allows us to work with expert academics".

Even though insect farming is at an early stage in Scotland, there is clear drive and ambition to grow the industry. Especially with COP26 highlighting sustainable farming. Insects can be farmed anywhere in any environment, and can be grown using by-products of the food industry.

It is worth noting that the edible insects market will grow to $6.3bn by 2030 according to a report by Barclays. And research by Sainsbury’s found 42% of British consumers are willing to try insects.

So don’t be surprised if your local shop includes milk made from fly protein powder or a mealworm lasagne in the not too distant future!


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