The facility is aimed at helping that sector develop further. Customers can conduct larvae growth trials with various feedstock, develop product samples, evaluate breed solutions, and use the unit for training purposes.
The ITC, which obtained funding from Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), is already in operation.
The focus at the facility is on Black soldier fly (BSF) and mealworm production.
Data needed to set up industrial scale plant
A company that wants to build an industrial insect plant needs to cover several operational aspects, noted Andreas Baumann, head of market segment insect technology at Bühler.
The ITC, he said, will support developers in terms of finding the correct feedstock to rear the larvae, making sure that there is a strong and suitable insect strain to grow, defining suitable climate settings in relation to the larvae growth cycle, or getting emission data required for the permitting process.
The center includes two insect growth chambers that can mimic industrial production conditions; they are climate controlled and are equipped with sensors to provide process insights, allowing developers to collect data and determine the right parameters and practices to ensure efficient insect production at industrial scale.
By using the new test facility, customers might not need to invest into expensive pilot plants to demonstrate technological feasibility, according to Bühler. “In combination with the operational know-how exchange, we see enormous potential to reduce the overall time from the project idea to a successfully performing plant,” said Baumann.
Bühler’s team will also use the facility to run its own tests, to optimize its insect production technology and services for that market.
Demand for insect protein set to explode
Insects are a healthy and sustainable source of protein for food and feed, said the Swiss group. In addition, their frass can be used as a fertilizer, contributing to a circular economy model of production.
The demand for insect protein, mainly as an ingredient in feed and pet food, could reach half a million metric tons by 2030, up from today’s market of around 10,000 metric tons, predicted the authors of a RaboResearch report published in February 2021.