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    Researchers collaborate with industry on world first insect farm project

    Posted 20 July 2023

    A handful of black soldier fly larvae

    A handful of black soldier fly larvae - black solider fly will be used to derive the protein used in the project.

    Researchers at Harper Adams University are working to develop the world’s first fully modular insect farm alongside agri-tech company Flybox and a Buckinghamshire egg farm.

    The £1 million collaboration has been co-funded with £762,194 coming from Innovate UK and DEFRA through the Farming Futures Research and Development (R&D) Fund.

    The partners will create and assess the 360 Farm aiming to tackle climate change, land overuse and food waste by using insects as a sustainable source of protein on commercial farms. 

    A number of Harper Adams academics across the University’s Agriculture and Environment, Engineering and Food, Land and Agribusiness Management departments will be working on the project. 

    Principal Investigator Dr Jane Eastham said: “This is a hugely exciting project, building upon the success of our commercial partner in Africa while drawing upon the multi-disciplinary expertise of academics at Harper Adams.

    “As the project progresses, we expect that it will not only provide valuable insights commercially, but will also widen our knowledge of alternative protein sources, their development and application."

    As the partnership’s work progresses, Flybox’s modular technology will aim to unlock the tremendous benefits of insect farming for an increasingly overstretched food supply chain.  

    Insect farming boasts vast potential to reduce land and water use as well as address long-term food insecurity by reducing our reliance on unsustainable protein sources. However, in the UK insect protein uptake is limited to specific industries, with farmers still waiting to reap the benefits it holds. 

    With the new funding for the 360 Farm, the project will seek to integrate seamlessly onto commercial poultry farms with a sustainable animal feed protein source. 

    Each stage in the insect farming process has its own bespoke, prefabricated component. Combined, they create a low-CAPEX system that would allow farms to produce their own insect protein for use in feed. 

    The modular insect farm is designed to offer a scalable, sustainable farming solution, applicable to any player in the food industry. It enables such players to purchase insect breeding, nursery, growing, waste management and product processing solutions separately, or combined into a made-to-order insect farm.

    Andrea Jagodic co-founder and CEO of Flybox added: “Flybox aims to ease access to insect-farming technology, moving away from the era of exclusively centralised insect-farming facilities. Now with the funding provided by Innovate UK and DEFRA, we can push forward in our mission to facilitate sustainable farming practices and increase global food security, by unlocking insect farming on a wider scale for farmers that desperately need solutions today.”

    Flybox has already had a successful run of projects in Kenya and the UK in partnership with local companies, NGOs, and the government. 

    Dr Eastham added: “The potential of this project will go beyond its initial impact. From innovative ways of tackling waste to new insights into the use of the Internet of Things, we expect there will be many other insights our research can offer. Where appropriate, these can be used in our teaching, in knowledge exchange and at academic conferences as well as in developing the product itself.”

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