Matthew McLaren (Entomics)
Award: September's Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award Entomics
uses insects to convert food waste into fertilizer, unlocking a new energy resource for global agriculture.
"We started off with a problem, which was what to do with food waste," explains Matt McLaren, one of the firm's founders. "Tonnes of it goes to landfill. We came up with an answer, and built a team with the skills to make it happen."
The answer lies in the Black Soldier Fly, whose larvae can be used to create high protein animal feed, fertilizer and biodiesel: producing a potential energy source for powering cars and homes.
Matt explains: "Black Soldier Flies are ultimate conversion catalysts. In just two weeks they can break down food waste and build it back up into complex and valuable compounds within their bodies.
"After deciding that flies as a conversion catalyst offered the best solution to food waste, we started to look at ways to extract these substances and what they could be used for.
"Our research showed that the fat could be refined into biodiesel or basic oil, the protein could be used to produce a nutritional supplement for livestock, and what is leftover makes an excellent fertiliser or bio pesticide."
With 1.3 billion tonnes of food currently wasted globally, the burden of food waste on society is set to increase. Accordingly, Entomics wants to scale up their operation from addressing food waste in the UK, to addressing food waste globally. “Our long term aim is to use insects to solve humanity’s problems as both a research and commercial platform,” explains Matt’s colleague and biochemist, Miha Pipan.
Entomics won the Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in September 2015. Matt used the £5,000 in funding to buy a van for collecting unwanted food from local supermarkets to be devoured by Entomics’s energy-bugs. Among the participating supermarkets was Sainsbury’s, with whom Entomics now has a partnership for recycling their food waste into reusable goods.
Entomics was founded by Matt after meeting with Cambridge University graduates during a sustainability challenge organised by CUTEC, the university's club for young entrepreneurs.
Elevator Pitch Video
You can watch Entomics's elevator pitch video again in the video player in the top right-hand corner of this page.