AgriGrub is pioneering a sustainable solution to food waste in the UK using a remarkable insect called the Black Soldier Fly.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) states that the UK wastes £19 billion worth of food a year in production and consumption sectors. 70% of the UK's wasted water footprint is used in the production and consumption of food and drink. Globally, a third of food is wasted - the scale of the problem cannot be understated.
Agrigrub's goal is to fully utilise this food waste, diverting a costly waste stream away from landfill, incineration or anaerobic digestion into a process which produces high value outputs. The engine for this process is the Black Soldier Fly larvae, an insect species adept at growing on a variety of organic waste types. Waste fresh produce can be used to create protein and calcium rich animal feeds.
The full breath of food production and processing is utilised, we work with farmers, distribution centres and retail outlets to increase the sustainability of their supply chains. In addition to the insects themselves, their droppings and casings (frass) make a rich organic fertiliser which also reduces insect damage and pathogen load on crop plants. Black Soldier flies larvae are natural born nutrient converters, with millions of years' worth of experience in transforming fruit and vegetables into biomass and frass. The gut of the BSFL contains a wealth of beneficial biochemistry which can be passed onto the soil through frass. The main components of their casings (18% of frass) are chitin and chitosan. These complex molecules act as a chelating agent, making micronutrients more available to plants. Chitin and chitosan also elicit an induced systemic effect in crop plants, analogous to an immune system response in animals. This induced systemic effect can be harnessed as a bio-repellent, allowing the plant time to "draw up its defences" before an attack. Chitin and chitosan has been proven in the lab to be effective against a variety of pests and diseases, but previous sources of chitosan were scarce and extraction methods were prohibitively energy intensive. In contrast, frass is produced from waste with minimal energy input, turning a low value and underused resource into a high value, sustainable and readily available product.
Overall, AgriGrub's process is a significant positive disruption to the current food waste landscape, and an innovative way of turning waste material into a set of valuable, sustainable resources. This philosophy perfectly aligns with the Innovation Hub vision for reducing waste and increasing efficiency within the agricultural sector.
AgriGrub has received financial support from the Eastern AgriTech Growth Initiative for a one year research and development looking at the route to scaling operations to meet UK demand. We are working in collaboration with InAgro and Vives as part of the Interreg 2 Seas project and industrial partners to examine scaling methodology. They are also collaborating with G's, Delfland Nurseries and other growers to understand how frass can be most effectively used in the agricultural and horticultural sectors, with trials currently running on a variety of pest species. If you are interested in collaborating in any way please get in touch with AgriGrub via their website.