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Insect farming to reduce waste, create feed for animals, and inspire science literacy

We are bridging the gaps in our food system by tackling the idea that 'insects are pests', and creating the tools for insects as a resource

Photo of Beta Hatch
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

By 2050, demand for animal protein will increase by 70%. This places enormous pressure on the global food system to develop alternative, sustainable sources of food for both animals and humans. In addition, agricultural waste remains a challenge for food systems. In the US alone, between 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, resulting in 133 billion pounds of organic waste, and $161B in lost value. As a natural part of most animal diets, insects are an obvious tool to meet these needs, as they can be produced predictably year-round from organic wastes. However, our agricultural systems have yet to industrialize and scale up the production of insects for nutrition. The Insect Farming Project will develop a modular and mobile insect farm that can be deployed anywhere in the world to transform organic byproducts into animal feed and fertilizer. Humans have been farming insects for millennia (think of silkworms and honeybees). Insects are not only natural cyclers of nutrients, but also the foundation of most food chains. Birds, pigs, fish and even humans eat insects regularly. However, there are few tools to grow bugs at large scale. Insects require a stable environment and clean feedstocks to grow. Our project will design, construct and deploy an ‘insect farm in a box’, allowing a farmer to transform organic wastes into feedstocks for insects, and to grow insects from those feedstocks as a source of protein for fish and livestock. This work will be building bridges between planet and prosperity, to allow the sustainable farming of insects to create new businesses for farmers and their suppliers. We have already built a large-scale insect farm, and with the proposed Insect Farming Project we will miniaturize our technology and simplify our systems to create an off-grid (solar powered) insect farming module and feedstock processing module, capable of supplying a small poultry or fish farm.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our first generation of insect farms will be deployed in rural America, supporting small family farms in Washington and Mississippi. Organic waste goes into the system, but protein rich animal feed and soil-building fertilizer comes out. We plan to build 2 units for American deployment. The second generation of modules will be deployed in Guatemala as a test case. Guatemala is a rich agricultural country, with a history of raising insects for biocontrol. It produces 10,000 cubic tons of waste of which more than 75% is compostable. We plan to build and deploy one insect farm for this second phase of the project, and add stability to rural communities that depend on subsistence agriculture and who are frequently displaced by natural disasters. Ultimately, this project will result in the creation of a modular insect farm that could be deployed worldwide in rural or urban environments to support thousands of small farms.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Feeding 9 billion people will require incredible innovations to grow twice as much protein as we do today. Beta Hatch is industrializing the production of insects as a sustainable protein for animal feed. Our insect-rearing technology converts organic waste directly into high-value proteins, oils, and nutrients for agriculture. We have a strong technical team of experts that includes 4 PhDs in entomology and engineering. Our company has secured over $575k in grants from the NSF and other agencies, and we have demonstrated excellence in R&D projects commercializing insect technology. With a recent $2.1M Series Seed round, we have raised the capital to expand our capacity and demonstrate our technology at large scale. Beta Hatch has been focused on low-cost insect rearing systems suitable for distribution in low-resource settings in rural America; we are now excited to explore the development of systems for emerging economies, and to make our systems more mobile.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Beta Hatch is industrializing insect production for agriculture. We farm bugs better than anyone.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Beta Hatch was started by a desire to see insects reach their full potential in our food systems. It was shocking to learn that 1/3rd of the crops we grow go to feed animals- and yet, insects, the very food those animals love to eat, are not being grown at all. The Insect Farming Project is an opportunity to bring insect farms to global communities, and to the farmers who need this technology most.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Climate change is affecting all communities on our planet, with new solutions needed to address unpredictability in agriculture. Prosperity is challenging in agriculture, which is extremely seasonal. Insect farming is a predictable and year-round income generating activity that our project enables.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

We will engage the USDA in our projects, working with them in Mississippi and in Guatemala for deployments. Currently we engage the USDA as collaborative research partners on insect farming projects. We will also engage our corporate partners and sponsors in agriculture to bridge our solution with local markets and communities. For example, one of our partners already works in Guatemala enhancing farms with vermicompost []- we will work with BYOEarth and other entrepreneurs to ensure the success of our projects in each community.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

All three of our communities in eastern Washington, the Mississippi delta, and Guatemalan countryside have rich agricultural economies. There is an abundance of agricultural labor, but a need for stable year-round employment in each of these regions. We are excited to build more community around insects; for example in our hometown of Seattle, the Mariner's serve crickets at ballgames, Microsoft cafeteria waste feeds black soldier flies, and Beta Hatch frass fertilizes gardens.

Geographic Focus

Rural USA and Guatemala is where we plan to deploy our test projects, but our idea has global scope.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

We require 36 months to implement the project- 1 year for design and construction, 1 year for implementation in the USA, and 1 year for implementation in Guatemala.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Willoughby Eunice

Hello Beta Hatch. I love your project but has the tolerance level been checked out? Its good to be more health conscious of recycling processes.

Learning more from your update as our organization is also currently researching for an alternative source of protein supplement apart from fish which is depleting in the seas and oceans.

Photo of Beta Hatch

Thanks Willoughby for your comment!

Do you mean the general approval of insects when you're talking about tolerance level, or do you mean the tolerance level for heavy metals or other contaminants? We currently use high quality inputs for our process, and are constantly monitoring to make sure no toxins or contaminants are in our products, so there are no concerns about the product being unsafe.

As for the general support and approval of insects, we have found that communities really understand the intutive value of insects in our food systems- after all, bugs are the basis of most food chains! We have no problem convincing birds or fish that insects are delicious.

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