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BETTER INSECT SOLUTIONS : How BIS Can Help You Excel In Your Insect Farming Journey

Enorm building pilot production site


How BIS Can Help You Excel In Your Insect Farming Journey

Nicola Gardner from Beta Bugs catches up with Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann from Better Insect Solutions, Lina von Fricken from Big Dutchman and Maurice Ortmans from Inno+ to talk about their insect farming solutions, including the importance of business sustainability.

Why is Better Insect Solutions now working as an independent company in the Big Dutchman Group?

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann: Better Insect Solutions (BIS) is a project company, delivering end to end solutions for insect farming, specializing in the black soldier fly (BSF). Our Sister companies in the Big Dutchman Group – Big Dutchman, SKOV and Inno+ – are systems or equipment suppliers/manufacturers who come from mature market segments such as poultry and pigs. Hence, there was a need to centralize expertise in the emerging insect market instead of dispersing it across multiple companies.

Can you tell us a bit more about your models? For example, the breeder and grower models?

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann: We see insect production as farming; therefore, the breeder and grower models are farming inspired models which are used in the pig and poultry industries. Certain companies who we call Breeders, focus on eggs and neonates where other companies who we call Growers, only want to focus on rearing larvae as several companies see the fly part as too specialised and only want to focus on converting a by-product into something of higher value using insect technology, avoiding the complexity of rearing flies. We also work with other companies which we call Full Liners, who work with the full black soldier fly lifecycle. They have the Breeder and Grower models embedded into their systems together to make the Full Liner model. All three different models are relevant within the insect industry. BIS provides all the main systems such as e.g. feeding systems, climate systems, air cleaning and heat recovery as well as insect housing for all the life cycle stages and farming models.


“We see insect production as farming; therefore, the breeder and grower models are farming inspired models which are used in the pig and poultry industries.”
– Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann, Better Insect Solutions


Can you tell us a bit more about the work you are doing with ENORM and FarmInsect?

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann: ENORM is the biggest BSF project of the Big Dutchman group to date. We started working with them in late 2020 – early 2021 with SKOV, Inno+ and Big Dutchman where we had all the core technology pieces required available within the different companies. The development of this project, together with key partners, resulted, you can say, in the ‘birth of BIS’. SKOV was originally the lead on the project, but it then became obvious that the Big Dutchman group could offer more than just climate systems and ventilation for insect farming. Once we started pulling the technology together and building collaborations internally across the sister companies, BIS emerged as an independent company, pulling all these resources together into one central entry point for our customers.

The collaboration we have with FarmInsect is a strategic and commercial arrangement, where we provide them a technology package containing a feed kitchen and climate system. We also work with one of our external partners to provide them with a semi-automated logistics solution which can handle crates going in and out, keeping the process straightforward. This gives a simple, functional solution for Growers that is offered via FarmInsect for, predominantly, the European market. FarmInsect provide the young larvae to these European customers who have invested in the technology platform for rearing the larvae.

There is growing interest in the insect farming industry from a range of agri-food equipment suppliers, do you see this being an issue with competitors offering other insect farming equipment?

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann: Not at all, we see it as an advantage – if we did not have this diversity with different suppliers, offering different solutions it would be difficult for investors to benchmark solutions within the industry. Bühler were one of the first to market around 2014ish, predominantly in the grower (larvae) segment, however when there is only one company, there are higher risks, so it is to our benefit that Bühler are operating in the industry as are VDL Insect Systems and other such equipment suppliers. This reduces the risk for investors and creates a ‘bottom up effect’ for the industry. Having no competitors also creates risk from a customer point of view. If there was only one operator in the space, what if something happened to the company? Where would they then get their supply from? Having healthy competitors ensures there is lower risk in the supply chain and increases capacity of the global volume of the industry, in turn making it easier for customers and the industry to instil trust into the supply chain; and you can rest assure that alliances are happening across different stakeholders in the value chain. Diversity creates robustness, just like ecosystems in nature.

Lina von Fricken: The more business participants you have, the more sustainable the business will be, learning from each other constantly.

What do you think are the barriers to entry for equipment suppliers to diversify into the insect farming industry?

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann: Our philosophy is solving a problem with a solution; yet, identifying relevant solutions for your customers can be a challenge. Building an infrastructure around you will define how successful you will be, by ensuring that you can deliver on your solutions, which is key. BIS has the benefit of being part of the Big Dutchman Group so we can leverage this global hub for when we are in dialog with international customers as we can tap into the robust infrastructure of the Group. Service is also another key component where you need to ensure that you can deliver on. Developing relationships internally can be a challenge within bigger companies when there is such a large infrastructure, however for start-ups, with limited relationships and resources around them, they can mitigate risks by having a focused strategy.  Having a clear focus and good infrastructure are some of the risks newcomers should consider.

What are the types of players that you are now seeing diversify into the sector? Do you see potential for waste management companies to operate within the industry?

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann: Yes, we have seen a development and segmentation of different stakeholders who show interest in insect farming. For the first 5 years, it was the insect pioneers who were part of developing the industry, including trade organisations from different regions such as, AFFIA, IPIFF and NACIA. After this period, we have seen the classic succession with companies coming into the insect farming industry with different perspectives, making it more diverse. Industry alliances started to happen such as Innovafeed and ADM. Depending on your current operation, you can think about your end and by-products and how you can add to your production in a new way. There are different ways of integrating insects into new products which has sparked interest from different types of businesses, industry segments and integrator segments over the past five years. The recent Protix and Tyson Foods alliance is an example of a food industry integrator entering the insect sector. Where there is a waste problem or as we call it ‘value stream’, there is an opportunity for delivering new business with insects. There is now interest from the waste management segment as they can integrate insects into their current operating model and convert their ‘value streams’ in a more profitable way. Many from this sector have seen that this new [insect] technology should be added into the cycle before or bilaterally with biogas. Firstly, the fat and protein can potentially be removed and then the frass is sent off to be used for biogas, thus adding on to the value chain of waste management companies, diversifying and again making the industry more robust. The insect-biogas-alliances for me are a winner!

Trying to create a fully sustainable and climate friendly model can be difficult. What environment focused initiatives do you offer?

Maurice Ortmans: It is important that with this new species coming in [black soldier fly], we do not make the same mistake as animal farmers did previously with regards to discussions about emissions. It is very important to avoid issues early on and look at reducing emissions such as ammonia, as ammonia from insects can be high due to the protein content of their feed substrates. Some of these proteins are partly turned in to larval protein and the protein that is left can result in ammonia emissions. At Inno+, we specialise in the air cleaning part, reducing emissions in ammonia and odour. We also use the air cleaners to capture energy as the larvae are kept in a high humidity level climate, so we need a lot of energy. We use the energy that is thrown away due to ventilation by catching it in the air cleaners and recovering it back. The larvae produce a lot of energy which we can recover, therefore we do not need additional energy sources such as natural gases as we use the energy from the larvae themselves to heat the production facilities again, meaning the use of fossil energy has been drastically reduced thus making a huge step towards sustainability.

Emissions from insect production include moisture, greenhouse gases, ammonia, odour and other pollutants. Can these be overcome?

Maurice Ortmans: Yes, they need to be overcome. Emissions problems need to be solved from the offset, proactively instead of reactively. Solving problems from the start avoids unwanted discussions from authorities and avoids backlash. In principle, everyone in the industry should approach this in the same way. The size of the selected site will determine how much substrate is needed and the larger the site, the more odour will emit from that site. Site selection must be thought through as industrial or residential areas will have a lower threshold on what odour limits are legal. If a site is housed on an industrial area, the odour may be too high, which can be mitigated without making a huge investment however, a bio-filter may also be needed which will require additional space. If the selected site is further away from an industrial or residential area, an air cleaning system from Inno+ can mitigate odours to a very reasonable and acceptable level. We have built up a lot of knowledge between technology and feed input. For example, changing recipes can have a huge impact on the emissions and from a business perspective, you need to look at the front and back of the business at the same time and how this can be optimised.


Better Insect Solutions
Inspection of a mobile test site at the annual business meeting (Oct 2023) with Better Insect Solutions and sister company colleagues from Big Dutchman, Inno+ and SKOV

Do you offer any training or pilot testing to potential customers who are interested in the industry?

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann: It is fundamental to have training and pilot systems on offer, which we offer to our customers in different platforms. We have test sites and partners across Europe where our technology is used. Customers can send different substrates to be tested based on our standard operating procedures, therefore it is important that available resources are also allocated to these customers. We also have a mobile test site option based on specialized containers that we can deliver to bigger clients or clients that have ‘value streams’ nearby that they are considering for their business. These mobile test sites can be operated as a small pilot facility, enabling our clients to determine the feasibility of a future large-scale operation. The containers can also serve as R & D units for testing additional substrates in the future so serve as multi-functional units.

Pilot testing is important in defining the scope or dimension of a project as through pilot testing, you will discover what combinations work to get good numbers on your KPIs, such as low feed conversion ratio, high yield in your crates and shorter production cycles of the grow-out larvae. We have various container-based solutions for pilot testing where you can also measure air samples from the climate container – our so-called Grow-Box. These containers are equipped in a similar way to the larger climate chambers so the dynamics and numbers are 1:1 (+ or – a few %) of what you can expect within a bigger facility. When you measure an odour sample of a certain feed, you can gain analysis of this sample and also have an atmospheric model made. Based on your analysis and site selection, you can gain input on whether you will reach the threshold for odour limits.

Why is the Big Dutchman Group passionate about sustainability?

Lina von Fricken: For many years, The Big Dutchman Group has focused on livestock farming and we now see developments where the livestock farming industry faces a lot of challenges, so change is necessary to keep us up and running for the next 50-100 years. We are analysing our status quo when it comes to our traditional businesses such as pig husbandry and poultry while also looking at new, sustainable business models. We see sustainability as a great opportunity to pick up new businesses such as insect farming, which we see as a new, sustainable, future business model for The Big Dutchman Group.

Can insects be a sustainable source of regional protein?

Lina von Fricken: Yes of course. One of the prerequisites is that we use insects to upcycle products that we can not use as feed or food as of today. Currently we can only use feed for insects that is declared as feed, however feed that is not 100% suitable for pigs, chickens etc should mainly be considered. Upcycling ‘value streams’ using black soldier flies is a great sustainable business model as these ‘value streams’ can be upcycled into to regional protein sources, meaning less need to import e.g. soy. Having a closed circle of feeding ‘value steams’ as a protein source to black soldier fly, then using the larvae as a protein source for livestock while at the same time utilising the frass as a fertiliser, is circular economy. Now that we are heading into the insect business sector, we can close the circle again and make businesses more sustainable.

Where do you see the insect farming industry in the next five and ten years?

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann: Up until recently, the insect industry has been mainly R & D focused and has now entered its commercial stage. In the next five years, we will see some developments regionally as to what we can use as substrates which may uncover new business models or which business cases that are applicable in Asia versus Europe for example. Some operations may be less automated than others due to labour costs as another example. The investment landscape has huge influence over the development of the industry in the next five to ten years, where global interest rates will also play their part. We will start to see the forecasted growth of the industry, as I believe we are at the ‘kink of the hockey stick’ just now, where the industry will start to move rapidly. There are more technology providers diversifying and creating capacity as the biggest issue for the industry just now is scaling-up. Longer term, over the next ten years, we will see generational upgrades. As we start working with the industry on different scales, we will gain new insights that will lead to new developments in product development, including understanding new ways of working with insects in new business cases, thus giving an attractive outlook for insect farming. I would hope that in ten years we pass the 1 million tonne meal mark, which is not unrealistic and is certainly achievable. Further down the line, we will see insects having a positive global impact on our food production systems. Perhaps we will see black soldier fly within the human food chain in the form of an oil as a substitute to palm oil or a concentrated protein powder? We remain very hopeful for the future for the insect industry!


Better Insect Solutions

To read the full issue of Beta Buzz and for more information about BETTER INSECT SOLUTIONS and our other equipment suppliers, please read Beta Buzz #4 – The MUST-HAVE Insect Farming Publication

Alternatively, for more information please visit www.betterinsectsolutions.com