A Q&A With Richard Baker, Head of UK and Ireland Sales Division
Russell Finex are global filtration specialists, facilitating the separation of black soldier fly larvae into accurate size fractions. We interview Richard Baker, to find out a bit more about Russell Finex and how they can increase productivity.
Can you introduce Russell Finex and an overview of the company’s focus?
Russell Finex are a UK based manufacturer of sieving & filtration equipment. We are 88 years old and throughout our history we have provided fine mesh separation technology to a diverse range of industries – including food, pharmaceutical, chemical & environmental. Our focus has always been on working with customers to engineer solutions to help meet their requirements.
Tell us a bit more about your journey to date when diversifying into the insect farming industry.
Two markets where Russell Finex have always been heavily involved are food & environmental, so when we were approached by a company in Belgium seeking help with their insect farm it bridged two industries with which we were very familiar – even though this was a new niche area. We’d done previous work with food waste in the anaerobic digestion sector, but insect farming was new to us and we approached it in the same way we would with any new application – visiting site to speak with those involved and asking questions to see how we could help. Although we have a wide range of ‘standard’ units we are a bespoke engineering company capable of providing tailored solutions, and we also offer test equipment so that we can demonstrate to the customer exactly how we can help.
Where are you today relative to where you started on this journey?
Today we have dozens of clients within this market who use our equipment, and we are still getting approached by new start up companies & other more established ones who are looking to scale up.
Russell Finex has been around for a long time (80 years+) and been involved in a range of industries grow and mature. What’s your perspective on the insect farming industry and it’s growth to date?
Indeed, we have been around a while, and I’ve personally been with Russell Finex for nearly 25 years. A large part of the enjoyment I get from the role is working with customers from such different market sectors and finding that we can help clients in new & emerging markets. From my perspective the growth in insect farming certainly seems to have been very rapid. We’ve been pleased that we could help play a part within an industry that is looking to provide more sustainable farming methods.
Tell us more about the current offering you provide and your current approach to working with insect farmers.
Russell Finex provide a vibrating sieve unit that separates based on particle size. Our units are used to harvest the insect larvae out of the substrate, and we helped to dramatically speed up what could be a slow part of the process. The good thing about our units is that they come in a range of sizes to suit whatever throughput rate is required – so we can adapt to the needs of your business. They also have easily changeable sieve screens – meaning that different sized fractions can be readily achieved. As mentioned earlier, if bespoke solutions are required then this can also be provided, and all our units in the field are supported by a team of sales engineers & a service contract should you so choose. Our aim is to ensure that your Russell unit remains a fully functioning part of your manufacturing process.
How do you work with farmers as they scale up?
We offer a wide range of differing machine diameters, and given our experience within this industry we can either provide a machine based on your current production rates or help future proof your business by factoring in spare capacity should you anticipate the need.
Apart from larval separation from frass, do you see future applications for Russell Finex technology in aspects of the insect farming operation?
At present we haven’t come across any, but who knows what the future holds? During the past decade many of our clients who traditionally used our sieves for dry food ingredients now use us for waste water processing because we offer a range of liquid filters as well – and the environmental/waste water sector has been another rapidly expanding market. Hence our aim is to remain in constant dialogue with our customers, and then if a need arises we can be there to help.
The future of insect farming looks pretty bright – what role do you think Russell Finex will play as the insect farming industry scales?
We are happy to work with and support our customers as their business develops, and our ability to design & develop bespoke engineering solutions allows us to do this. We have a good track record with many ‘start up’ companies who are now huge global brands, and it is very satisfying to see them grow & develop. It’s obviously great for them but it is also good for us – because if we continue to provide them with the best possible product & service then they take us with them on their journey.
Manually harvesting Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) can be very time consuming and requires the presence of one or more operators. Moreover, it is impossible to reach the same shaking frequencies as automated shaking sieves. The mesh size of the sieve should be smaller when manually sieving, which means it takes even more time to separate the frass from the larvae. Even more so, sieving can require multiple sieving steps. Finally, higher moisture levels can cause separating problems and could even require a different separating method.