Singapore's first insect farm is turning larvae into valuable biomaterials

These trays of Black Soldier Fly larvae are munching their way through hundreds of pounds of food waste at Singapore’s first insect farm, Insectta.

Insectta is farming these insects not for food, but for the valuable biomaterials they produce.


"So what these black solider flies enable us to do is transform food waste, which is a negative value product, into a positive value product - in this case, our high value biomaterials. So what we specialize in is a proprietary extraction process from the black soldier fly to take out chitosan, melanin and probiotics from these insects."

The substances, which are worth a few hundred dollars per gram, are sold to third-party companies.

Melanin, which conducts electricity, can be used in semiconductors, super-capacitators or batteries.

Chitosan has anti-inflammatory properties and is useful in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Insectta is working in conjunction with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, and the company's technology, which is still patent pending, milks the numerous lucrative substances from the larvae in a single, environmentally-friendly process.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CO-FOUNDER OF INSECTTA AND CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, PHUA JUN WEI, SAYING: "Traditionally melanin has never been extracted, other than from squid ink. But for Chitosan, the extraction of chitin and the conversion of chitin to chitosan all requires very large amounts of corrosive solvents. The convergent step - turning chitin into chitosan requires 50% sodium hydroxide, which is extremely corrosive and has detrimental effects to the environment."

The hundreds of millions of larvae at the farm in the middle of a residential area in Singapore eat four times their body weight in food weight every day.

And in the chamber next door, the adult flies lay eggs that will hatch to replace the larvae which have been used for extraction.