Insects have two major advantages: they recycle waste and they produce raw materials. Moreover, raising insects is very environmentally friendly. Insects emit little CO₂, do not take up much space and consume little water.

VITO, together with industrial companies and knowledge partners, is investigating the potential of insects in two European projects: the ERDF project Insect Pilot Plant and the Horizon 2020 project InDIRECT. Insects convert organic by-products (leaves, food residues, …) into their body mass. This homogeneous biomass can be separated for example into proteins, fats and chitin. These are high-quality raw materials, with useful applications in animal feed, chemicals, agro-industry and cosmetics. And as a new source of proteins, with a much lower environmental impact than meat.

1 000 kilos of insects per day

The Insect Pilot Plant is a pilot installation that handles the cultivation, harvesting and biorefinery of insects. VITO is working together with partners KU Leuven and Thomas More on the construction of the plant. The pilot installation can process 100 to 1 000 kilogrammes of insects per day into high-quality raw materials. This upscaling is important to demonstrate to the market the potential of insects.