Back in 2017, with the support of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), KU Leuven Campus Geel, Thomas More Kempen and research centre VITO started the construction of the pilot infrastructure for the breeding, harvesting and processing of insects, in short the Insect Pilot Plant. Now, four years later, the project is complete. After all, the Insect Pilot Plant brings a new insect-based value chain one step closer. To show the result to the general public, there was an online closing event today including Minister Hilde Crevits as a guest speaker.

Geel/Mol, 11 May 2021 - Insects have the potential to form the basis of a new value chain and can play a key role in the transition to a biobased economy. "Insects can, after all, be fed with a variety of organic residual streams and efficiently convert them into useful and high-value raw materials such as proteins, fats and chitin," says project coordinator Mik Van Der Borght of KU Leuven. Sabine Van Miert, research manager at Thomas More adds: "These sustainable raw materials can be used in the food and feed sector or can serve as raw material for biobased chemicals. Industry sees potential here, but there are still uncertainties that prevent immediate application on an industrial scale."

KU Leuven Campus Geel, Thomas More Kempen and VITO have built up expertise in the breeding and processing of insects in recent years. The projects that study the breeding, harvesting and processing of insects in Flanders are still on a lab scale, while in practice there is a need for expertise on a pilot scale as an intermediate step towards industrial production. "The construction of a flexible and widely applicable pilot plant for the breeding, harvesting and processing of insects fills the gap in this area," says Leen Bastiaens of VITO. The pilot plant will be used for research, pilot projects and the production of biobased chemicals.

This project was supported by EFRO Flanders - GTI Kempen, the HERMES fund, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Province of Antwerp. The total project budget amounted to 670,000 EUR. Hilde Crevits, as Vice-Minister-President of the Flemish Government and Flemish Minister for Economy, Innovation, Work, Social Economy and Agriculture, introduced the closing event: "For me, the development of the Insect Pilot Plant proves to be a shot in the arm to put Flanders on the map in terms of knowledge, production and processing of insects", said the minister.

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