An adapted biorefinery approach to wet insect biomass to generate multiple compounds suitable for food, feed, and technical applications.


During this PhD, a fractionation process applicable to insects was designed. Insects are being reared as a new mini-livestock that can potentially decrease future food/feed shortages, especially in terms of proteins. However, the composition (protein/lipid ratio) is not ideal for feed formulas and studies indicate a higher consumer acceptance of food products that are not recognisable as being insect based. For these reasons, a fractionation approach is advisable. The fractionation process designed during this PhD was able to extract 76 % of all proteins, 73 % all lipids and, 75 % of all chitin. Some protein-enriched fractions had techno-functional and/or bioactive properties and chitin was successfully converted to low molecular chitosan (> 5kDa). The approach was designed for easy transition of lab-scale fi ndings to industry and was upscaled. More than 500 kg of wet larvae were processed and >20 kg of protein-enriched fractions, >10 kg lipid enriched fraction and >900 g chitosan fraction were extracted.

Competences gained at VITO

VITO gave me the opportunity to link academic knowledge to industry and I learned to evaluate and continue my research relative to the market. My PhD was incorporated in an international project (H2020-BBI-InDIRECT) which made it possible to be involved in the whole value chain of insect-based products and was extremely valuable to set and adapt aims. The broad range of different research aspects at VITO made it easy to expand my research to different and valuable topics, theoretical as well as practical for instance in the lab.

My added value

During my PhD, I gained more insight into biorefinery that can be applied not only to insects but also to other biomass. The link from fractionation to applicationwas always a point of attention and, in my opinion, needs to be further extended within the industry. This link is an interesting challenge, one I would like to take on.

I see myself expressing my passion and enthusiasm best in research.

Lise Soetemans