BETTER ORIGIN, a Cambridge-based startup, has launched the ‘world’s first’ automated insect farm that will convert food waste into animal feed.

The company’s X1 system is a self-contained miniature insect production unit that has been trialled on a free-range egg farm in Cambridgeshire and is now on the market.

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Better Origin says its “plug and play” unit converts food waste – such as ‘ugly’ fruit and veg, agricultural residues and industrial food waste into insect larvae.

The company grew from academic research at Cambridge University and has been conducting trials of its technology for the past four years.

Poultry farmer Charles Mears, of Wood Farm in Cambridgeshire, hosted a pilot of the new technology and said it had the potential to help develop a carbon-neutral egg production system.

“We love the ethos and concept of Better Origin, which fits well with what we are trying to achieve here at Wood Farm, producing a carbon-neutral free-range egg.

“The health and wellbeing of my hens is of utmost importance to me.”

Better Origin founder and chief executive Fotis Fotiadis added: “In nature, insects convert waste into essential nutrients for animals and humans in a complete ‘no-waste’ cycle, but this link is absent from the modern food chain.

“Our technology uses natural processes to fix the broken food system, restoring insects as the missing link in the modern food chain.

“With farmers facing unprecedented needs to diversify and improve productivity, Better Origin technology provides a vital solution on farms.

“We’ve created the future of sustainable food production that will bring about a new harmony between nature and technology – and, by so doing, transform livestock productivity and welfare and, at the same time, reduce carbon emissions and ensure global food security.”

The firm hopes to market its X1 units to poultry producers, salmon farming and the pet food sector.