Better Origin turns food waste into animal feed, with bug aid – TechCrunch

Take a shipping container, add a serving of AI and a load of black soldier flies, fold up a little mountain of food scraps, sprinkle $16 million in investment led by Balderton Capital and call the Michelin reviewers, because om name , you have yourself a delicious dish called Best origin. The company uses what it calls “mini-farms” that turn expired fruits and vegetables into tasty bites that can be used as animal feed.

“I’m an engineer and I just left the oil and gas industry. I started a Masters in Sustainable Engineering at Cambridge, hoping I would get involved in something like that,” said Fotis Fotiadis, CEO and co-founder of Better Origin. “I always thought that I was going to dedicate my life to something. I much prefer to do something that has meaning and that has impact and that can bring about change. That year, I participated in many competitions around entrepreneurship, especially around sustainable development. That’s where I met my co-founder, who is a biologist. They gave us a problem to solve: food waste and find ways to smart to handle it.

“We started working on this five years ago. Things have evolved a lot and with the purpose and the whole mission of the company. I believe our generation will have to solve one of the biggest challenges as we move forward: “How can we produce food to feed the population in a sustainable and safe way? One of the biggest problems in achieving this is globalization. And what I mean by that is that we have such a global food supply chain that is structurally broken, because it’s not sustainable.

The company points out that you can pick just about any product you want from a supermarket, and there are very few local products.

“Even the things we think are local aren’t,” Fotiadis lamented. “The vast majority of seeds that are fed to chickens come from South America. So there are two big problems with that: you have to ship things over very long distances, which is very damaging to the environment. »

In the context of a world where US President Joe Biden suggests we face food shortages due to Russian invasion of Ukraine, it becomes very clear that the food supply is not as resilient as it perhaps should be. Better Origin believes it has at least part of the solution.

“We make the food supply chain local, and we need a new ingredient to make it happen. Our belief is that using food waste is that new ingredient. Food waste happens everywhere; it’s local and there are a lot of hidden nutrients in there. Our technology can take any type of waste and convert it into food,” Fotiadis explained. “We have built automated factories in shipping containers. You put food waste on one end and feed it to the bugs. Insects grow and you feed these insects to animals. Since these systems are in shipping containers, they can be deployed in all sorts of parts of the supply chain. »

In a nutshell, the principle of the company is to move the production of animal feed to the farms that consume the food. This reduces feed consumption costs and decreases emissions while increasing farmer productivity. The $16m funding round was led by veteran UK investors Balderton Capital and will be used to help the company grow its team and expand internationally. Existing investors Fly Ventures and Metavallon VC also participated.

Using decentralized AI-powered insect mini-farms, Better Origin collects local food waste from supermarkets and converts it into high-quality, sustainable animal feed. Its container insect farms recreate conditions found in nature where food is eaten by insects and recycled into essential nutrients for the growth of other animals. Using AI and automation to create the optimal environment for this cycle to flourish, Better Origin produces black soldier fly larvae, which can be fed to farm animals. Cameras, computer vision and sensors monitor conditions within each mini-farm to ensure they are optimal for production.

In December, Better Origin signed a deal to supply 10 mini insect farms to feed the chickens at British supermarket giant Morrisons’ egg farms. The company estimates that it is on track to save 5,700 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

“Fotis, Miha [Pipan, CSO] and the Better Origin team are working to fundamentally change our broken food chain, for the benefit of all,” said Suranga Chandratillake, General Partner at Balderton Capital. “Climate change, the pandemic, political tensions and our growing population have demonstrated time and again how fragile our current systems are. They also showed how agriculture is currently exacerbating the challenges we face and the solutions so far are not leading to the global change we need. Better Origin presents a new approach and we believe it can have a transformative effect on food and agricultural systems.

The company currently has five mini-farms in operation, but plans to expand rapidly over the next year.

“Hopefully if things go as planned we should be ordering 20 in the next two months,” Fotiadis said, outlining the company’s growth ambitions.