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British startup breeds high performance bugs for animal feed

A Reuters report investigates the growing interest in insect protein and how one startup is capitalising on this trend.

20 February 2019, at 10:50am

After centuries of selective breeding of animals and plants to maximise yields in agriculture, bugs are getting the same treatment, as demand for insect protein grows.

British startup Beta Bugs is breeding high performance strains of black soldier fly for the insect feed sector, and is selecting traits like growth rate, protein content, fat composition and even temperature tolerance according to clients' needs.

Most animal feed is made from soy which is blamed by some for deforestation as farmers try to meet increasing global demand for the crop. This has led to the search for more sustainable sources of protein.

"There are insect farms around Europe, around the UK, even elsewhere in the world which are using food waste and waste streams to rear insects such as the black soldier fly which they can then feed to fish, chickens and pigs."

"We're looking at it from the genetic side. How do we make the best fly and the best bug possible for use in these farms?" founder and managing director of Beta Bugs, Thomas Farrugia told Reuters.

The company breeds certain strains of fly, resulting in highly optimised insects. The feed is made from fly maggots.

"You can cram decades worth of genetic progress that has been made in every other animal into a few years for insects," said Farrugia.

Beta Bugs says it wants to stimulate the growth of a new and environmentally beneficial industry by bringing real benefits directly to farms.