In 2050, we’re estimated to be 10 billion people on this planet, but the global food systems are already struggling. We need to change how we’re doing things. Together with my team at R&D and the Finnish start-up Volare, we have used waste (production side-stream) from our tortilla production in a pilot to explore if it can be upcycled into high-quality protein and lipid ingredients. Our helper? The black soldier fly. And cutting-edge technology.
Today upcycled high-quality protein and lipid ingredients are used by fish feed and pet food companies. But the potential is so much bigger, and I believe that exploring innovations like this is key in creating a more sustainable food system. In some parts of the world, insects are also part of the everyday diet. And in the future this high-quality protein and lipid might be used in replacement products for soy and palm oil, products that today have challenges with, among other things, deforestation. Imagine being part offering a solution to that!
I think it’s crucial to explore different solutions, opportunities, and new technologies. In this case, we are exploring real solutions for a sustainable food future. Love it! But in my job, it’s also about exploring new taste, developing products, and finding the next big thing. And that might be just around the corner. Love that too! Innovation is no longer about five-year research programs that might end up with a product. We need to be faster than that. Today we develop, test and change things more rapidly than ever before. Is it a buy in? Keep on working. Not? On to the next one.
Tuure Parviainen is the CEO of Volare. He started the company after a career in research, figuring out how the missing link in the food system to become circular and less wasteful. He explains:
"Together with my co-founder Matti Tähtinen we saw that this amazing insect, the black soldier fly, could play a crucial role in upcycling by-products back to the food chain as high-quality ingredients. The opportunity for making a real impact in the food system was so large that we decided to turn our research into a company. Now we are working shoulder-to-shoulder with manufacturers to revolutionize the food system."
He was recently interviewed about this in Wired.
So how does our pilot with the black soldier fly work? Well, to put it short, the waste from our tortilla production in Landskrona, Sweden, is fed to the black soldier fly larvae at a production facility. As said, this is a pilot project, usually our tortilla waste is sent as feed to pig farms. When exploring this kind of solutions, we’re looking for ways to use less energy and resources to produce more high-quality protein. Our friends at Volare then use sophisticated automation technology to care for the larvae and optimize production. The upcycled products are made of the larvae as high-quality proteins and lipids.
Tuure develops: “Volare’s process can concentrate low protein content tortilla waste into high quality protein, that has over 50% protein. This is a very high concentration as meat only contains about 26% protein. Volare’s protein is used as an ingredient in fish and pet food, where there are few alternatives to currently used fish meal, soy concentrate or meat bone meal.”
Our ambition at Paulig is to cut the food waste in our value chain by 50% by 2030. If we handle waste in correct way and upcycle it to usable protein in other parts of the food system, we can also help lowering the climate footprint on an overall level. We might also create a positive effect on deforestation if the protein can replace soy production.
Can the black soldier fly save our food system? I’m eager to find out. As one of several promising innovations within the food industry I definitely think it can be part of a more sustainable future.