[Chua Kai-Ning] and her partner, Phua Jun Wei, founded startup Insectta in 2017. They are battling Singapore’s food waste crisis with the help of an unlikely ally: the black soldier fly larva.
“The concept behind Insectta is that nothing goes to waste,” said Chua. “Waste can be reimagined as a resource if we change how we think about our production methods, and how we deal with waste.”
In 2020, Singapore generated 665,000 metric tons of food waste — only 19% of which was recycled.
Chua said the company feeds the black soldier fly maggots up to eight tons of food waste per month, including byproducts received from soybean factories and breweries, such as okara and spent grain.
Insectta can then flash dry the maggots into animal feed, and turn the insects’ excrement into agricultural fertilizer.
As the maggots grow into adults, they form a cocoon, emerging about 10 to 14 days later as a fully-grown fly. Insectta has developed proprietary technology to obtain biomaterials from the exoskeleton they leave behind.
One of these biomaterials is chitosan, an antimicrobial substance with antioxidant properties sometimes used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Insectta aims to eventually produce 500 kilograms of chitosan a day.