UAE Launches Region’s First Waste-to-Feed Project

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Ministry of Climate Change and Environment signs agreement with Circa Biotech to use black soldier fly larvae to produce organic fertilizers, animal proteins, oils.

Dubai-UAE: 27 May, 2022 – Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, inaugurated the region’s first project that will upcycle organic waste into high-quality products. The venture by innovative homegrown startup Circa Biotech farms black soldier fly (BSF) larvae, fed by food leftovers before being turned into animal proteins, organic fertilizers, and oils.

During a tour of the company’s headquarters in Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Circa Biotech to support the pioneering project.

Speaking at the inauguration, Her Excellency said: “This agreement is part of the UAE’s ongoing drive to enhance food security and sustainability based on innovation, green development, and climate change mitigation. The project leverages nature-based solutions to address challenges resulting from the accumulation of organic waste. This way, it creates sustainable economic opportunities that strengthen the resilience of our food supply chain while transforming waste from an environmental burden into an economic resource.”

She added: “The world is witnessing a rise in capital funding for insect farming companies. In the UAE, we consider support for innovation and R&D a foundation for raising the efficiency of the circular economy model. Circa Biotech’s project follows the principles of circular economy by using organic waste and the nutrients it contains as inputs into the feed production process, thus enhancing food security.

“To support industries that need insect proteins, we must draw a roadmap to facilitate the imports of agricultural inputs and enhance related government services. This project will contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of the agricultural sector by producing organic feed and fertilizers in a sustainable way. In addition, it will divert organic waste away from the landfill and reduce methane emissions resulting from its decomposition.”

Mohamed Al Ramahi, CEO of Masdar, said: “As the only planned and approved R&D cluster in Abu Dhabi, Masdar City is strengthening its position as the primary location for some of the world’s most cutting-edge sustainability projects. With our partner The Catalyst, which is the region’s first accelerator for sustainability-focused start-ups, we are delighted to be home to this groundbreaking food waste management project by Circa Biotech, supported by MOCCAE. This is an invaluable addition to global solutions that will enhance the agritech sector, and Masdar City looks forward to continuing its role in shaping the sustainable industries of tomorrow.”

Haythem Riahi, co-founder and CEO of Circa Biotech, said: “At Circa Biotech, we developed an innovative process to upcycle food waste into protein-rich animal feed using industrial insect farming. It’s a commercially viable solution to locally produce animal feed with a highly sustainable process. At a full industrial scale, we plan to produce 22,000 tons of animal feed per year.”

Circa Biotech’s project will initially produce 1.5 tons of organic fertilizer per month. At a later stage, the company plans to expand the production, treating 200 tons of food waste per day and upcycling it into the food value chain. This will help meet the increasing local demand for livestock feed. It will also curb the dependence on fishmeal in aquaculture, which is witnessing price increases and instability due to limited supply, with its costs reaching up to 80 percent of expenditure within the industry.

The produced feed is rich in proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins, and has high nutritional value. The larvae can be harvested every 14 days due to the BSF’s short 45-day lifecycle and high fertility. The BSF is considered ideal for feed production, as it does not transmit diseases, does not cause any damage or infestations, and is a non-invasive species. The BSF are reared in an industrial control system (ICS) environment with sensors that record real-time temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide levels under well-researched lighting. This model ensures optimal resource use and efficient water consumption, and has limited climate change impact and low emissions.

Circa Biotech has participated in several entrepreneurship competitions across the UAE, and its primary goal is improving the management of organic waste in megacities with a focus on saving it from the landfill. Every person in the UAE produces on average around 197 kg of food waste per year, which can be processed to manufacture high-quality organic fertilizers for use in aquaculture and livestock farming near major cities.