Fusebox EPFL

Bühlers Insect- Processing- Solutions

The idea „Feed the world population using insects-made protein powders“ brought up by Tao Guo on: https://fuseboxepfl.crowdicity.com/category/1567#/post/39708 has as discussed a huge potential. As I was commenting on the above page, the protein extraction is the tip of  a huge iceberg with a lot of possible business opportunities (a lot of bigger and smaller technical innovations). In order to discuss the topic in more depth, I made a little drawing (very schematic) to identify the possible steps in the processing value chain which could be interesting as a Bühler- innovative- insect- processing- solution.

I would suggest that anyone, who has a more specific idea to one of steps, opens up a new idea page and leaves the link to it on this page. - Or has anyone else an idea on how to structure the discussions better. After only a few days into the challenge, I have the impression that the fusebox is a complete mess with information’s scattered all over the place as the ideas start to interlink (imagine how it’s going to be in two weeks).

So far I identified the steps briefly as follows:

1. Cultivation

The Insects are cultivated in specialized „farms” with a rigid sanitation practise and regular microbial tests to check the insect population for the most important pathogens. To avoid epidemics, The farm has to be insect escape proved and the insects are raised in multiple separated compartments.

2. Transport

Even the transport brings new opportunities. A new system for mass insect transportation is necessary because the insect probably should be transported alive (fresh product).

3.  Separating

Sensors and automatic systems separate living from dead insects. Motion detectors or infrared cameras could be a possibility.

4. Killing and washing

The insect can be killed with gas or temperature shocks. The washing cleans the insect from faeces and other waste. 

5. Milling

The insects are milled. The powder is put in labelled boxes with all the information of the insects on it (origin, time of starting and finishing each step). A box can contain no more than 50kg, so that an employee can lift it in a special case within the SUVA regulations.

6. Drying

The boxes move on to the drying process. The drying could also be done by sunlight/energy. 

7. Homogenising

After the drying the powder is completely homogenised.

8. Lab

At least 3 to 4 small samples (labelled with the same information as the boxes) are taken in the laboratories for testing. In the Lab, a combination of ELISA- and PCR- tests, tests the powder for any substance dangerous to humans and known to be occasionally present on the very specific insect (produced by insect pathogens (fungi, bacteria, viruses)). A microbial test can also verify if one of those pathogens were present. One sample should be kept at storage for proof of the powder- quality.

9. Protein extraction and further processing

If the lab results are fine, the proteins can be extracted from the powder.

The protein powder can then be sold or be further processed to a finished protein shake powder.

A lot of the technical steps fit perfectly into Bühlers spectrum and are therefore very interesting.

I hope this helps to improve the structure and serves as a guide to the technical geniuses that are now going to tackle one specify step after the other. Go for it!

Tagged users
edited on Mar 7, 2014 by Andreas Bruun

Keren Wang Mar 8, 2014

I think one step that should be swapped or considered, is the drying process before milling. As I have eaten quite some insects in my life, there is a farely good amount of liquids in most of them. 

Andreas Bruun Mar 8, 2014

You are right about that. Did you eat the insects in one piece? Were they kind of roasted?


Keren Wang Mar 8, 2014

Haha! Deep fried, roasted, freeze dried (probably what we need) and potted/"pickel-esque". I also saw an episode of a Gordon Ramsay show, where he discovers that original spicy chutney in India is made from ants. It's really not a big deal ;)

View all replies (2)

Nicolas Pierret Mar 8, 2014

If you consider the transport issue, than it would make more sense to integrate some processes: growing until milling should be done in the same place. Unless you can do something with the liquids, it's useless to transport them (cf. the orange juice from Brazil, which come in powder and has water added in the final place).

It easier and safer to have all the processes concerning living animals in the same place, so you can manage safety and sanitary process, as well as captivity in a more efficient way.

Ian Roberts Mar 8, 2014

As pointed out in an earlier comment you will need to dry them,  but before you dry them is the any other value adding extraction processes to gain more value? 

Protein is one thing, but is there any pre-treatment that can bring extra benefit? Perhaps enhance bio availability of some micronutrients, or stabilise certain molecules or maybe change the taste?  

Tao Guo Mar 10, 2014

Thanks lot for the inputs! Really appreciate your contribution to the idea!

Nicholas Molyneaux Mar 10, 2014

I saw this while browsing online : http://www.24heures.ch/suisse/apero-insectes-.../story/28149532 sorry it is in french, but fits in quite well with the discussion

Simon Steiner Mar 12, 2014

Killing a living being with gas is unethical no matter how iky one may appear. Gasing is a process which necissates time and causes stress and agony to any being. 

I like your general idea although I disagree with the one point mentioned supra.

Nicolás Meneses Mar 12, 2014

Very well structured! I think much of the process steps would depend on how the proteins are going to be extracted afterwards.

What do you think about using a hammer mill and then extracting the proteins straight away from the insect mash?

Leila Ojjeh Mar 13, 2014

Status changed to INTERESTING
Buhler experts found this idea very complete and building on the 2 other insect ideas. We could dig further on the protein extraction processes but great summary of the full insect value chain... Thank you!

Leila Ojjeh May 5, 2014

Congratulations to Keren Wang, Tao Guo, Shan Zenghuan and Nicholas Molyneaux for their great presentation and business model! Bühlers' Executive Board found it extremely convincing and gave a specail distinction as the "Biggest market/customer potential", with a prize of 2500 CHF! Well done!