On December 5th, 2016, 9 European partners gathered in Belgium to kick off the €2.1 million 3-year InDIRECT project, funded by BBI-JU under Horizon 2020. Overall aim of InDIRECT is the development of biorefinery processes for the direct or indirect conversion of diverse organic side streams into marketable like proteins, chitin and lipids.
The InDIRECT consortium of 9 partners from 4 European countries combines 2 multidisciplinary EU research organisations, VITO and University of Parma, with 5 industrial partners (Nutrition Sciences, Millibeter, Improve, Chemstream, Proti-Farm), a non-profit organization for farmers (Innovatiesteunpunt) and Temperio (for dissemination support). VITO, Flemish Institute for Technological Research, coordinates the project.
Using residual streams to close the loop
As an H2020 project, InDIRECT aims to contribute to the European milestone to ‘Manage waste as a resource’ and the BBI vision to accelerate the market of bio-based products. To answer to this challenge, InDIRECT will look into biorefinery as a direct or indirect means for waste recycling and reuse, as well as the development of new value chains to turn agricultural and similar side streams into marketable products. Feedstock used needs to be cheap and non-competing with food supply and enables to ‘close loops’ by using organic biomass side streams. The availaibility of these feedstocks has already been mapped and will be specified in this project.
Insects turn heterogeneous streams into homogeneous biomass
To cope with the heterogeneity of the envisioned organic side streams and at the same time solving the problem of seasonal fluctuation, a 3-step indirect biorefinery concept will be researched and developed that converts the heterogenic feedstock into a homogeneous biomass. The game-changing approach that will be applied is the use of insects in this step. They are able to convert a variety of feedstocks into a more homogenous biomass. In a next step, the insect biomass will be fractionated into a lipid, protein and chitin fraction. These all have potential to be converted into marketable end-products. The benefits of this indirect approach will be compared to direct biorefinery processes which do not use the intermediate insect-step.
Acceptation of insect-derived compounds
Although the potential of insects is considerable, there are still some barriers. They are related with aspects like legislation and acceptability of the generated products in terms of safety and perception. This is also tackled by InDIRECT by evaluating experimentally safety aspects , evaluating its potential for application in different sectors, comprising feed, food and chemistry; and highlighting the potential of insects while making the community more familiar with insect products, and giving attention to legal barriers by analysing the bottlenecks and where possible contributing to lower barriers.
Considering the whole value chain
To realise innovation there is need for critical mass, investors, and support of policy makers as well as market demands. InDIRECT considers the whole value chain and aims to contribute to reducing investment risks for the industrial parties involved, including insect farms that represent the first step in the proposed indirect value chain, and the biorefinery sector in general. Activities from lab to pilot scale are foreseen, enabling the generation of sufficient material for application tests and shorten the time to market of the new value chain.
While the complementary research partners are active in the core of the project dealing with protein & safety aspects and biorefinery aspects, the industrial partners cover different parts of the value chain and application areas related to the project.
This 2,089,000 Euro project has received 1,347 kEuro funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 720715.
Leen Bastiaens – VITO:
This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 720715.