Soldier on: Malaysian start-up turning to black soldier flies as sustainable protein for Asia

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Life Origin will be introducing BSF larvae snacks to the Malaysian market before Christmas ©Getty Images
Life Origin will be introducing BSF larvae snacks to the Malaysian market before Christmas ©Getty Images

Related tags: Insect protein, Malaysia, Sustainability

Malaysian start-up Life Origin believes the black soldier fly can be a sustainability warrior, both in terms of breaking down food waste, animal nutrition and as a protein-packed ingredient for burgers and snacks.

According to the firm, the current means of growing food is unsustainable for the next 30 years due to the growing population and increasing demand for animal protein. It is working on insect protein to make a more environmental and sustainable protein with minimal land and water usage.

Sio said they selected to work with the black soldier fly (BSF) because of its ability to break down organic matter.

Malaysia creates more than 3,000 tons of food waste daily, and most of the waste ends up in landfill and less than 5% are recycled. Sio sees BSF as a way to minimise waste.

Their nature behaviour and life cycle make them a unique species that can play a big role in treating a big problem that human is causing to the planet “waste”. Their unique bioconversion within them makes them the army to solve our waste problem and generates a great nutrition profile within them and made themselves good feed products for animals and humans in future​.”

Burger with insect

Sio told us BSF provided higher protein, calcium, and contain a good profile of amino acids, compared to animal protein.

According to him, BSF larvae have the potential to become not only protein powder supplements, but also as dairy substitutes for yoghurt, milkshakes, cakes, muffins, bread and even ice cream.

With the high protein and fat content of the BSF larvae, more downstream products can be developed, and this would help improve market acceptance where larvae is no longer seen in its original form but in a shape of a food product.

The firm is currently attempting to apply BSF into burger patties.

Sio explained: “The BSF is first grinded into a powdered form and then mixed with minced beef​.”

As they are still refining and improving the recipe, they announced plans to showcase the burger patties at more pop-up food events next year, and gradually introduce larvae burger to the younger generation.

Aside from the burgers, the firm is introducing BSF larvae snacks to the Malaysian market before Christmas. It will be available online, and selected coworking spaces and universities.

The firm is open to collaboration with food scientists and want to focus on the technology of scaling and processing to produce quality larvae to the market.

Market potential

Another co-founder, Zoey Chan told FoodNavigator-Asia​: “We see great huge market potential in the Asia market, not just for livestock, aquaculture and human consumption, but also nutritious pet feed ingredient that can gives good benefits and healthy profile to the pets​.

“Asia has the most population growth rate and fast development is threatening limited resources, so we see huge potential (BSF protein) in the Asia market​.”

Chan said different countries in Asia have different preference of protein source in the form of insects, and that Vietnam, China and Thailand are the larger edible insect markets in Asia.

But we believe with the benefits and environmental sustainability of insects protein will consistently drive the edible insect market in Asia​.”

Life Origin has a farming plant in Malaysia, where it breeds its BSF. The founders said BSF is also being farmed around the world such as Canada, South Africa, China and Singapore for its use as an alternative sustainable protein for animals and livestock.

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