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Entomos: Transforming food waste into sustainable sources of fuel

Cambridge, United KingdomCambridge, United Kingdom
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Entomos is pioneering the transformation of food waste into sustainable fuels... using insects. We create biodiesel, animal feed and bio-pesticide, using a cheap, scalable and sustainable process that emits up to 75% less carbon than current methods.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if food waste was a valuable resource that could create renewable energy and high quality agricultural inputs?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Each year, the world generates 1.5 billion tonnes of food waste, which is around 33% of total food production. This food waste represents 500 billion pounds of lost value, and if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. In the UK, most of this food waste ends up as landfill, and current alternative solutions, like anaerobic digestion and composting, have severe limitations.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Entomos’ innovative solution is to transform food waste into three sustainable ‘fuels’ for plants, animals and vehicles. This transformation is achieved by leveraging the power of insects – specifically the Black Soldier Fly (BSF). BSF larvae efficiently convert organic waste into chemically complex fats and proteins inside their bodies. These compounds can then be refined into three high value products – biodiesel, high-protein animal feed and organic bio-pesticide – in a cheap, scalable and sustainable process. Compared to anaerobic digestion, our process emits 75% less greenhouse gases, and has the potential to cut food waste gate fees by up to 50%. We plan to deploy this technology through localised food waste processing facilities.


Winner Shell LiveWire Award 2015, Finalist at Pitch@Palace 2015, Accepted onto Accelerate Cambridge startup incubator, Winner of CUTEC Sustainability Challenge 2015
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We were recently approached by an agricultural firm who grows and processes vegetables into pre-packaged salads for Sainsburys, and also runs a small dairy operation. The business currently generates 500 tonnes of food waste per month, which is mostly discarded or used as a crude compost in the fields. By deploying one of our units on-site at the food processing facility, we can capture 100% of the food waste immediately, and turn it into the following useful resources: 1) 75 tonnes of biodiesel for powering farming machinery and generators at the factory; 2) 125 tonnes of animal feed for the dairy cattle; 3) 25 tonnes of organic bio-pesticide, which can be applied back onto the fields to enhance the yield of future vegetable crops.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Our innovative waste-to-resources process is low cost, highly scalable and far more environmentally sustainable than current solutions. To date, we've partnered with a local Sainsburys store in Cambridge to remove up to 50 kilograms of food waste daily, and are collaborating with a leading European bio-tech firm around potentially innovative treatments to optimize our end-products. In the future, our process has the potential to emit 75% less greenhouse gases relative to anaerobic digestion, and will cut gate-fees by up to 50%. Our biodiesel costs 30% less to produce relative to current processes that use Used Cooking Oil or Rapeseed Oil feedstocks. Our animal feed represents an enhanced, micronutrient-rich protein supplement, while our bio-pesticide represents a disruptive innovation for organic farming with its positive effects on growth, disease-prevention and crop yields.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our circular waste-to-resources process addresses several key customer groups, and our ultimate vision is to use licensing and contracting arrangements to enhance scalability. Also, wherever possible and not commercially damaging, we will collate and share knowledge with the wider scientific community and the public. We aim to publish in peer-reviewed journals to maintain academic credibility, but importantly, we will also disseminate best-practice tools, tips and techniques to the community of sustainability enthusiasts and small-scale insect growers, particularly in the developing world.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We plan to file for grant funding to help finance our non-revenue-generating R&D activities throughout 2016 . Using additional grant funding, as well as investment from Cambridge 'Angels', we will develop an operational pilot plant by Q1 2017. We will generate revenue by negotiating food waste contracts with low-gate fees, and immediately start selling our animal feed and bio-pesticide product to local farmers in order to finance further growth.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We’re the only company using insects to transform food waste into three high-value resources, and differentiate ourselves by taking a holistic approach towards multiple issues – food waste, renewable energy, agricultural yields – using an innovative and sustainable conversion mechanism. However, there is competition within the food waste sector, and across each product silo. Anaerobic Digestion dominates the UK food waste market, but only produces low-value methane, while large, existing biodiesel competitors like Greenergy and Olleco have higher feedstock costs and a bigger carbon footprint.

Founding Story

The idea originated during a ‘Sustainability Competition’ organized by the University of Cambridge in July 2015, where our team won first prize for our concept of transforming food waste into resources. Entomos Limited was officially incorporated in November 2015, and was accepted into the prestigious Accelerate Cambridge startup incubator. We currently partner with the local Sainsburys store in Cambridge to remove up to 50 kilograms of food waste daily, and are collaborating with a leading European bio-tech firm around potentially innovative treatments to optimize our bio-pesticide and bio-diesel products. We are based at the National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NIAB).


Entomos’ four co-founders have the necessary skills for growing the business in the short term. Matt McLaren, CEO, has 5+ years banking and consulting experience, and recently completed his MBA at Cambridge. Has led consulting projects in the pharmaceutical, financial services and manufacturing sectors, and has a BA from UC Berkeley. Miha Pipan, CSO, is currently completing his MSci in Biochemistry at Cambridge in collaboration with CRUK. Has 4+ years experience designing and leading scientific research operations. Fotis Fotiadis, CTO, has 2+ years experience in Offshore Oil & Gas Engineering. Received his MEng from Sussex, and MPhil in Sustainable Engineering from Cambridge, focusing on future energy systems and sustainable design. Joe Halstead, COO, grew up on a forestry plantation in Devon, working across agricultural sectors including silviculture and mechanics. Graduated from Cambridge with a degree in Natural Sciences specialising in plant ecology, focusing on sustainable agriculture and insect biology We also plan to form an Advisory Board composed of experts in various fields that can provide advice and guidance around business strategy and execution.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

University of Cambridge Judge Business School

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-founder, CEO

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Zero Hunger, Affordable and Clean Energy, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I developed the concept behind SocialInvest, an FinTech investment platform that leveraged machine-learning algorithms to connect investment opportunities with investors based on background, risk tolerance, personal interests and community networks. This initiative was formed through a 'FinTech Startup Weekend' run by the Accelerate Cambridge incubator in the Cambridge Judge Business School, where it won first prize and was accepted onto the 'Pre-Accelerate' program.

Our team entered and won the CUTEC Sustainability Challenge, which is part of the annual Technology Ventures Conference in Cambridge which attracts a range of startup companies, investors and technology enthusiasts. For winning this competition, we were awarded free office space at the Future Business Centre in Cambridge, as well as mentoring by local business 'Angels'.

I volunteered my time as group facilitator at the 'Ignite' entrepreneurship initiative run by the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at Cambridge Judge Business School. In coordination with leading Cambridge 'Angel', Jamie Urquhart, I helped advise early-stage startups from around the world (including Europe, North America, South America and South-East Asia) on routes to market, investment pathways and communication skills.

I have also worked on a United Nations project to analyse 'Value for Money' outcomes within the rice value chain in rural Myanmar, where we worked with local village leaders on assessing productivity increases for small, independent farmers, and the effect of various 'treatments' and interventions on yields and quality outcomes.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We are currently part of the Accelerate Cambridge startup incubator within the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, where Director Hanadi Jabado and an experienced mentorship team provides guidance and advice on an as-needed basis. We are also working with Paul Hughes, Director of the 'Green, Inc' program within the Future Business School's startup hotdesking initiative, who has extensive experience across a range of renewable energy technologies in the Cambridgeshire region.

In addition, we also have access to expertise from agri-tech specialists in the Cambridge region, including Director of Agri-Tech East - Belinda Clarke, Head of NIAB Ventures - Sean Butler, and Head of the Hasse Fen Research Initiative - Effie Mutasa-Gottgens. Our current bio-pesticide experiments are being formally supervised by Dr. Ed Tanner from the Cambridge Plant Sciences department.

We are also working with large organisations like Shell, where we recently won the Shell LiveWire Award for promising low-carbon startups, and have been introduced to several mentors who provide technical and strategic advice around the renewable energy industry. We made several helpful introductions after making the finals of the Duke of York's Pitch@Palace event, and we have also been in discussions with the Sustainability team at Sainsburys around their food waste strategy for the future, as well as potential opportunities for longer term partnerships.