At the Kempen Innovation Campus in Geel, two EFRO-projects were officially launched. With the ‘Kempen Insect Cluster’ and the ‘Insect Pilot Plant’, the Kempen Insect Valley is beginning to take shape. ‘The projects will ensure that we, in the Kempen, valorise the potential of insects as a high-quality raw material or waste processor’, organisers Voka – KvK Kempen, Milibeter, VITO, KU Leuven – Campus Geel and Thomas More Kempen, say.
Insects are an ecologically sound source of raw materials and will therefore become increasingly important. The two projects transfer the expertise on insects as a waste processor and as a high-quality raw material to different target groups, such as companies with organic waste streams, new and existing insect growers, the food and feed industry, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, governments and the general public.
The ‘Kempen Insect Cluster’ is a project by Voka – KvK Kempen and Milibeter. ‘It is an open co-creation platform in which companies can test the possibilities for insect bioconversion, and develop new products and services together’, explains Renilde Craps, Managing Director of Voka – KvK Kempen. ‘We are convinced that insects have the potential to form the basis for a new value chain and we want to be ready to move to a new biobased economy. With the help of co-creation, we want to create new opportunities in Flanders and, eventually, take steps at an international level. Milibeter, the company of CEO Johan Jacobs, has experience with breeding black soldier flies in order to convert waste and manure into raw materials for the chemical industry and for animal feed. But besides Milibeter, dozens of other companies have already shown interest in the platform.’
The ‘Insect Pilot Plant’, a project by KU Leuven – Campus Geel, Thomas More Kempen and VITO, aims to upscale from lab to a pilot plant for rearing, processing and biorefinery of insects to make the transition to industrial production. ‘The three research centres have acquired expertise in the rearing and processing of insects for food, feed and biobased chemicals’, says Dr. Mik Van Der Borght, Project coordinator of the Insect Pilot Plant. ‘Our pilot plant will be able to process a few tens of kilograms of insects a day into high-quality raw materials as a step towards industrial production, processing up to 1 ton of insects a day. The intention is to show the market that upscaling is indeed possible and that insects can truly realise their perceived potential.’
Positive and sustainable transformation
The two projects are possible thanks to the financial support of EFRO Flanders – GTI Kempen. The total grant is 1.730.500 euros. It was therefore Philippe Muyters who, as Minister for Work, Economy and innovation, was given the honour to kick-off the Kempen Insect Valley. ‘We cannot emphasize enough, the importance of entrepreneurship and product and business model innovation for a positive and sustainable transformation of our society’, the Minister said. Also the province of Antwerp supports these innovative projects, Deputy Peter Bellens, Head of European cooperation and president of GTI Kempen, adds. ‘Together with the partnership Flanders Regional Platform Kempen and Flanders, the province of Antwerp is working towards the development of the Kempen into an international pilot region for innovation with the development of ecosystems for economic, ecological and social progress in large and small businesses.’
Source: VITO, press release, 2017-08-24.