Purpose and background

The project aims to develop a production facility, that converts organic waste from private kitchens and industrial companies into valuable insect protein and fertilizer material. The waste are transformed into high-quality insect protein and fertilizer material by the mealworm (Tenebrio Molitor) larvae.

waste are transformed into high-quality insect protein and fertilizer material by the mealworm (Tenebrio Molitor) larvae


Background

In October 2009 arose the interest in doing studies on the larvae of the species Tenebrio molitor. We were especially interested in if Tenebrio molitor could be used as efficient decomposers of organic waste. It began as a student project at Roskilde University, where it was studied how the larvae of the species Tenebrio molitor, also known as mealworms, grew on dry organic waste. Similarly, it was investigated what effect injected fluid had on the growth of these larvae. As a control, larvae were grown on wheat bran (with and without the supply of water), often regarded as a standard medium for Tenebrio molitor. The results from these trials indicated that there could be an alternative waste management strategy / solution here.

The literature in this area proved to be somewhat sparse, and it was decided that we would go through a series of experiments that should elucidate various issues and circumstances which are important for larval growth. One of these issues were, among other things, if it was possible to find an optimum temperature and humidity, in which there was an optimal turnover of the organic material, and if Tenebrio molitors growth and reproduction also had optimal rates at this temperature. These experiments were conducted to investigate whether there is a potential economic benefit from using mealworms in waste management.

In May 2010, the research group received a grant for project preparation from RU Innovation. The grant from RU innovation launched the first project period. The first project period are today referred to as the Larvae group. In parallel with project preparations, various studies and projects was carried out, within the group itself, and partly by student projects with guidance from the larvae group. During the first period, five experiments were carried out. Three of the experiments were carried out by student project groups at RU, while the remaining experiments were conducted in the larvae group. These experiments focused on answering the following questions;

  • Can Tenebrio molitor's metabolic heat provide a self-heating of the growth medium and surroundings?
  • What effect does the addition of yeast (Saccharomyces cereviseae) to the growth medium, have on the growth of Tenebrio molitor?
  • How much CO2 emission happens during decomposition of organic waste by Tenebrio molitor?
  • What effect does moisture in the medium have on growth and turnover of organic waste?

Additionally, studies of Tenebrio molitor larvae turnover rates of organic waste where carried out during this period. These experiments gave altogether so good results that it was decided to seek additional funds for further research on this field.

During the same period a collaboration with Kalundborg municipality was initiated.  A future scenario for the project may be that some of the things that are currently tested at laboratory level, may be tested in larger scale in collaboration with the Kalundborg municipality.

In October 2010, the research group was granted a second appropriation for the project, by Vækstforum Sjælland. The second project period are now established and more experiments and student projects are currently being conducted. The results from these experiments and student projects will show what the future has to offer for the larvae project. Ongoing experiments can be followed directly on this website.

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