This Company Believes Insects Can Provide Biofuel To Power Our Future
A Polish group is testing out a new factory concept that can provide a source of renewable energy, and even serve space missions
A company called HiProMine wants to turn insects into biofuel for anything from beauty products to substance for future space colonies. HiProMine created a prototype of the first insect-driven factory in August of 2015 in Robakowo, Poland. Here’s how it works: the factory gathers the waste produced from nearby meat, dairy, fruit and vegetable industries to feed bioreactors, each containing a different species of insects, including grasshoppers, locusts, mealworms and cockroaches.
Different insects can produce different types of biofuel, depending on an industry’s needs. For instance, the black soldier fly, a well-studied insect, can be manipulated to produce more protein or fat depending on what you feed it. The insects are contained in a large production hall–but if the idea of being amongst thousands of squirming creatures makes you anxious, not to worry: the whole factory requires only a few human personnel to operate. The rest of it can be done remotely, using AI.
The factory prototype currently produces about 15 tons of insects per month, a number that’s quickly growing as the company refines different feed-insect combinations and finetunes its technologies. Mining insects for materials isn’t a new concept (for instance, silkworms have been producing silk in China for almost 5,000 years), but it’s never quite been done at this scale. The HiProMine factory model is also easy to reproduce: it can be built anywhere with available local resources, as far as Antarctica–or even, Mars.
HiProMine recently became a part of a project with the Polish Space Agency to create a full-scale model of a Martian base. “Here on Earth our technology is economically attractive and environmentally friendly, which is nice,” Noemi Malska, HiproMine’s COO told Quartz, “But on Mars such things as low energy consumption, high efficiency, and most of all, an ability to work independently of the outside world, will be a matter of life and death.” If insects can thrive under zero-gravity, they might just be the fuel to sustain our future space efforts.