Harnessing sustainable development opportunities from oil palm waste: Black Soldier fly larvae as a novel income stream in Malaysia

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Biology


The desired impact of this multidisciplinary NFIS project is to enhance livelihood and business opportunities by adding value to plant based waste produced by palm oil mills in Malaysia. We will use microbes to convert oil palm residues into a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable safe source of feed for production of Black Soldier Fly larvae (BSFL), which can be used as fish feed by aquaculture businesses, and will assess its scalability as a novel income stream.
We have demonstrated as part of our previous Newton project that microbial processes developed for the biorefining of oil palm residues can also be used to release nutrients from crop residues to provide feed for BSFL. The NFIS will allow us to capitalise on this discovery and broaden the impact of our research. We will optimise biomass treatment on a large scale to demonstrate that BSFL production can be achieved in an industrial setting. The translation of this commercial opportunity will be carried out in collaboration with Fera Science Ltd and an SME Entofoods in Malaysia. Our longer-term vision is to extend the technology into lower income DAC countries in Asia and beyond.
Clear, comprehensive stakeholder engagement is vital to ensure the technology is taken up and translated into impacts that improve people's lives, generate economic growth and deliver change. Engagement of stakeholders from the oil palm industry, fish farms, commercial influencers and policymakers will take place throughout the project. The initiative is in line with 11th Malaysia Plan where one of the new priorities is enhancing environmental sustainability through green growth, and Malaysia's National Policy on Science, Technology & Innovation: Strategic thrust 1: Advancing scientific and social research, development & commercialisation to address national priorities, challenges and new opportunities.


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Description This Newton Fund Impact Scheme Award is funded jointly through BBSRC and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT). The major aim of our ODA compliant project is to convert oil palm residues, which represent a major waste challenge in Malaysia, into a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable high quality insect feed for use in aquaculture. In doing so we will bring new economic and livelihood opportunities. Our project involves two academic partners (University of York and the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia), carrying out the research to underpin the technology we are developing. The project involves a UK industry partner (Fera Science Ltd) providing entomology expertise and Entofood in Malaysia who are insect protein producers.
The project has experienced major delays as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic both at the UoY and UTM. However, our current no cost extension until 31st March 2022 has enabled us to make excellent progress and we are now close to achieving all the science objectives. We have developed a novel process that converts inedible, inexpensive and abundant Oil palm residues (Empty Fruit Bunched, EFB) into an edible feedstock for the production of Black Soldier Fly larvae (BSFL). BSFL protein can then be sold into the existing market as an alternative source of protein, which can be used as a substitute for soybean meal and fishmeal in aquaculture and livestock feeds. We have identified and characterised a novel fungus that is exceptionally good at growing on EFB. Untreated EFB cannot support the growth of BSFL and the current BSFL producers utilise food-grade wastes that are highly heterogeneous and cannot be optimised, which leads to variation in the output yields and quality. Our process generates a reproducible and defined feedstock that supports reproducible yields of BSFL. Importantly, we have successfully completed the final phase of the BSFL work where we have demonstrated the process at pilot scale at Entofoods in Kuala Lumpur, using optimised conditions and processing parameters. We still have to analyse BSFL for the presence of mycotoxins and heavy metals but that will be completed before the current end date of the project.

Several stakeholders across public and private sectors have been interviewed to replace an initial multi-stakeholder workshop due in month 3. Changes to the overall methodology were required due to COVID-19 restrictions as we needed to find a way to engage with stakeholders without bringing them together to enable us to deliver impact from the work in line with the requirements of the award. Data collected during interviews consider stakeholder perspectives on the opportunities, barriers and solutions to the scaling of BSFL production, taking into account economic and financial, political, socio-cultural, legal and institutional and environmental aspects. The data analysis has been completed and we are currently developing the findings into a journal paper and a policy brief. An important deliverable and endpoint to the project will be dissemination of the findings to policy makers and key stakeholders through a face-to-face workshop. This has been delayed and will occur after the end date of the project due to travel restrictions, as the Malaysian border remains closed to international visitors due to COVID-1.
Exploitation Route Researchers at UTM are in discussion with BSFL producers in Malaysia about how the finding from this project could be commercialised.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

Description BSFL feeding trials 
Organisation Fera Science Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Our team is developing a microbial treatment process that converts lignocellulosic agricultural residues into palatable feed for black soldier larvae which can be used for the production of insect protein.
Collaborator Contribution Fera Science Ltd have given us access to their insect facility and provide entomology expertise.
Impact Funding (BB/V003593/1) from the Newton Fund Impact Scheme.
Start Year 2019
Description Collaboration with UTM 
Organisation University of Technology, Malaysia
Country Malaysia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The award has enabled exchanges of ESRs between the two Universities. We have trained students from UTM in various laboratory and bioinformatic techniques.
Collaborator Contribution Our colleagues at UTM have made intellectual contributions to our collaboration, arranges site visits and engaged with Malaysian legislators.
Impact The capacity and capability that has been developed from the collaboration was important for the development of a GCRF RCUK Hub application entitled 'GCRF Insect Biotechnology for Sustainable Food Hub' that was invited to the full application stage. The full application was not successful
Start Year 2017