Entomics kids V1
Entomics’ hungry larvae devour food waste, turning it into useful fat and proteins

School children, students and graduates were among thousands of people gathering at Make the Future London at the end of June 2016, a festival of innovation that explored ways to tackle the world’s energy challenges.

Water heated by compost, energy from algae and maggots that help convert waste into animal feed were just some of the ideas to be demonstrated. Creative secondary-school children were hoping their team’s idea for powering cities of the future would win a prize. Sixteen enterprises showed how some innovative ideas can be developed into practical ways to help solve energy and environment challenges.

Entomics, a company founded by four Cambridge University graduates after winning the 2015 Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future competition, showed how bugs can be used to transform food waste into fertiliser and animal feed.

It’s a simple idea for making use of waste that amounts to around a third of food produced globally. Entomics feeds leftover food from a local supermarket to black soldier fly larvae. The larvae then convert it into fat, protein and other nutrients, which the company can refine.

“We are trying to take food waste and transform it into valuable products, using insects,” says Matt McLaren, a Master of Business Administration graduate who oversees strategy and growth at the company. 

Entomics secured a business development grant in early 2016 and is now building a production plant inside a converted barn on the edge of Cambridge in east England. They are also talking to large supermarket chains in the UK about scaling up the operation, and have plans to process unwanted food from farms, homes and restaurants.

Entomics worms V1
The Cool Compost Crew with a working model of their compost box for heating water

Energy for the future

Although still at school, there was no shortage of imagination among The Bright Ideas Challenge finalists.

The Cool Compost Crew, from Newmarket Academy in the east of England, hoped to win with their idea of heating water in homes by using rotting food waste.

"We knew that compost generated a lot of heat which we could harness to heat water,” says 13-year-old Jadey. Her team proposed using compost boxes to heat a system of water pipes. They plan to offer sweet-smelling flowers with each box to mask any smell.

The winning team, from Queen Elizabeth's School north of London, came up with the idea of algae-filled tubes mounted on the sides of buildings that use sunlight to generate electricity and make hydrogen that could power cars.

“We decided to look at using photosynthesis from plants in special farms to produce power,” says 13-year-old Eeshan from the school. “We later realised algae was a much more efficient way to harvest energy.”

Like Entomics, perhaps some of these young thinkers will get to put their ideas into practice.

“Anyone can have a game-changing idea,” says Chris Laurens, Shell Vice President Innovation and New Energy Technology. “The world needs more scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to help develop technologies for a sustainable future.”

Story by Dan Fineren

Make the Future London took place between June 30 and July 3, 2016. Discover more about Make the Future at www.shell.com/makethefuture.

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