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CSIRO and start-up tackle food waste by increasing insect breeding

CSIRO researchers and start-up, Goterra, have been testing the ideal combination of conditions that will encourage flies to mate, to then use this knowledge to increase the number of insects that can eat through food waste.

CSIRO’s farming experts have been testing lighting, temperature, moisture, surface texture and diet to boost egg-laying.

Goterra aims to take this information to increase the number of insects that can help create compost – reducing landfill, emissions from transporting food to landfill, and enriching soil with nutrient-rich fertiliser.

The project is one of a number of CSIRO projects designed to kick-start the growth of a new Australian industry that will use insects to tackle challenges like food waste and create a more sustainable source of protein for human consumption.

Farming insects sustainably, requires less land and water, while still maintaining a high protein production.

Working alongside the University of Adelaide, CSIRO is now expanding its partnership with Goterra to investigate which native Australian insects are the best nutritional choices for human consumption.

CSIRO’s Australian National Insect Collection will help identify native species of insects that are potential candidates for the edible insect industry in Australia, and work with local Aboriginal communities to understand traditions around witjuti grubs, bogong moths and green tree ants, which are known for their zesty citrus-tasting abdomens.

CSIRO chief executive, Dr Larry Marshall, said CSIRO is using its expertise in agricultural and food innovation to grow a new local industry using native Australian resources such as insects.

“Growing a new industry is a complex, multidisciplinary challenge, but with CSIRO’s expertise spanning farming, insects, nutrition, economic and environmental forecasting, and collaboration with industry, government and universities, we have a strong track record for turning excellent science into real-world solutions.”

Goterra CEO, Olympia Yarger, said she was inspired to start the business out of passion for insects and a belief in harnessing them to work productively.

“Our solution is focused on technology to create opportunities to use insects as a biological service. We’re building the technology to breed the insects and transport them to wherever there is a need, creating a mobile and versatile alternative to everything from sources of protein to landfill,” Yarger said.