Beta Bugs secures £1.72m to scale up sustainable insect farming
17th October, 2023
The funding round was led by The TRICAPITAL Syndicate LLP, with participation from SIS Ventures, Scottish Enterprise, Beeches Group, Climate.vc, together with existing shareholders in the business and InnovateUK.
Based in Edinburgh, Beta Bugs has developed the UK’s first comprehensive selective breeding programme and egg production site for the Black Soldier Fly, which is farmed as an alternative protein source for use in aquaculture, pork, and poultry feed and can be reared on various waste streams, including agricultural and food waste.
Black Soldier Fly farming provides a green, circular, and regionally produced alternative to the environmentally damaging production of soy meal and fishmeal, one of the prime causes of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and overfishing. With the global population forecast to reach 9.7bn by 2050¹, livestock farming will require an additional 539m hectares of habitat using current conventional methods – equating to an area 44x the size of Scotland² – to produce the necessary protein to feed this growing population.
Although these insects have been farmed commercially for the past decade, Black Soldier Fly have not, until now, been genetically improved for large-scale production. By improving Black Soldier Fly genetic performance and supplying it at commercially meaningful scales, Beta Bugs provides superior larvae with which insect producers can increase both protein yield and quality for animal feed, enabling it to eventually compete with soy and fishmeal on price.
Established in 2017 by CEO and Founder Thomas Farrugia, Beta Bugs is based in the Easter Bush Campus, Scotland – a centre of excellence for animal science and home to the Roslin Institute, a renowned centre for animal genetics. The business currently employs a team of 12 and will be looking to recruit another four full-time commercial and technical staff over the coming months. As part of its growth plans, Beta Bugs has also appointed Chris Richards as Non-Executive Chair. Chris is a recognised veteran of the international agribusiness industry with broad experience of building science-based businesses into successful enterprises.
Beta Bugs has supplied its industry leading products to an increasing number of established and new entrant insect farmers in the UK and international markets. The company continues to develop its outstanding HiPer-Fly® breeding programme, which has demonstrated consistent increases in Black Soldier Fly genetic performance across multiple, economically valuable production traits. Completing this investment will allow us to expand production capacity, drive to profitability over the coming 18-24 months and further strengthen our market leadership position in the strategically important insect farming industry." Thomas Farrugia, CEO and Founder of Beta Bugs
Moray Martin, Managing Partner of The TRICAPITAL Syndicate, said: “Insect farming is increasingly seen as a sustainable alternative protein source that could help mitigate the predicted increase in protein demand over the coming decades. The significantly lower environmental impact of insect farming places the sector at the forefront of sustainable food source development. In that context we are delighted to be able to support the acceleration of Beta Bugs to commercial scale.”
Kerry Sharp, Director of Entrepreneurship and Investment at Scottish Enterprise, said: “We have supported Beta Bugs through our high growth ventures team as well as financially and this recent investment will help the company fly high as it expands the team and continues to develop its sustainable and innovative insect protein solutions.
“It’s a great example of a Scottish biotech scale-up providing value in the supply chain for the agriculture industry and with benefits for the economy and environment.”
Arran Dewar, Executive Director, SIS Ventures said: “As the UK’s only insect genetics company, Beta Bugs is laying the foundation for a more sustainable global feed system. By creating jobs and diverting waste for its ground-breaking breeding programme, the business will deliver significant impact here in Scotland, with the potential to deliver even greater impact globally as the business grows and scales. We’re very happy to welcome Thomas and the team into the SIS Ventures portfolio and look forward to helping them achieve their impact goals.”