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Sustainability Now: East Side manufacturing facility will convert food waste into “insect feed”

The East Side of Buffalo will soon see the opening of a manufacturing facility on Leslie Street that specializes in converting food waste into sustainable and highly productive byproducts.

The opening of the River Road Research facility, an affiliate of NOCO LLC, comes on the heels of the company being awarded a patent for developing a proprietary technology that converts food waste into insect feed, among other uses. Yes, you heard that right, “insect feed.”

River Road Research, headquartered in Tonawanda, now has a US patent* for an invention that is, in its most basic form, “… a method for converting food waste and other biological waste into invertebrate feed.” This is significant in that the company is able to convert the food waste into feed that is ideal for insect rearing, specifically the black soldier fly. If you’re wondering why the world needs more flies, then you’re probably not thinking of insects as a food source – primarily animal and aquaculture feeds.

If this sounds like it’s right out of a science fiction movie, then consider this: There are people out there who are now farming black soldier flies because the insects are considered a sustainable food source. The flies rapidly multiply and are high in protein (learn more). The trend of eating “self produced foods” over “mass produced foods” is the wave of the future, whether it’s growing vegetables in a yard instead of grass, raising chickens at home, or event insect farming. That said, River Road Research will not be raising the flies for human consumption, rather as feed for fish and animals.

Currently, food waste has become a big problem in the US, and throughout the world. Community composting efforts are nice in theory, but the problematic issue stems from the masses that don’t compost, as well as the food industry in general, including supermarkets and restaurants.

River Road Research has come up with a win-win situation here. Not only is it able to keep food waste out of landfills, it is able to convert that waste into sustenance for insects, which then become a food source for fish and animals that typically feed on non-sustainable resources.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, nearly forty million tons of food waste is produced nationwide annually.

“There is currently a great need to find better solutions for the disposal of food waste.  Additionally, the growing global population demands a sustainable source of protein for animal and aquaculture feeds,” said Scott Ernst, Managing Director of River Road Research.  “Our process provides a solution to these societal level issues, and it does so in an economic yet still responsible way. The process reclaims and re-uses virtually all the key nutrients in the food waste while generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions than alternatives such as landfilling, composting, and anaerobic digestion.”

By replacing soymeal and wild caught fishmeal with insect-based protein, this technology can help reduce the overfishing of our oceans and preserve land and water resources.

River Road Research’s patented fermentation process uses relatively little water and energy, yet delivers big results. These results equate to the production of shelf stable, nutrient dense materials that are perfect for feeding insects, which, in turn, can help to feed the planet. The sustainable conversion method also cuts down on gas emissions brought about by the discarded food as it decomposes, while eliminating the propagation of common food-borne pathogens. Among other benefits, the system yields a higher food conversion ratio due to the fermentation process.

“In addition to the broader impacts, the newly issued patent will have a positive impact on the Western New York economy, as River Road Research plans to expand its recycling operations with a new laboratory and technology demonstration site which will be located in Buffalo, NY,” said James Newman, President of River Road Research and NOCO.  “River Road Research will be demonstrating this and other technologies at this location and will ultimately produce and test market whole aquaculture rations based on Black Soldier Fly protein as well non-synthetic fertilizer products produced from food waste.  This milestone is yet another step in River Road’s journey towards the development of replicable and sustainable regional circular economies.”

As of this point in time, the equipment has been ordered and will be installed upon delivery to the facility.

*Analogs to the U.S. application are pending in several other jurisdictions, including Canada, South Africa and Singapore.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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