In the last few years, the demand for high nutritional value products, such as protein-enriched food, has increased significantly. In January 2021, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) made public the first complete assessment on insects as food for humans, concluding that eating mealworms (larvae of Tenebrio molitor) does not entail any risk for human health. Five months later, the Regulation (UE) 2021/882 authorised the placing on the market of dried molitor larva as a novel food.
Nevertheless, mealworm protein is associated with a structural component, chitin, which is considered an anti-nutrient, for it produces a reduction in the digestibility of the protein of the insect, limiting its potential.
BIOPROINSECT is a pilot project which will study new chitin extraction methods that will allow obtaining, efficiently and sustainably, products of a higher economic value. Through mealworms’ bioprocessing and applying enzymatic treatments, chitin will be separated from other components. This process, just like a biorefinery, is strongly committed to circular economy, as the generated byproducts will be used in the production of enzymes. Moreover, no residues will be generated and no harm caused to the environment.
Thus, mealworms will be fractioned into three high-value products: proteins of high quality and easily digestible, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and chitin derivatives with prebiotic, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties. Proteins and fatty acids will be used in feed formulations in the agri-food sector, allowing a cost reduction due to their better digestibility. On the other hand, chitin and its derivatives are very demanded in industrial sectors such as cosmetic or pharmaceutical, among others.
Therefore, the Galician agri-food sector’s position as functional foods producer will be strengthened through innovation. At the same time, the generated knowledge will make it possible to diversify rural areas.
What’s a pilot project?
Pilot projects are comprised by multidisciplinary entities and professionals with the aim of encouraging the cooperation and enhancing innovation and investigation in the farming, livestock, forestry and/or agri-food sectors.
BIOPROINSECT is funded by the grants to support pilot projects, develop of new products, processes and technologies in the agri-forestry scope, cofunded by the European Agricultural Fund for the Rural Development (EAFRD), in the framework of the 2014-2020 Galician Rural Development Program (RDP). The Consellería do Medio Rural is the Galician Administration authority responsible for proposing and executing the general guidelines in the rural scope, and it encompasses powers in agriculture, livestock, rural development and regional planning, rural structures, agri-food and forestry industries, mountains and prevention and defence against forest fires.
April 2021 – July 2023
Total grant: €150,000.00 - UE cofund: 75% EAFRD
- Galician University-Enterprise Foundation (FEUGA).
- University of Vigo (UVigo), through the Industrial Biotechnology and Environmental Engineering Research Group (BiotecnIA).