Turning food waste into a usable commodity might seem like magic, but it’s a reality for companies such as Vienna-based LIVIN farms. The company has announced a €6 million Series A round led by venture Investor Peter Luerssen, allowing it to expand its team and solution.
As a player in the alternative protein space, LIVIN Farms developed HIVE PRO, a modular system for fully automated insect processing. HIVE PRO allows waste management companies and large-scale food producers to upcycle organic waste and by-products into valuable proteins, fats, and fertilizers.
In an interview with The Spoon, Katharina Unger, Founder of LIVIN Farms, explained her company’s process. “Livin Farms customers are largely food and feed processing companies and agricultural players that have access to at least several thousand tons of organic by-products every year. They typically make a loss on it by having disposal costs. Generally used feed substrates include by-products, surplus production from the bakery, potato, vegetable, and fruit processing industry, and pre-consumer wastes from retail and grain by-products.”
One of the critical elements of the LIVIN Farms solution is the use of black soldier fly larvae in its “plug-and-play” solution. A module is set up at a customer site, after which, as Unger says, her company operates it as a Farming as a Service (FaaS) model. The first step is when the organic waste of the customer is recycled on-site by being processed and prepared as feed for the insects. After that is completed, using a robotic handling machine moves the feed made from the organic food waste into pallet-sized trays. The machine then inserts seedlings (baby larvae) and empties the harvest-ready larvae from the trays.
At this point, insect Larvae are fed on recycled organic food waste in a climate-controlled environment. The insects are then ready to be harvested within seven days only. The final step is processing the insect larvae into protein powder and oils. The end product is three animal feed types high in protein, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.
LIVIN Farms LIVIN farms recently opened a fully up-and-running 1,400 square meter pilot site in Vienna where the HIVE PRO is demonstrated to interested customers.
Unger began her journey to building LIVIN Farms in 2013, she said. “The idea for Livin farms started when I developed the first device to grow the entire lifecycle of the black soldier fly larvae in a kitchen device to turn kitchen scraps into proteins ready to harvest. This prototype was patented and then turned into a tabletop farm for mealworms (The Hive) later on that was sold in the hundreds to more than 45 countries worldwide. Since 2019, Livin Farms has used our years of R&D to focus on industrial insect farming technologies.”
The company is working on projects throughout Europe, Unger said. LIVIN Farms hopes to have several installations over the next several years.
LIVIN Farms has previously secured a Seed investment round, grants, and subsidies from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), Austrian Promotional Bank (AWS), and the European Innovation Council (EIC) under the European “Green Deal,” totaling more than $4 million €. The company believes its latest investment will lead to the “further growth of the company and will be used for expanding the LIVIN farms team, standardization of the technical solutions, and driving the initial scale-up phase.”