Circular economy solution based on insects brings triple benefit for agriculture

Nopef funded a feasibility study for Manna Insect to expand to Kenya. Now, there is interest from around the world to learn how locally produced insects can process biowaste, fertilise crops and feed animals.

Agriculture is a wasteful industry. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-third of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions come from our agrifood systems. Any improvement can have a major positive impact, which is what Manna Insect intends to have.

Finland-based Manna Insect has created a solution using black soldier fly larvae to simultaneously process biowaste and provide better feed for animals while leaving a fertiliser byproduct. It is an innovative circular solution, but it needed to be proven in the field. Ykä Marjanen, Founder and CEO of Manna Insect, approached Nopef for a feasibility study to see if their idea would work in Kenya.

Insects in the circular economy

“We don’t sell the insect end product: we sell the solution to people to produce it themselves,” explains Ykä Marjanen, Founder and CEO of Manna Insect. “They use the insects as live or dried animal feed, such as for farmers to feed their chickens. The frass, or insect manure, is excellent fertiliser for fields. The system is also great for biowaste management. For example, an entrepreneur could sell this service to restaurants or markets and use what they consider ‘waste’ as a valuable raw material.”

Growing crops to feed animals, which in turn feed humans, is not efficient. A circular solution – using biowaste to feed larvae that become animal feed – could use less resources to produce the same result. One researcher found that insects could be 2-5 times more environmentally friendly than traditional agricultural products.

“Our interest in Manna Insect was sparked by the multiple environmental benefits their solution can offer,” says Victor Degerlund, Senior Investment Officer at Nefco. “The insect protein produced using Manna Insect’s solution primarily replaces soy protein, which can be more environmentally harmful because of the water, land and fuel needed to grow and transport it. Additionally, Manna Insect uses biowaste as feed in a circular solution. Local production also cuts down on the use of fossil fuels needed for transport.”

Black soldier fly larvae is a good choice for such a project. They can eat wide varieties of organic material and grow quickly in easily controlled environments.

The company’s solution utilises a 20-foot shipping container which includes trays for growing insects as well as a climate-control system. The software system tracks the breeding and growing processes so machine learning can optimise the environment. It can adjust the temperature and humidity as needed.

“We wanted a system which could be used with local materials. We don’t send giant shipping containers all over the world,” Marjanen says. “We only send the software and control unit and train clients how to use it. Our idea is to make this as simple and easy as possible. You don’t need a PhD in entomology to use it.”

Manna environmental impact.

Manna environmental impact. Photo: Manna Insect

Proof of concept yields real results

Manna Insect’s customers wanted to see the promising concept in action. A potential partner in Kenya thought it could provide great benefits to local farmers and suggested a pilot project. To see if such a pilot would be viable, Manna Insect approached Nopef to help fund a feasibility study.

“The feasibility study wasn’t just market research; it helped us meet farmers, animal feed companies, potential partners, you name it,” says Marjanen. “It encouraged us to try the pilot, and that proved our solution would work in Kenya’s hot climate, just like it does in Finland’s cold climate.”

The solution worked so well that Manna Insect will have two employees in Kenya to meet demand. The future looks bright. More interest is coming in from around the world and the company may carry out other feasibility studies for Indian market.

“After this successful pilot project, the company might study new markets,” Degerlund says. “If they do so we’d be happy to talk to them about further cooperation, because this is the type of climate-positive Nordic solution we look for.”

“Nopef has made the bureaucracy and decision-making process as easy as possible,” concludes Marjanen. “They are interested in innovative approaches and industries and are responsive to questions and concerns. We were able to achieve positive, concrete results with their help.”

Financing for green Nordic SMEs – how to apply for funding from Nopef

How to get started with an application for your project:
1. Look at Nopef’s financing options and application criteria.
2. For an initial assessment of your planned internationalisation and its eligibility for financial support from Nopef, please fill in the project proposal form or contact our Nopef team.
3. Complete and send the application form and required attachments to

Learn more about the Nopef application criteria and apply for funding.


Text: David J. Cord

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