Ag-tech start-up Bardee is about to take a bigger bite of Australia’s food waste recycling market after gaining certification by the Australian Clean Energy Regulator to secure carbon credits from its insect-based organic fertiliser and protein products.
The certification has paved the way for leading insect breeding, fertiliser and protein producer to progress plans to establish a ‘mega facility’ in its home base of Melbourne to supercharge its waste handling volumes from 10 tonnes a day at present to 300 tonnes a day.
Bardee, backed by Who Gives a Crap founder Simon Griffiths among a suite of angel investors, is one of the few companies in the world that uses insects to break down food waste into organic fertilisers and protein products. Bardee now claims it is the first in the world to be certified to generate carbon credits.
Bardee’s Superfly fertiliser pellets have found a solid consumer market and are increasingly being used by farmers to reduce their reliance on urea-based fertilisers, while the protein products are employed by the pet food industry in Australia and Asia.
Bardee founders Phoebe Gardner and Alex Arnold tell Business News Australia the carbon credit certification makes it financially viable for the company to now process a wider range of food waste including packaged products from supermarkets.
“Previously it was not viable for us to accept waste streams that were heavily packaged, such as supermarket bakery goods or pre-packaged bread, or waste that was really difficult to deal with in terms of contamination,” says Gardner.
“But by adding this stream of revenue, we are able to take on more difficult waste and remove more methane from the environment. It also makes recycling process more replicable.”
Food waste in landfill is notoriously toxic for the environment as it produces large amounts of methane which is 30 times more potent than CO2.
Bardee’s proposed new Melbourne facility, which Gardner says will be the size of a Tesla factory, will offset up to 140,000 tonnes of carbon a year when fully operational.
Gardner says the company, which was founded just three years ago, is on track to achieve financial profitability at its existing facility to prove the scalability of the business model.
“We believe it will be viable to have a Bardee facility in every city and that will ensure no food waste is going to landfill,” she says. “Beyond the capitals we are looking at major production hubs like Shepparton that are also highly suitable locations.”
Bardee currently operates in a high-tech laboratory-controlled environment using precision vertical farming to process food waste into its fertiliser and protein products.
Bardee only uses black soldier flies to break down waste, implanting billions of larvae in the waste that can yields results within a week.
“This insect grows so quickly eating that food waste,” says Gardner.
“Our process is almost twice as fast as anywhere else in the world. Waste comes in and seven days later we have the raw materials to make our products.
“In seven days, the flies have eaten all the food waste, have grown 3,000 times in size and produced one-and-a-half times their weight in manure. Then we separate the insects from their manure on a manufacturing line after which the insects become the dried protein powder while the manure is made into organic certified fertiliser.”
Arnold says Bardee’s carbon credit certification could potentially benefit farmers using the company’s organic Superfly fertiliser.
“Customers are using a carbon positive product in the first place, but they also may be able to claim their own carbon credit for replacing say a meat protein with an insect protein,” he says.
“Farmers also can use our fertilisers to increase the carbon that they sequester within their soil and get accredited if they set up a project with the energy regulator.
“There are inherent amounts of carbon within our Superfly fertiliser, but it is also full of microbes and microbe stimulants that further make sure the organic matter is broken down into soil carbon. That makes the soil more drought resistant, while offering more nutrients with less product.”
While the agricultural sector remains reluctant to use organic fertilisers, Arnold says trials currently under way are producing positive results for Bardee.
“We’re finding seeds germinate earlier because of the chiton content of the Superfly,” he says. “We’re finding seedlings grow more vigorously and roots appear earlier. We get more vigorous growth on flowering plants. The microbes make the soil more resilient to disease, the nutrients themselves provide the fuel for growth and the chiton acts as a super stimulant to make the plant want to grow.
“We’ve designed this technology to position it anywhere in Australia and anywhere in the world to really provide global food security.”
Bardee is expected to seek fresh capital next year to progress its plans for the proposed new mega production facility in Melbourne.
“We’re actively working on that now and achieving carbon credit certification was a key part of our plan to move forward,” says Gardner.
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