Insect biorefinery: Utilization of chitin, fats and proteins

Cocoons, a waste product of insect breeding.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Cocoons, a waste product of insect breeding.

Currently, some representatives of the insect kingdom are being bred commercially under controlled conditions in order to obtain different product streams. Especially the commercially produced insect proteins have great potential as an alternative to soya protein and are already used as fish feed, for example.

Utilization of residues from insect breeding with insect biorefinery approach

Fraunhofer IGB is pursuing the concept of an insect biorefinery in which all material flows after insect breeding are used to create value. Thus, a sustainable insect biorefinery concept is realized by a holistic use of insect‑based products, such as protein, fats and chitin.

Utilization of chitin

In the ChitoTex project, we were pioneers with regard to the chitin purification from insect skins. We have succeeded in producing high‑purity chitosan, using it as a sizing agent to protect yarns during weaving in the textile industry.

Utilization of insect fat for production of biosurfactants

Insect fat is a local source and contains medium-chain fatty acids providing an alternative to tropical fats such as coconut fat or palm kernel oil. Furthermore, the fats extracted from the larvae could be successfully used for the production of mannosylerythritol lipids, microbially produced biosurfactants.

Utilization of insect proteins

In future, Fraunhofer IGB would also like to exploit the insect‑based protein, for example for the production of protein films, in order to provide a biodegradable alternative to synthetic plastics.

Reference projects