Sustainable and circular bioeconomy for food systems transformation

From lab to market


FAO’s latest webinar in the ‘Circular bioeconomy for food systems transformation’ series looks at what’s needed to make innovative bio-products part of everyday life

Since 2016, FAO has been looking at how a sustainable and circular bioeconomy could for countries be a new, much needed economic model with many benefits; reviewing the latest microbiome research to deepen our understanding of nutrition and ecosystem health, documenting lessons learnt from case studies on innovative bio-products, and developing principles and criteria used to monitor and evaluate the bioeconomy

Given the cross-cutting nature of a sustainable bioeconomy, securing effective governance frameworks, at national and international level, is essential. Through the International Bioeconomy Working Group (ISBWG) and two partner countries, Namibia and Uruguay, FAO is working to do just this.

Hosted by FAO and the ISBWG, the latest webinar ‘Innovation and investments in the bioeconomy: from lab to market’ is part of a webinar series on bio-innovations for food systems transformation focusing on a key stage in the new circular bioeconomy, when a bio-based product moves out of the lab and onto the market. 

“Bio-innovations - such as plant- and microorganism-based textiles, plastics, proteins for food and feed, fertilizers and other products - are increasingly discussed as profitable options, with large potential to reduce GHG emissions, water contamination and land use change”, explained Anne Bogdanski, a Natural Resources Officer leading FAO’s Sustainable and Circular Bioeconomy team.

The webinar started with a presentation from a successful governance mechanism that supports the scale-up of such bio-innovations: The Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), a public-private partnership between the European Commission and the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), a non-profit organization representing the private sector. 

Marco Rupp, BIC Public affairs and sustainability manager and member of the FAO-led International Bioeconomy Working Group (ISBWG) opened the webinar with an overview of how to support large-scale production and increase the profitability of bio-products. 

Rupp described the importance of the public sector to set the boundaries and create enabling conditions, and the role of the private sector in bringing sustainable, innovative and profitable products to the market. 

“Through BBI-JU innovation projects, we have looked at enlarging the bio-based industries’ business model and licensing technologies from EU Member States as well as other countries, to increase the market reach and pace of execution, to have a faster positive impact on the environment and society”, he concluded.

Vertically farming insects

Ÿnsect is a French environmental biotechnology and feed industry business, farming insects, while making food production more circular and resource-use efficient.

The mealworms it breeds feed on food waste. The worms are used as a protein alternative in animal feed. Their waste can in turn be used as fertilizer. The company is currently building what it describes as the world’s largest vertical insect farm in northern France as part of the FARMŸNG Project, a consortium that engages local public and private stakeholders, industries, brand-owners and other investors, in promoting the creation of an automated and industrial scale production of insect-derived products.

But as Antoine Hubert, the CEO of the company and second presenter, explained, “Ÿnsect is not just about insect farming: with climate change and increasing populations worldwide, we need to produce more food with less available land and fewer resources, so that we’re not clearing forests and emptying our oceans. We believe insect farming can play a pivotal role in this global solution.”

Open access pilot and demonstration facility

Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BBEU) works with small, medium and large sized companies worldwide to scale-up innovative bioeconomy projects. This state-of-the-art laboratory facility provides services that range from bio-process development to the scaling-up and custom manufacturing of biobased products and processes.

Hendrik Waegeman, Head of Business Operations, explained how it is often difficult to find investors at the pilot and demonstration stage of a project:

“It’s at this moment, in this valley of death, that a lot of innovations come to an end very quietly, which is basically the reason why we set up this open access pilot and demonstration facility like BBEU, where biological processes and technologies can be tested and upscaled. With all the expertise under one roof, it’s much easier to move innovations from the laboratory and on to the market and investments have a multiplier effect.”

One of the success stories Waegeman presented was Arbiom, a French company that with the help of BBEU produces and sells animal feed around Europe. The feed is made from proteins from the woody biomass residues from a paper mill. Sugars are extracted from the biomass and then converted into proteins through biotechnology (fermentation).

The webinars in this series have been an important opportunity to drive forward FAO’s work on the bioeconomy and innovation, supporting countries to develop their sustainable bioeconomy strategies, bringing together the public and private sector in discussions around solutions to support a growing population while preserving our natural resources.  


Further reading: 

Website: Sustainable and circular bioeconomy for food systems transformation

Webpage: Capacity development

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Article: Why working with the private sector is needed to build the world we want