July 25, 2023
Building a Greener Future: From Waste to Resources with BSF Innovations
Communications & Marketing Intern
In a world facing pressing environmental challenges, innovative solutions are emerging from unexpected sources. One such solution is found within Black Soldier Flies (BSFs). These insects, once viewed as mere pests, are now becoming the new heroes in the battle against food waste in Hong Kong.
Today, let us introduce to you the story of two entrepreneurs who recognised the untapped potential of these tiny creatures and are now at the forefront of revolutionising waste management and carbon reduction. As their entrepreneurial journey unfolds, their story buzzes with inspiration, learnings and devotion for a greener future.
Ready to fly back in time?
The Need for Change
Hong Kong, a bustling city with a population of approximately 8 million, struggles with a remarkable food waste dilemma. “Each day, an estimated 3,600 tons of food waste is generated, making it one of the highest rates in Asia,” says Sylvine Wong, founder and CEO of BSF Innovations. Despite the government’s attempt to address the issue by building an incinerator, it can only handle a fraction of the waste, 200 tons per day, leaving the remaining 3,400 tons destined for landfills. That’s when the idea for BSF Innovations emerged. An idea focused on long-lasting impact.
With a background in project management, Sylvine set out on a journey for a more impactful endeavour, one that would extend beyond a few months. Having previously been exposed to the environmental policy industry, she discovered there was a lack of habit and knowledge among Hong Kong residents regarding the proper categorisation of food waste.
The norm was that simply throwing waste into a bin would be enough, with the belief that the government would handle the rest. The reality was that landfills were overwhelmed with excessive waste and without clear policies or official encouragement, the benefits of categorising food waste remained largely unknown. Recognising the urgency of the situation, Sylvine made it her mission to instil a sense of responsibility in Hong Kong residents, urging them to be mindful of their waste disposal habits to promote the cradle-to-cradle supply chain through BSF's farming.
“I feel like BSF Innovations was a calling,” Sylvine reflects. It is a venture that could bring about positive change on a global scale. “It may seem like a small role to separate waste, but the impact is huge. Landfills could catch a breath and food waste be given a new purpose,” she explains. It all started by chance in 2022, when Sylvine stumbled upon the Black Soldier Fly industry and Jeff Luen, her current business partner.
Tiny New Heroes
The potential of the BSF industry is vast and promising. Since 2013, the European Union recognised the BSF as a valuable resource insect, suitable for food and protein sources for animals. Its applications are extensive. “With food waste contributing to 10% of greenhouse emissions, many countries struggle to address this issue due to its complexity and hygiene concerns,” explains Sylvine. That’s where BSF Innovations steps in, providing an eco-friendly alternative to incineration.
Recognising the potential of the species, Sylvine established BSF Innovations in October 2022, with a clear purpose: to make the most of food waste. On the other hand, Jeff Luen’s journey started six years prior, when he first discovered the BSF and immersed himself in extensive research. After a year of learning and experimenting, he began farming these insects, witnessing their ability to address environmental issues. Jeff’s expertise complemented Sylvine’s vision, and together, they forged a dynamic partnership determined to make a difference.
At the heart of BSF Innovations lies the use of BSF to turn waste into sustainable construction materials. They have the first insect farm running the whole BSF cycle that consumes about 500 kg of food waste every day inside a 20-foot container. Through a careful refining process made out of the leftover bones, fibre and shells, they create an adaptable powder that can be mixed with different materials like sand bricks, plasterboards, paint and concrete products. These materials offer an eco-friendly alternative to traditional construction methods.
Shortly after the company’s establishment, they successfully created a functional prototype. While the concept was initially unfamiliar, as BSF Innovations presented their ideas and showcased the prototype, people embraced the solution with enthusiasm and a genuine desire to see if it could be applied on a larger scale.
Their efforts were recognised internationally when they were chosen for WorldStartup’s accelerator - the Altitude Programme, providing them with a global stage to showcase their green technology initiative. As part of Altitude's mentoring programme, they have been recently matched with Joris van der Schoot, an experienced business mentor who will guide BSF in its international expansion. To top it all, their entry into the Hong Kong Science Park expanded their visibility in Asia and received considerable attention and support.
These acknowledgements not only solidified their position within the industry but also opened doors for potential collaborations and partnerships with other research institutions and industry leaders.
Sylvine’s vision extends beyond Hong Kong and South Asia. BSF Innovations’ current focus lies in setting up their first company in the Netherlands within the next few months. “Settling in the Netherlands holds great significance”, Sylvine admits. “The country provides an advanced atmosphere in terms of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and green solutions. By relocating, we can tap into the country’s sustainability expertise and collaborate with local farmers, food processing companies and other key stakeholders, to strengthen the green supply chain by reducing carbon emissions,” Sylvine continues.
However, success for BSF Innovations entails more than only achieving their immediate goal. In the next five years, they aim to scale up the models in different farms and inside urban areas so as to attract more young talent to join their mission, fostering a community of passionate individuals committed to a sustainable circular economy.
As BSF innovations expand their reach and partnerships, the potential for creating a greener future becomes even more promising. They are demonstrating that entrepreneurship and environmental consciousness can go hand in hand.
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