“Our technology unleashes the insect market from its shackles”

FreezeM’s technology allows for the decoupling of the biologically complex reproduction stage from the rearing and processing stages. Our pioneering technology pauses the BSF development at the neonate larvae stage, allowing for safe transportation over long distances, cost reduction and increasing protein production capacity and efficiency. Our technology unleashes the insect market from its shackles and enables the insect protein market to fulfil its potential.

Yuval Gilad
CEO & Co-Founder

FreezeM is one of the remarkable companies in the insect industry. The company’s expert teams, which aim to develop a technology that will revolutionise the insect protein industry, believe that they have achieved this at this point today. Because FreezeM has developed a technology that will separate the reproduction stage from the rearing and processing stages in BSFs by realising a first that no one has achieved so far.

This technology, described as ‘Suspended Animation’, is currently awaiting patenting under the name PauseM®. Yuval Gilad, CEO and Co-Founder of the company, explains PauseM® in the following words: “PauseM® is a suspended BSF neonates’ package, allowing for long-distance transportation and hence replacing the traditional breeding unit in an insect-protein factory. PauseM® is delivered on a weekly basis, becoming the producer’s ‘Breeding in-a-box’.”

It seems that FreezeM is rapidly becoming the seed company of the insect industry with its remarkable technology and products. Gilad, CEO and Co-Founder, explains both the details of ‘Suspended Animation’ technology and BSF-Titan, another interesting solution of FreezeM for our readers.

Can you offer our readers an introduction to FreezeM? Please clarify what sets your undoubtedly scientific breakthrough of insect-suspension-animation, apart as a genuine game changer, in the established insect protein industry?
Since our foundation in 2018 as a spin-off from the Weizmann Institute of Science, with a team of three PhD students specialized in insect developmental biology and molecular genetics, we at FreezeM have focused on coming up with a technology that will revolutionize the insect protein industry and let the promise of – ‘insect-protein as a highly nutritional and sustainable feed for livestock’ – become a reality.

We pinpointed the Insect Breeding stage as the most challenging phase for producers due to its inherent instability and unpredictability. As a stage, it requires a lot of multidisciplinary expertise (biology, entomology, genetics, engineering) and can create a great deal of hassle for producers. The challenge lies in taking flies out of their natural habitat and turning them into new farm animals with optimal reproduction to support large-scale farming.

Within the insect-protein industry, the globally found Black Soldier Fly (BSF) species has the highest potential to become a sustainable alternative protein at scale. There are already numerous established BSF production factories, as well as many newcomers to the industry with interest in the potential of the BSF protein market.

Building on this insight, we pioneered our patent-pending ‘Suspended Animation’ technology that is commercialized under the product name PauseM®. This technology is centred on Black Soldier Fly (BSF) young larvae immediately after they hatch (known as neonates) – a development that no other company has achieved. Our technology is disruptive to the insect farming industry in the sense that it changes the supply chain by decoupling the breeding stage from the rearing and processing stages. At the same time, our innovation conforms with the most important sustainability goals of salvaging scarce farmland, decreasing ocean exhaustion, and repurposing organic waste.

Sounds promising, but how can your technology translate into an actual working solution? And more specifically, what makes it such a revolutionizing breakthrough to the insect protein market?
PauseM® is revolutionizing the insect protein market by streamlining and stabilizing the breeding process for producers. PauseM® is a suspended BSF neonates’ package, allowing for long-distance transportation and hence replacing the traditional breeding unit in an insect-protein factory. PauseM® is delivered on a weekly basis, becoming the producer’s ‘Breeding in-a-box’.

Using PauseM® as a breeding source results in reduced costs and increased production predictability, capacity, and efficiency. Without FreezeM’s technology, farmers currently must manage the full insect life cycle, which means handling the BSF breeding themselves, then dealing with the larvae rearing (=growing) stage and finally processing the grown larvae into beneficial protein, oil, and the residual frass (as fertilizer).

PauseM® serves as an outsourced ‘Breeding in-a-box’, allowing producers to focus exclusively on operational efficiency and sales. In other words, the hassle of reproduction can now be left with FreezeM.

Moreover, PauseM® allows for full control over production pace and capacity. PauseM® packages can be stored in stock and activated based on demand. Activating PauseM® is as easy as simply displacing the content into existing rearing substrate trays, and from that point on the larvae will do what they do best – grow fast!

What makes insect protein so important? And by what means FreezeM’s technology make the difference?
The looming global food crisis demands innovative technologies. Novel technologies are required to sustainably produce animal protein feed at scale.

The potential of insects and BSF in particular as a sustainable and healthy source of protein for feed was discovered some time ago. BSF specifically have been proven to be a great source of protein for humans and animals alike, containing high-quality, healthy protein. As such, current regulation has embraced and approved insect protein as feed for livestock.

Insect protein offers multiple advantages over conventional farming: it’s eco-friendly, requires relatively few resources, and is cost-effective. It is possible to feed insects with agricultural or food manufacturing by-products or residuals. For example, fruit and vegetable waste that is not intended for human consumption is a great food source for insects, thereby optimizing agricultural production by reducing waste and creating a fully circular economy.

Insect production (especially when working with the decoupled model that FreezeM enables) can be designed in synergy with local waste streams, supported by residual heat from adjacent energy sources (for example gasification or biogas facilities), creating industrial symbiosis and making the entire process more sustainable and efficient.

Having said that, the issue is that until now, and without FreezeM, insect protein production is difficult, unpredictable and expensive, limiting its vast potential as a viable sustainable source of protein. BSF factories are struggling with major instability issues that prevent their scalability. This holds the market back and scares newcomers from entering the industry.

But starting now, FreezeM’s technology allows for the decoupling of the biologically complex reproduction stage from the rearing and processing stages. Our pioneering technology pauses the BSF development at the neonate larvae stage, allowing for safe transportation over long distances, cost reduction and increasing protein production capacity and efficiency. Our technology unleashes the insect market from its shackles and enables the insect protein market to fulfil its potential.

PauseM® ensures a stable streamline of high-quality BSF neonates and eliminates the burden of breeding, lowering barriers to enter the insect protein market. With PauseM®, BSF producers can enjoy steady and predictable production without the investment, expertise and time required to build a highly efficient breeding unit.

Can FreezeM be referred to as ‘The Seed’ company of the Insect market? If I am a BSF producer, or considering of becoming a BSF producer – can I get PauseM®?
Yes, that is a nice analogy. Our suspended animation neonates are the “seed” for insect farming just as seeds are fundamental in plant farming. These BSF neonates will grow to become grownup larvae ready to be harvested for processing, much like a seed grows into a flourishing crop. Similarly, most farmers do not produce their own seeds and instead specialize in the farming part of growing the crops. We see the insect industry developing similarly as it matures.

Indeed, PauseM® has already gained global traction, catering to both small-scale farmers and large BSF protein factories. We have shipped PauseM® from our production centres in Israel and Germany to different locations in Europe, Africa, Japan, China, and South America.

PauseM® is used on a large variety of different food-waste streams, successfully developing healthy and large grownup larvae ready to harvest and process. Surprisingly, the suspended neonates also perform better compared to in-house produced larvae that were grown on the target feedstock for several generations.

Can you please educate us about the species you currently offer?
It’s important to understand that the demand for PauseM® like products to replace the cumbersome breeding stage exists for all beneficial insect species. However, at FreezeM we currently only focus on BSF because it is the most common and most promising species in creating value for mankind by converting food waste into sustainable and healthy protein for animal feed. BSF is specifically used to address the pressing challenge of an ever-increasing demand for food to feed the rapidly growing global population.

BSF meal has been proven to be a great source of protein for pet food and animal feed (and in the future for direct human consumption), containing about 60% high-quality protein. BSF, which we call ‘Nature’s ultimate recycling machine’, efficiently transforms organic waste into high-quality protein. It can be fed a variety of organic waste and multiplies its weight by 8,000 times in only 14 days. This growth is like a newborn baby growing to the size of three elephants in just 14 days!

BSF larvae turn into a high-quality food source for animals, with minimum to no water consumption and with farmland usage of 1/150 of that required for crops producing the same amount of protein. The quality of the BSF protein is comparable to fishmeal protein, and as such reduces the ocean’s exhaustion caused by the latter.

PauseM® contains the wild-type BSF. We started our industrial-scale colony with a handful of flies we personally captured in nature and have grown in a controlled and monitored environment since then. We grow them in a fully traceable manner, based on the tight proprietary protocols developed by our entomology team. This is done in our production sites both in Israel and in Germany (in collaboration with Hermetia GmbH). Our PauseM® units’ production capacity can already support the breeding streams required in several large-scale BSF facilities simultaneously.

Are you considering other species?
We are currently focused on BSF solely but we are also working to harness the power of molecular genetics to enhance the species’ capabilities and create new genetic lines of BSF with improved industrial properties.

As part of being focused on BSF, combined with our unique insect genetic expertise, we have embarked on the development of new BSF lines with enhanced properties. We wanted to improve the wild-type BSF qualities as protein supply and food-waste reduction “machines”. We started this route with FreezeM’s genetic team developing a novel BSF genetic platform. Over the last two years, they have created a highly powerful platform for precise genome editing in BSF, using CRISPR-Cas9 as an exploratory R&D sandbox to identify the phenotype of potential new strains. The team has successfully edited over 400 gene targets since the platform was established in the lab and has made it possible to create multiple enhanced strains of BSF for various applications.

Once the new strains’ phenotype has been laid out, although first discovered via CRISPR-Cas9, the development is also achievable via traditional pathways. This ensures our new strains align with European GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) regulations.

Utilizing our advanced BSF genetic platform, we’re proud to introduce our first revolutionary BSF strain: BSF-Titan.

What is BSF-Titan and how does it enhance production efficiency compared to the wild type?
BSF-Titan represents a leap in protein production. Designed with augmented rearing traits, it can attain 50% larger larvae sizes at the rearing final stage.

This new designed strain promises significant cost savings and augmented feed conversion rates, promoting sustainable and efficient protein production. To quantify, current facilities require 15-20 tons of waste-based feed to produce a ton of insect meal, incurring feed costs of up to €600. However, with BSF-Titan’s 25% improved FCR (Food Conversion Rate) relative to the wild-type, this can be cut to €450. Its increased larval size further cuts production expenses by shortening cycle times and yielding more protein.

Overall, BSF-Titan enables the production of more protein with fewer resources (fewer larvae and less feedstock).

When is BSF-Titan anticipated to be market-ready?
BSF-Titan is presently undergoing intensive trials and further characterization. Preliminary results align with our projections. To further validate its efficiency, we’re initiating large-scale tests, comparing BSF-Titan’s KPIs against the wild-type line.

Alongside these trials, we’re navigating the regulatory approval process. Our objective is to introduce BSF-Titan to the market in 2024.

How can insects be produced on an industrial scale to fulfil existing demand, and how does FreezeM’s suspended neonate solution fit into this?
The utility and advantages of BSF as a sustainable resource for animal feed and agricultural applications are well-established. For feed manufacturers to truly embrace insect protein, three key parameters need alignment:
(i) Scale: mass production of insects
(ii) Price: competitive price of insect protein
(iii) Stability: reliable and consistent production

The comprehensive approach taken by first-generation insect protein enterprises faces a notable challenge. Scaling up amidst the multifaceted issues of this emerging supply chain is daunting. Simultaneously, excelling in diverse areas like waste management, insect breeding, rearing, processing, energy efficiency, and operational perfection is a tall order.

Recognizing that no single entity can master all these facets, the insect-farming sector, similar to other industries, is transitioning into a phase marked by collaboration and specialization. Firms are forming partnerships built on expertise and niche capabilities.

FreezeM addresses a critical bottleneck within this industry with its state-of-the-art breeding technologies. Our solution bypasses the inconsistent and inefficient breeding processes typical of BSF. With FreezeM as a breeding ally, insect protein producers can sidestep the persistent complexities and expenses of colony establishment. Instead, they can benefit from our PauseM® solution — a ready-to-use, suspended neonate with an extended shelf-life and superior efficiency. Using PauseM® eliminates the need for maintaining a fly colony altogether. Clients receive a steady supply of high-grade neonates weekly, enabling them to elevate their operational efficiency and expedite scaling.

To wrap up: What message would you like to convey to our readers?
From its inception, FreezeM was driven by a profound aspiration: to make an impact on the global food ecosystem through the promise of insect farming. It’s a large endeavour, incorporating multiple domains of expertise. Collaborations that fuse the expertise of domain specialists with an innovative spirit are imperative to realize this vision and deliver tangible, operational outcomes.

We stand as proof of this paradigm. At FreezeM, we harness our deep-rooted understanding of insect breeding and couple it with groundbreaking solutions that transition smoothly from concept to execution. We are here to democratize access to the promising world of insect farming, inviting forward-thinkers to be part of this revolution.

We continually seek to align with partners who resonate with our ethos, eagerly inviting them to co-create the next chapter in the global food narrative.

About Yuval Gilad
Yuval Gilad obtained a Master of Science (MSc) in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science before graduating with a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics. After working for a number of years as a Postdoctoral Researcher and Scientific Consultant, he co-founded FreezeM in 2018 alongside Idan Alyagor and Yoav Politi, fellow Weizmann graduates. Since co-founding FreezeM five years ago, he has worked alongside a team of enthusiastic scientists and innovators to develop the company’s revolutionary biotechnology centred on the Black Soldier Fly helping to increase alternative protein production capacity for livestock.