An engineer from Indonesia managing insects in Orsa
As a material development engineer, Audinisa Fadhila works on innovations to deal with leftover organic material. That includes a project to transform food waste into animal feed using fly larvae, which has been a major part of her journey at Ragn-Sells.
A little more than 300 km northeast of Stockholm, in Orsa, there’s a Ragn-Sells facility unlike any other. It's home to boxes upon boxes, each measuring 40x60 cm and filled with fly larvae gobbling away at food waste.
As Insect Demo Manager, Audinisa Fadhila helps oversee the facility and its millions of tiny inhabitants – all of the species Hermetia illucens, better known as the black soldier fly.
– They’re different from houseflies in both size and eating capacity, but also in the fact that they don’t spread disease. And, basically, we get the larvae to eat waste and then harvest and process them into insect protein and fat for animal feed, Fadhila explains.
A demonstration plant in collaboration with the Future Feed project, the Orsa facility is exploring the practicalities of upscaling insect-protein technology developed in the lab stage by Ragn-Sells. It’s just one aspect of Fadhila’s role, which focuses on organic material. Another project, for example, investigated transforming spent yeast from beer breweries into a glue that could be substituted for the fossil-based adhesives currently used in the production of wood-based particle boards.
– We’re working with different streams of organic material, and then we’re finding ways to turn them into more interesting products that contribute to better emission reductions, she says.
“I wanted to do waste management because I felt it was a topic that held a lot of potential”
Originally from Indonesia, Fadhila says she became drawn to the waste management field while working towards her bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology.
– I wanted to do waste management because I felt it was a topic that held a lot of potential. You know, you get to solve problems, but you also affect people’s lives, she says.
Fadhila came to Sweden in 2018 for a postgraduate programme in sustainable technology at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. For one of her courses, she made a study visit with classmates to the Ragn-Sells facility at Högbytorp. After a tour of the compound, there was a presentation by Graham Aid, the company’s R&D strategy coordinator and Fadhila’s now-current manager.
– He talked to us mostly about the R&D work that Ragn-Sells was doing back then. One of them was actually the black soldier fly project. After the presentation, I asked him if there was any student work available or something similar. And he suggested I apply to the summer trainee programme, she recalls.
From trainee to facility manager
Fadhila was accepted to the Ragn-Sells summer trainee programme for 2019. She stayed on for a part-time role into the fall and then started 2020 as part of the company’s degree project programme. Like many other postgraduate students of years past, Fadhila was able to coordinate her master’s thesis with something on the Ragn-Sells development agenda. For her, it was the black soldier fly project.
After finishing her thesis and receiving her master’s degree, Fadhila moved on to a job at another company. Then, almost a year after she’d completed her studies, Ragn-Sells joined the partnership to start the Orsa facility.
– They called me. I’d worked with the technology before and did my thesis on it, and they said, 'We need a facility manager.’ It was an easy ‘yes’ for me.
Contributing to a better future
For Fadhila, the black soldier fly project is indicative of the type of possibilities that come with managing organic waste and helps solve two separate problems with one solution. In this case, the need to dispose of food waste and the need to produce livestock feed with a lower environmental impact.
– I feel like this technology can bridge and solve both issues at the same time…our challenge is to scale up insect protein production in order to significantly affect the current emission levels from food and feed production.
It’s also not lost on her that the project wouldn’t be possible without the overarching philosophy that drives Ragn-Sells. One that aims to balance business and environmental responsibility.
– It’s personally motivating for me that I’m working for a company that doesn’t only focus on profit but also consciously makes decisions to better contribute to the future. I don’t think I’m speaking only for myself when I say it definitely gives you a sense of pride, says Fadhila.
Summary: The project is a demonstration plant of insect-protein technology using black soldier fly larvae to convert vegetable waste into protein for animal feed. After the larvae eat the waste, they’re harvested to make animal feed.
Objective: Develop a scalable application of insect-protein technology for producing animal feed that’s sustainable and cost-effective on a large scale.
Potential impact: If utilised on a large enough scope, processes like the project’s insect-protein technology can create more sustainable food systems with lower carbon footprints, thereby significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from global food production.