What is the mission?
Entio was formed to enable rural farmers to contribute to a circular bioeconomy, by repurposing their agricultural waste into natural fertiliser and high-protein food supplements for animal feed. After working closely with rural farmers in Colombia to identify their needs and opportunities, Entio came to understand that the high cost and lack of sufficient waste management services made sustainability a challenge. Rather than recycling or reusing waste efficiently, including discarded biomass, it would end up in slow composting or further polluting rivers and land, as rural areas are often not connected to waste management services such as recycling plants.
To overcome this, Entio found a way for natural waste and residual biomass from agricultural practices to be repurposed into new products that offer local communities new income opportunities for development. This involves utilising bio-conversion plants that use insects to convert the natural residue from agriculture and trade, into new products to feed livestock and increase soil fertility.
Why reusing agricultural waste is important
An example of how residual biomass from cocoa production is treated – often it is dumped for slow composting wherever space is available, a common and ineffective practice.
Food production naturally produces waste and residual biomass. For example, in coffee production, 40% of the coffee pulp and husk is discarded. One of the problems with waste is that it contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For example, spent coffee grounds that end up in landfill emit methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In fact, the production and disposal of food waste accounts for 6% of Europe’s total GHG emissions, which equates to millions of tonnes of methane and CO2 being released into the atmosphere each year.
Therefore, reducing waste during food production is important to reduce GHG emissions. Entio recognised this, so they made it their aim to help farmers to repurpose waste materials, to prevent them from going to waste and contributing to GHG emissions.
EIT Food’s Change Makers Programme supported their venture
Entio formed after Co-Founders Rafael and Camilo met at EIT Food’s Change Makers Programme. This programme empowers diverse communities to transform our food system by gaining support to launch an idea, find co-founders, learn new skills, and connect with an amazing community.
Whilst Rafael had excellent knowledge of the current problems facing rural farmers worldwide, Camilo had experience in developing insect-based products for human consumption. They were able to combine their strengths to create their idea around insect-based waste management.
Rafael explains why they benefitted from the Change Makers Programme:
“EIT Food gave us the initial mentoring to define the idea and then the economic support to test its feasibility and kick start the development of a pilot. We are currently exploring how to join other EIT Food programmes to keep growing! For those considering an EIT Food programme we would definitely recommend it. If you are accepted onto a programme, enjoy the process, use the networking opportunities available, trust your gut feelings and do something that excites you!”
The 3 C's: collect – convert - commercialise
Entio’s approach focuses on 3 key processes – collect, convert and commercialise.
- The collect process involves gathering residual biomass from multiple sources. For example, Entio build close relationships with farm owners and regional leaders to solve waste problems, particularly in those areas where waste management is difficult to access.
- The convert process involves using their low-cost technology which optimises the conversion of discarded biomass, achieving a high product quality and low deployment time.
- The commercialise process involves transforming discarded biomass into high-quality and affordable products. Examples include hypoallergenic protein, micronutrients and oils as a source for animal feed.
Supporting rural farmers
Entio’s COO Dr Marcela Umana (left) and farm owner Mr Javier Roncancio (right) in their pilot plant facility in Colombia
Farmers which use Entio’s technology can repurpose their waste into useful products such as animal feed and 100% natural fertiliser, that results from a low CO2 emissions conversion process. This not only helps farmers to be more sustainable but offers new opportunities to diversify income, as farmers can sell the animal feed and fertiliser produced by Entio’s technology.
Also, Entio understands the constraints rural farmers experience, such as poor internet connection, where many technologies rely on stable WiFi connections. Their technology can operate without the need for a constant internet connection.
Entio are currently focusing their efforts on supporting coffee and cocoa farmers in rural Colombia. However, they plan to deploy their innovative solution worldwide, in multiple locations where coffee and cocoa is grown. With their pilot plant almost completed and plans to build their fully operational plants towards the end of the year, Entio are on track to soon be processing at least 3 tonnes of discarded biomass per day, saving 2.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions each day.
Therefore, Entio are championing impact in multiple areas. Not only are they helping farmers to repurpose their waste to reduce GHG emissions, they are supporting rural farmers who do not often have access to innovative new technologies, whilst also providing them with an additional source of income. Entio’s vision is to become the global leader in scalable and intelligent insect-based bioreactors. With their can-do attitude of supporting people and the planet, we wish them all the best in achieving their vision!
Learn more about Entio at www.ent-io.com/