A Malaysian entrepreneur who has developed an innovation on farming of insects for effective organic waste management has won the top award in the Retail Supply Chain category of the 2018 Shell LiveWIRE Top Ten Innovators Awards, the global competition, in partnership with Shell Retail, which highlights and rewards entrepreneurs that demonstrate excellence in innovation.

Jeff Wee’s company, WormingUp is an agricultural consultancy, based in Kuching, which uses Black Soldier Flies to convert food waste into high value animal feed and organic fertilizer.

Jeff received his US $20k prize following an intense business pitch competition in Kuching, Malaysia, during Global Entrepreneurship Week, in which he beat off stiff competition from two other start-ups in the Retail Supply Chain category from Brazil and the UK.

The Shell LiveWIRE Top Ten Innovators Awards also presented top prizes to entrepreneurs who have developed outstanding innovations in Energy Solutions and Social Enterprises categories, with the winner in each category collecting US $20k and two Runners-Up receiving funding of US $10k. All nine winners also receive an awards package including: mentoring support by a Shell expert; the opportunity to benefit from market linkages; and, the possibility to be considered as a vendor to Shell’s Retail business.

Speaking on receiving his award, Jeff said, “It is a kind of achievement for my life and I am really glad that our work has been recognised by a big brand like Shell, it proves that the things I am doing are worth doing! The money and support will enable us to expand the business and have a bigger part to play in the fight against waste by supporting us to work with communities to reduce, recycle and repurpose waste across a wider area.

“Thanks to the grant, our first ever organic waste upcycling centre in Kuching is secured.”

Composting is a common practice to recycle organic waste to avoid disposal in landfill. However, the drawbacks are consuming large areas of land and months to produce a stable fertilizer product. Furthermore, conventional composting using earthworms can only degrade vegetable-based waste and there are still lots of nutrients that should be upcycled back into the circular loop. 

WormingUp solves this problem by farming Black Soldier Flies, which can degrade organic waste up to thirty times faster than conventional composting. The method can also degrade municipal waste including food waste from households and restaurants, and farm waste including animal manure and fish offal. 

Insect farming is a relatively new industry, and WormingUp has teamed up with a municipal council to deliver sustainable waste management services.

Speaking about the collaboration, Jeff said, “This partnership enables us to successfully transform 250 tons of organic waste from local markets, households and commercial companies into 25 tons of high protein animal feed and 20 tons of high-grade fertilizer which would otherwise end up in a landfill site, releasing greenhouse gasses such as methane and poisonous leachate into the air and ground.

“Our innovation closes the gap between two global issues; sustainable waste management and the food shortage crisis. Through our interventions, we can create a circular economy within the food supply chain where food waste contributes directly to the production of wholly organic foods, securing the sustainability of our food source while ensuring the environment is looked after.”

The two Runners-Up in the Retail Supply Chain category, each receiving US $10k, are Terravixta from Brazil whose Plástico Precioso initiative collects and distributes waste plastics to collectors and artisan cooperatives, and Flawsome! Drinks from the UK which makes sustainable fruit juices from misshapen fruits, relieving farmers of stock going to waste.

In addition to launching the first organic waste upcycling centre in Kuching, Jeff also plans to introduce further innovations to his business, including agri-mechatronic systems powered by solar. Jeff said, “Using artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, we hope to be able to develop a mechatronic based system for insect rearing.

“This system allows on-site organic waste degradation to further reduce the carbon footprint from waste transportation.”