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Black soldier fly

The non-profit group Energy Excelerator has announced its selection of 17 grantee companies for 2015, its largest cohort to date. Among its grantees is the partnership between the UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR)’s Bioenergy and Environment Research Group and the bioconversion company, ProtaCulture LLC, which was selcted from a pool of over 250 applicants.

CTAHR Professor Samir Khanal is leading the joint effort in bioprocess engineering. He and his group are working on innovative methods of converting food waste into biodiesel products and animal/fish feed through harvesting black soldier fly larvae.

“The major challenge of producing renewable energy, especially biofuel and animal feed, is the availability of local bioresources,” says Khanal. “However, Hawaiʻi produces a significant amount of food wastes, which primarily go to the landfill. This innovative project not only aims to provide biodiesel locally at different islands using various organic wastes, but also to produce feed for local poultry and aquaculture industries with concomitant waste valorization.”

“We are grateful that the selection committee chose ProtaCulture from among hundreds of energy startups to participate in this program,” says Robert Olivier, ProtaCulture’s CEO and founder. “We look forward to an active exchange of ideas with the other entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers and academicians who were selected to participate in this program, as well as accelerating the pace of research, development and commercialization of ProtaCulture’s unique, cutting-edge solutions for bioconversions through insect farming.”

Kenneth Grace, associate dean for research at CTAHR, has been supportive of this project, including providing college seed funding to assist the research. “Energy self-sufficiency, developing local sources of animal feed, and waste management are all critical issues for the Pacific islands,” says Grace. “It’s fascinating to think that insects rather than creating problems for us, can actually help us solve these challenges. We are glad to work with ProtaCulture to develop and implement this innovative technology for the benefit of Hawaiʻi.

More on Energy Excelerator

Energy Excelerator is a robust community, built by entrepreneurs, and helping other entrepreneurs tackle one of the world’s most pressing needs—energy innovation. Backed by a 5-year, $30 million commitment from the U.S. Navy, as well as private funding, this unique accelerator provides promising startups with the financial capital, partnerships, mentors and business development opportunities to grow and scale their novel technologies. Energy Excelerator creates an ecosystem to “help startups solve the world’s energy challenges—starting in Hawaiʻi.”

Read the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources news release for more information.

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