One Singapore biotech start-up is relying on black soldier flies to change the cosmetics industry.

Insectta is rearing flies on its urban farm to produce a more sustainable and purer chitosan.

So, what exactly is chitosan?

It’s a fibre that comes from chitin that has been used in health and wellness products since the 1980s.

More recently been used in the formulation of moisturisers as it has antioxidant properties and provides a protective layer on the skin.

It is also known for its antimicrobial effects and has been shown to increase the skin’s natural collagen synthesis.

This means chitosan can provide extra hydration to the skin, helping it to appear more hydrated and plumped, and can help combat common skin conditions such as inflammation, eczema and acne.

It can also be used in hair products as it helps to lock in moisture, rebuild damaged hair and adds a healthy shine to hair.

Chitin has traditionally been extracted from the hard-outer shells of certain crustaceans, including lobsters, crabs and prawns.

However, using insects to produce it is cleaner and more sustainable – according to the Insectta website, the amount of food that black soldier flies eat in a day is more than four times its body weight, which is equivalent to a human eating 350kg of food in a day.

There are more than one million adult flies that live on waste inside the mating chamber and this number is rapidly growing.

Insect farmer and company co-founder Chua Kai-Ning, says on her LinkedIn profile that she is an “urban farmer with a passion for solutions that make economic and ecological sense in today’s world”. 

“As the co-founder of Insectta, Singapore’s first insect farm, I want to transform food waste into high-value, insect-derived biomaterials.

“Working hand in hand with nature and its processes is something that drives me to look toward more sustainable ways to power our economy.”

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