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Entocycle

Supporting their rapid growth, we worked closely with Entocycle to create a ‘Centre for Insect Technology’ which would enable them to showcase their unique insect farming technology to potential investors and customers. Our bespoke installation under the arches at London Bridge combines the latest in conveyor and robotic technologies with smart automation components to deliver a highly efficient, flexible, and scalable solution that fully automates the intricate breeding and production processes.

Setting the scene


Entocycle is the UK’s leading insect technology company, rearing insects in the heart of London. Supported by UK and European grants, Entocycle is developing cutting-edge technologies required to accelerate insect farming as an industry globally. In order to attract investors and potential customers, Entocycle were looking to create a ‘Centre for Insect Technology’ combining their R&D operations with a dedicated Sales showroom to demonstrate their unique eco-system.

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Entocycle Insect Farms

The Challenge

Given its location under the arches at London Bridge, space constraints would be a significant hurdle to overcome. Additionally, the automated solution needed to combine several different, yet equally important processes for both the breeding and production of insects.

 

To minimise manual input and possible contamination, the solution would need to be fully automated and securely installed behind mesh barriers, also a requirement due to the limited space available. The solution would also need to be highly robust, flexible and easily programmable to manage the nine different stages involved in the breeding and production processes.

 

Furthermore, due to potential water contact and high humidity, construction materials used within the system had to be considered to incorporate food-grade material. 

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The Solution

L-A-C Logistics Automation designed and installed a fully automated system comprising highly controllable zero-line pressure roller conveyors, an incline belt conveyor, pallet input & output stations, weighing modules, sensors and controls. Central to the design is an ABB 4600 six-axis robot with specially designed grippers to handle different crate sizes, and a robot arm made from stainless steel and anodised aluminium to conform to food hygiene requirements. The compact automated system has been cleverly designed to fit around low ceiling arches and pillars, and is safely housed within mesh fencing to protect staff working in close proximity. 

 

The system is capable of numerous individual operations, which are grouped under two core operations; breeding is a daily operation whereas the production phase is a three-day process that takes place monthly.

 

As part of the Breeding process, in order to dose the Nursery Crates with specialist feed, 16 clean nursery crates are de-palletised and placed by the robot onto the conveyor system using specially designed small grippers. The crates then travel to the fill area where an integrated weighing module accurately allocates 0.5 kg of feed for each crate. Passing along the conveyor to the neonate zone, the integrated camera system counts the required number of larvae eggs to be added to each crate. Finally, the crates travel further round the conveyor system which incorporates a reject line for non-compliant crates, and are then palletised, ready to be stored.

 

Once the smaller Nursery crates have been dosed and stored, the next phase of breeding operations involves the transfer of the growing insect eggs to a larger Adult crate to allow more food to be added to promote continued growth. The ABB robot picks up each empty adult crate, this time using the specially designed larger grippers, and places each crate onto the conveyor. The crates travel around a short section of roller conveyor until they buffer and wait for the next process. Once all empty Adult crates are in place, the robot then picks up a full Nursery crate, the contents of which have now matured for a few days, from a pallet using the smaller grippers, and accurately tips the contents through an integrated funnel into the empty Adult crate aligned directly underneath. The robot places the empty Nursery create onto the conveyor system and collects each now fully loaded Adult crate and stacks them onto an adjacent pallet, ready for storage. 

 

Within the Production process, once the Adult crates hold fully matured insects, they are individually transferred from a pallet by the robot to be tipped out through a second large integrated funnel onto a screen hopper with a steep incline belt, leading to a shaker machine which separates any waste from the insects. The waste is separated, and the insects are then ready for offtake into various high-protein products for use in pet food or animal feed. Additionally, they can be used to lay more eggs to begin the breeding cycle again.

 

The L-A-C solution incorporates a number of bespoke technology additions to ensure the smooth transfer of both Nursery and Adult crates along the conveyor system within the tight confines of the site. Integrated pushers – double and half – are installed in the feed dosing area to move each crate exactly in line with the dosing machine, with additional pushers – one standard and one rod-less cylinder pusher built into the frame to optimise space utilisation – which are used for crates on the outer conveyor line, where the specially designed plate slides forward and backwards to push each crate along.

 

A skewed roller conveyor is specifically angled to ensure the crates arrive in the top right-hand corner of the first conveyor line, to be accurately placed ready for feed dosing. Integrated blades are installed to ensure the crate stops in the neonate zone in exactly the correct position. Belt pop-ups are fitted just after this stage to transfer each crate 90 degrees to a straight-line conveyor; the belts then drop down to allow the crate to travel on the standard conveyor rollers. 

The Benefits

The bespoke design and installation of the L-A-C conveyor and robotic solution has provided Entocycle with a fully automated system to showcase their unique offering in the world of insect farming.

 

Optimising the available space within the tight confines of the London railway arches, L-A-C has delivered a highly flexible and scalable solution that offers speed and accuracy across all nine required processes. The system can also be programmed to perform other tasks if needed, allowing them to adapt their breeding and production processes as their own technology evolves. 

 

The new ‘Centre for Insect Technology’ offers a dedicated platform for Entocycle to invite potential investors and customers to see first-hand one of the growing trends in farming today, and L-A-C is delighted to provide the design expertise and automated technology to help achieve their growth objectives.

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BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY TODAY

L-A-C’s team of experts are here to support you from concept to the finished system, working together to design and deliver a bespoke solution that meets your current objectives and future growth expectations, with favourable ROI. 

 

Across semi-automated and fully automated systems, L-A-C has the expertise and range of products to provide flexible and scalable solutions that will significantly enhance your operations and keep you agile as your business evolves. 

 

Join us on a pivotal journey towards a more efficient, productive, cost effective and sustainable future with L-A-C’s innovative automation technology solutions.



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