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The circular economy in silk processing

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26 September, 2019
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Circular economy innovation can come from the most unlikely of places; for example, in the case of Bio Stopanstvo Lopyanko, the company´s CEO, Dessislava Dimitrova, found it in silk worms. In fact, the potential for implementing a circular economy in silk processing is much greater than we could ever have imagined. 

The circular economy in silk processing

Until 2017, Bio Stopanstvo Lopyanko concentrated the bulk of their efforts on raising silkworms that were to be used to produce silk for the textile industry. They combined this activity with the production of vegetables for the local market. However, due to the low profitability of their activities, Dessislava made the decision to change from a linear economy model to a circular one. This is where the AGRI_GAYA18 project came in; the primary objective of this project was to build a completely automated plant, capable not only of producing organic silk, but also of reprocessing the excess materials, which, in turn, would increase synergies with the technical, food and cosmetics sectors, to name just a few.

However, expanding their production portfolio to such an extent required an extra boost of innovation so Dessislava decided they could use a small scalable part of the production process to carry out research and development into the potential use of silk chrysalis in the food industry. 

Using silk to improve the health of farm animals

When Dessislava’s mother was suffering from intestinal flora problems caused by the use of antibiotics, she found remedy in mulberry tea leaves which ended up being very beneficial to her recovery. Dessislava found herself wondering whether these leaves could perhaps be used to help more people. She decided to do some research into their properties, and this research brought her to silk worms; creatures that feed exclusively on these leaves. She went on to discover that silk, in the form of discarded chrysalis, has a surprising nutritional value, and in fact it is a completely organic product, made up of 98% pure protein.

Although research into the potential use of this product for human health and consumption is still ongoing, the product has already proved to be very beneficial for animal feed. The idea behind creating a dietary supplement for livestock, fowl and fish raised on fish farms was to reduce the need for antibiotics to be put into animal feed and to improve the animals’ general health.  

Lopyanko and their experience with C-Voucher

The team at Lopyanko decided to participate in the C-Voucher acceleration programme with the hope of making considerable progress in their research into the laboratory production of silk cocoons. By working together with C-Voucher, they were able to validate their idea, design their new product, and create the necessary technology in order to produce it. With this in mind, C-Voucher provided them with not only strategic and technical advice, but also access to a wide range of sources of funding which would help them to continue developing their business model.

This is a very important project for the road map to a bio-economy in Europe and it is receiving all of the support necessary in order for it to be implemented.