An area sorely overlooked in our field is the use of the digestate remaining after BSF are used to recycle organic waste as a fertilizer or plant substrate. The following paper explored this topic.
Setti, L., E. Francia, A. Pulvirenti, S. Gigliano, M. Zaccardelli, C. Pane, F. Caradonia, S. Bortolini, L. Maistrello, and D. Ronga. 2019. Use of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens (L.), Diptera: Stratiomyidae) larvae processing residue in peat-based growing media. Waste Management 95: 278-288.
In the study, they raised BSF on the standard Gainesville House Fly Diet. So, the residue is a bit "laboratory"; however, I think they selected the appropriate starting point. Based on data generated from this study, future research can explore residues from other organic material digested.
The takeaway- yes, the waste/digestate can be used as a partial commercial peat replacement (20%) to grow baby leaf lettuce, basil, and tomato.
But- we really need to build on these results and explore different residues (i.e., different organic material digested by BSF) as substrates for growing plants.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News!
Robots Producing Insects (USA): Great video on cricket production. Also, nice discussion on the global perspective of insect farming.
Insects to Feed Pets (UK): A discussion on insects as food for pets- with some suggestions of items dogs shouldn't eat.
Cookies & Insects (EU): An overview of insects as food ingredients.
Bugtoberfest (Texas, USA): A great outreach event on entomology in general.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Loves the Bugtoberfest Concept!
An Example of a Feed Trial Producing Requisite Data for Regulatory Approval- A Bridge to Basic Research as Well
Now, I admit to not being an expert on regulatory bodies and their needs when being petitioned to approve a material as a feed ingredient for livestock, poultry, or aquaculture; however, I will say the study presented below has to be one of the most thorough to date on the BSF and aquaculture. Maybe it serves as a model for future studies needed to get BSF approved as a feed (or food) ingredient?
Also, one thing I really like about this study, is the authors bridge BSF, which is a potential model organism for research, with a model organism already established- Zebrafish (Danio). The value of this study, which is highly multi-disciplinary and long-term, surpasses its primary objectives of providing data that could prove relevant for getting regulatory bodies to approve BSF as a feed for various vertebrates as it provides exposure of the BSF to the basic research community.
The more basic researchers we have working with the BSF, the greater opportunities for the insects as food and feed industry as these researchers can secure funds to do the basic work necessary for fully understanding the species and its biology (and indirectly, its application).
Zarantoniello, M., B. Randazzo, C. Truzzi, E. Giorgini, C. Marcellucci, J. A. Vargas-Abúndez, A. Zimbelli, A. Annibaldi, G. Parisi, F. Tulli, P. Riolo, and I. Olivotto. 2019. A six-months study on black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) based diets in zebrafish. Scientific Reports 9: 8598.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News!
Special Issues on Insects as Food & Feed (USA)- a nice article in the New York Times on insects as food- hat tip to Julie Lesnik for giving such a fine interview!
Entomological Society of America Note on Special Issue (USA)- another summary of the special issue (discussed in previous blog post).
Development of a National Science Foundation Center on Insects as Food & Feed (USA)- Awesome job, Christine Picard and Heather Jordan, with leading the charge on the development of a global center! We had over 30 companies present from around the world. And, Chef Joseph Yoon whipped up some amazing cuisine for the mixer at the initiation of the meeting. If you have a company and want to learn more about the center, and its benefit to you, send me an email. I will gladly catch you up.
New York Times Twice in One Week (USA)? Yep, they wrote a second article on the industry. This one reached out to a host of experts in research and industry on the development of this novel form of industrialized agriculture.
Jeffery K Tomberlin, PhD, Recovering, but excited, after successful NSF Center meeting
Valerie Stull and I, as part of NACIA, worked with Marianne Shockley to assemble an issue in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America (many thanks to the ESA staff- Lisa Junker and Josh Lancette) on Insects as Food & Feed.
These articles are products resulting from the Eating Insects, Athens, Georgia conference held last year. Publication assemblages, such as this one and the one by Laura Gasco in Animals, serve as tremendous platforms for the industry. We hope you enjoy reading them.
Many thanks to Julie Lesnik, Floyd Shockley, and the other authors for their hard work pulling together these manuscripts!
SPECIAL ISSUE.... for your reading pleasure
A Special Issue on Insects as Feed and Food as Tribute to Dr. Marianne Clopton Shockley (August 14, 1975 to May 12, 2019)
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, Valerie J. Stull, Julie Lesnik, Floyd W. Shockley
Eating Insects Athens Conference 2018 and the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture
Justin Butner, Marianne Shockley
Impact of Larval Competition on Life-History Traits of the Black Soldier Fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae)
Brittny M. Jones, Jeffery K. Tomberlin
How to Reply to Some Ethical Objections to Entomophagy
Insect Food Products in the Western World: Assessing the Potential of a New ‘Green’ Market
C. Matilda Collins, Pauline Vaskou, Yiannis Kountouris
Approaches for Utilizing Insect Protein for Human Consumption: Effect of Enzymatic Hydrolysis on Protein Quality and Functionality
Andrea M. Liceaga
Crude Protein, Amino Acid, and Iron Content of Tenebrio molitor (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) Reared on an Agricultural Byproduct from Maize Production: an Exploratory Study
Valerie J. Stull, Marjorie Kersten, Rachel S. Bergmans, Jonathan A. Patz, Susan Paskewitz
Insect Composition and Uses in Animal Feeding Applications: A Brief Review
Liz Koutsos, Alejandra McComb , Mark Finke
The Cultural Importance of Edible Insects in Oaxaca, Mexico
Kayla J. Hurd, Shruti Shertukde, Trevor Toia, Angelina Trujillo, Ramona L. Pérez, David L. Larom, John J. Love, Changqi Liu
The Colonial/Imperial History of Insect Food Avoidance in the United States
Julie J. Lesnik
The Need for Alternative Insect Protein in Africa
Jennifer L. Pechal, M. Eric Benbow, Arox W. Kamng’ona, Andrews Safalaoh, Kingsley Masamba, Jeremiah Kang’ombe
Adult Reproductive Tract Morphology and Spermatogenesis in the Black Soldier Fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae)
Aline S. Malawey, David Mercati, Charles C. Love, Jeffery K. Tomberlin
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Proud Associated with Insects as Food & Feed Industry
Our colleagues in Italy published a paper in Animals on the potential role of insects as food and feed (hence the title of this post). The article is a great read for those in research, industry, or just interested in the subject in general (maybe you have chickens in your backyard or fish in a pond that you feed occasionally?).
I would like to highlight their conclusion statement as to me, that's the tip of the spear as related to the topic. They emphasize the need for researchers developing insects as feed to consult with the consumer in terms of their needs. The product can be wonderful in terms of nutrients; however, if it is not palatable, the animals will not consume it. The same can be said for insects as food.
"Consumer" obviously can be defined in a number of ways ranging from the feed companies that mass produce the diets for livestock, poultry, and aquaculture to those individuals that actually buy the feed (e.g., industrial production facilities or family farms). Each of these perspectives provides something valuable to the development of insects as feed. In fact, I believe it is safe to say one relies on the other- none operate in a silo independent one one another.
If you have time- check out the paper. It's a nice read. And, if you haven't notice, check out the issue of the journal containing this paper. It is a treasure of science on insects as food and feed.
Sogari, G., M. Amato, I. Biasato, S. Chiesa, and L. Gasco. 2019. The Potential Role of Insects as Feed: A Multi-Perspective Review.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Learning to play ukulele
BSF are produced throughout the world. I believe this is now accepted as fact. With diversity of location of BSF production facilities come equal levels of diversity in methods employed to produce the BSF as well as the regulations setting the standards.
This triangulated platform results in complexities in the system as far as traceability of BSF products (i.e., where are they produced, what were they fed, how were they harvested, processed, packaged, and distributed). More specifically, how do we know that BSF produced in one location and sold in another are meeting the regulations in place at either the origin or distribution point? Can we verify that methods used to produce BSF are actually the methods used? Can we take a company at its word (rhetorical)?
Organizations, such as the EU or AAFCO, take such matters seriously. Any product manufactured and not meeting the regulations within a location where sales are actually taking place is a real-life concern. Such approaches put an industry that we all recognize as young and growing at an extraordinary level at risk of being mortality impacted.
One producer generating product on a resource not approved for the identified use (e.g., poultry or aquaculture feed) could be a death nell for the industry. I implore us all to be cognizant of these regulations when we attempt to sell BSF in our home nations or abroad.
If you are not certain about these regulations, reach out to the appropriate organization in your region (e.g., IPIFF for EU or NACIA for the USA). They are in place to help producers navigate the regulatory maze that exists. Doing so could be the difference between an industry being recognized as a key contributor to global agriculture or a pariah that is shut down.
With this being said- I would like to draw your attention to the following publication. The authors lay out a great experiment examining contaminants potentially moving through a BSF system into the feed stream for fish. More studies, such as this one, are needed for sure as they provide guidance on what the BSF industry can do presently, where hurdles exist (which could result in research leading to solutions), and how to best move forward.
Biancarosa, I., V. Sele, I. Belghit, R. Ørnsrud, E.-J. Lock, and H. Amlund. 2019. Replacing fish meal with insect meal in the diet of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) does not impact the amount of contaminants in the feed and it lowers accumulation of arsenic in the fillet. Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A 36: 1191-1205.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News.....
Insects as Good as Steak (UK)- Discussion of insects (BSF) as a feed ingredient for pets. I am glad to know the industry is exploring other opportunities. And, I am sure dogs and cats alike will consume insect protein if in the correct formulation. Personally, I will take the steak. :)
New Plant on Mealworms (Switzerland)- Bühler plans to a mealworm plant (2300 square meters)- things are getting interesting!
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Personally prefers beef but will gladly let Milo & Bailey eat insect-based food if they like (our canine family members)
This past week I attended the 1st Conference on Insects as Food & Feed in Africa. The conference was held in Harare, Zimbabwe.
First, thank you to my host, Dr. Robert Musundire, for inviting me to attend and present on BSF and the potential growth for the insects as food and feed sector. I had a wonderful time.
Second, thanks to Dr. Moses Zimba from the University of Zimbabwe for taking the time to show me around Harare. Moses was a Fulbright recipient that visited my lab at Texas A&M to learn more about decomposition but as it relates to forensics. I enjoyed meeting your friends, watching a bit of "soccer", eating wonderful beef (Texas has a serious competitor), and simply being invited into your personal life.... a true experience I will never forget.
And, third, it was wonderful catching up with old friends and making new ones during the conference. As I said, to the researchers I met at the conference, my lab is always open for your students to visit.
So, what did I learn from the conference? Well, one thing I want to state up front. I attend a lot of conference around the world, and it is rare that I leave them so inspired and energized as I did with this one. I truly believe Africa will lead the way in terms of mass production and supplying the world with many types of insects on an industrial scale for human and other animal consumption. Simply put-
Africa will Become the Bread Basket of Insect Agriculture
Why do I say this? Well, I believe this for several reasons- many that are obvious, 1) available space, 2) resources, and 3) labor.
But, what I detected in the crowd that really impressed me is the conglomerate of people with a fearless vision that is not bridled by paradigms guiding other parts of the world with regards to this industry.
In summary- where you go, I will go.... I am not here to lead you but follow. I am a resource to help you when needed, a sounding board for your ideas, and a champion for you.
My life has been blessed by this experience- thank you!
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Humbled
So, I just returned from the 1st Conference on Edible Insects in Africa, which was held in Zimbabwe (see future post on conference). At the same time, I was reading a couple papers from my colleague, and new friend, Marwa Shumo, out of German via Kenya (field research at ICIPE), via Oman, and I was impressed not only by her research but her journey. BSF clearly serves as a proponent for a globalized community. I commend her dedication, drive, and scientific rigor when it comes to the BSF. If you have time, you might check out her blog as well. Side note- if you have not visited the website for ICIPE before, I highly recommend you do so. The level of research conducted there on insects as food and feed is tremendous!
Nutritional Assessment- in Detail!
The first paper explored exactly as I stated in the previous sentence, the nutritive value of BSF when reared on various substrates (chicken manure, kitchen waste, and spent grain) in Kenya (with a side not on aflatoxin- spoiler alert! no mycotoxins identified in BSF larvae).
Shumo, M., I. M. Osuga, F. M. Khamis, C. M. Tanga, K. K. M. Fiaboe, S. Subramanian, S. Ekesi, A. van Huis, and C. Borgemeister. 2019. The nutritive value of black soldier fly larvae reared on common organic waste streams in Kenya. Scientific Reports 9: 10110.
Climate Change- Something to Think About with This Study
The second paper, which was conducted in part with the previous study (with some variation in substrates used; cow dung and spent grain here), examined the influence of temperature on BSF development. Interestingly, they showed the optimal temperature range for BSF larval growth was between 25-30C. The source population of BSF used in the study is from ICIPE; however, I would like to know if it originated from Kenya or was imported from another area? Also, how many generations has this population been in colony? Has it adapted to the Kenya environment? Can it tolerate higher temperatures or low humidity?
Shumo, M., F. M. Khamis, C. M. Tanga, K. K. M. Fiaboe, S. Subramanian, S. Ekesi, A. van Huis, and C. Borgemeister. 2019. Influence of temperature on selected life-history traits of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) reared on two common urban organic waste streams in Kenya. Animals 9: 79.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News- just one story
Nugget of Gold in Story on Large Scale Study in The Netherlands- nice article giving an overview of a large-scale four year study at Wageningen University on the viability of insects as feed. The nugget of gold I found was the indication the European Union could approve insects as poultry feed.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, 100K+ miles traveled so far this year for BSF & loving every minute of it
Over the years, a few papers have explored the use of BSF as a feed for rainbow trout. And, we seem to be making progress with our understanding of the value of BSF as a feed and how best to optimize its use. This article, see below, was published as part of the special issue in Animals.
Cardinaletti, G.; Randazzo, B.; Messina, M.; Zarantoniello, M.; Giorgini, E.; Zimbelli, A.; Bruni, L.; Parisi, G.; Olivotto, I.; Tulli, F. Effects of Graded Dietary Inclusion Level of Full-Fat Hermetia illucens Prepupae Meal in Practical Diets for Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Animals 2019, 9, 251.
Main point from this particular paper was the inclusion of BSF at 50% resulted in up regulation of genes related to stress and immune response. Keep in mind, these larvae were full-fat. So, it might be possible to reduce the impact of the BSF 50% diet by removing the fat from the larvae. One other thing to note, growth of the fish was not impacted. So, as far as production- no issue.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News
Out of Germany- a brief summary of insects as livestock. Discusses the larger picture of insects that potentially be farmed.
Canadian Company Produces Dog Food- a nice article on Wilder Harrier and the production of dog food from insects (crickets). According the the article they are meet the standards of AAFCO (USA) and CIFA (Canada).
UK - Insects as Food: Not a Panacea for Environmental Issues- interesting article discussing limited evidence supporting the use of insects as food. I think you will find it an interesting read. Keep in mind, this article does not apply to the insects as feed sector.
Is Eating Insects Morally Different than Eating a Cow? So, if you kill one cow for human consumption and kill 10s of thousands, maybe millions, to produce the same amount of protein- which is more morally acceptable?
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, I saw a 750 mg BSF larva recently
Apologies for the delayed weekly posting. I am currently visiting colleagues in China so I am a bit busy with meetings, and my clock is a discombobulated due to travel. But, I made it safely to China, and the visit has been great so far. So many great projects taking place- they are really pushing the envelope with regards to optimizing the BSF process. Now, on to the publication of interest this week.
So, with my weekly readings, I came across the following article:
Nyakeri, E. M., M. A. Ayieko, F. A. Amimo, H. Salum, and H. J. O. Ogola. 2019. An optimal feeding strategy for black soldier fly larvae biomass production and faecal sludge reduction. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed 5: 201-213.
As I read it, my mind kept circling back to a question that has been discussed in detail around the world- what should we digest, or not, with BSF?
As expected many developed nations have taken the approach of limited use of BSF as a means to avoid health issues that could result from using the resulting products. On some level, I completely understand the mindset of government and research officials. However, my concern with this approach is that it has narrowed the scope of research being conducted. Most efforts that we see published are focused on producing materials that can be used in developed nations- and again, I completely understand.
However, such a culture has resulted in limited efforts in expanding the use of BSF for processing other wastes, such as animal waste (e.g., dairy, swine, poultry, aquaculture) or even fecal sludge from urban populations. I recognize researchers are at the mercy of funding agencies and what they want to see accomplished. Believe me, I have received a number of critical reviews of grants I have submitted that stated such efforts would result in producing products not approved for use in the USA (i.e., grant rejected). This expected (unfortunately) response serves as a major limitation in terms of, 1) finding out if the process works, 2) developing methods for ensuring its safety, and 3) diversifying the industry while protecting the environment, creating jobs, and saving lives.
So, with that said- I encourage everyone to read the abstract of the article or the full article if you have access....then consider tackling research projects outside the mainstream of our science... expand our industry.... create opportunities for nations that do not have the resources that others possess. Who knows, such efforts could even benefit industrialized nations?! (a bit of sarcasm)
In the end, congratulations to the authors on a job well done! I hope to read more about your research in the future.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News (not much this week)
CNN Jumping on Board the Insects as Food Train: A nice article on the production of ice cream with insects. I didn't realize it looked so good. I admit, I am an ice cream snob....I simply love it and I am particular with regards to my selection- but I think I would try this ice cream if I had a chance.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Gelato lover
Everyone in the BSF world is aware of its larvae being able to digest practically anything organic. Recognition of such ability has led to diverse studies to determine what exactly this insect can, and cannot, digest. Through a multitude of studies, the conclusion is there is little they cannot digest. In fact, an appealing aspect of this insect is its ability to digest animal waste.
Given the BSF larva can take waste products, such as dairy, swine, or poultry manure (to name a few) and convert it to protein with the remaining waste a potential fertilizer, its value to sustainable agriculture globally is tremendous.
While these findings indicate great potential, I encourage everyone to "pump the brakes" and take pause with regards to implementing this process specifically for recycling animal wastes.
Why you ask? Well, first, we have to recognize what regional regulations permit to be fed to BSF if they are to be used as animal feed. But, the second reason is far more important as it leads to the first being accomplished (i.e., government approval).
At this time, we do not know much about the quality assurance aspects of this process (i.e., feeding animal waste to BSF). This point is made very clear in the following study (please take the time to read this paper- if available to you) as it has some very important findings for everyone to consider.
Müller, A., S. Wiedmer, and M. Kurth. 2019. Risk evaluation of passive transmission of animal parasites by feeding of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae and prepupae. Journal of Food Protection 82: 948-954.
Here are the major points from the publication:
1. Fecal parasites examined in the study survived the BSF process.
2. The parasites were able to survive digestion by BSF.
3. The parasites remained attached to the external surfaces of the BSF larvae.
4. Washing the larvae is not enough to remove all parasites from the external surface of BSF larvae.
What needs to be done (just a couple consideration):
1. Determine how processing the resulting larvae (e.g., boiling, freezing, drying) impacts parasite survival.
2. Continue to diversify the parasites examined.
3. Determine if pre-treatment of manure can assist with suppressing parasites.
4. Increase traceability throughout the world to ensure products produced are in fact safe.
Overall Thoughts: This study provides an extremely important contribution to the insects as food and feed sector. I applaud the authors on tackling such an important subject.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News....
1. National Geographic- They always put together great stories (and they include a nice video as well). While this one is not specifically insects as food and feed, I believe the topic of "sustainable agriculture" is something we all should keep in mind as related to what our industry does. I believe this point is why life cycle analysis studies play a crucial role in the insects as food and feed sector. We need to know the good as well as the bad in terms of what our industry does to the environment.
2. Insects are Packed with Antioxidants- A great overview of a study recently published indicating many insects that are used as food are high (5X than orange juice) in antioxidants, which is great for human health. There is a link to the actual publication as well. Too bad BSF weren't included in the study.
3. Black Soldier Fly as a Super Hero? Just in case you want to see an image of a BSF adult with a cape. A nice story highlighting a start-up in England and its focus on producing BSF.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Ready for Cooler Weather
Individuals with over 25 years research experience with the black soldier fly. We are passionate about the science behind the black soldier fly and its ability to convert waste to protein.
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