I will not spend a lot of time going into details on this publication with my colleagues Moritz Gold and Alexander Mathys at ETH in Switzerland, and Stefan Diener, Christian Zurbrügg with EAWAG because the paper is open access (yes!! many thanks, Alex!). I am really excited about the details provided here. And, I think you will enjoy the read as well.
Gold, M., J. K. Tomberlin, S. Diener, C. Zurbrügg, and A. Mathys. 2018. Decomposition of biowaste macronutrients, microbes, and chemicals in black soldier fly larval treatment: A review. Waste Management 82: 302-318.
One final note- congrats, Moritz on a great paper. Very impressive to witness a PhD student lead such a massive effort to produce such a quality product. Well done!
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Paper Publisher!
One thing I always enjoy is reading papers published by graduate students. The paper to be discussed today is by Zhongyi Liu (Jay) and his colleagues out of New Zealand. I had a chance to communicate with Jay a few times over the past year or so. And, I truly appreciate his enthusiasm for working with the BSF. I am not sure if this is his first paper or not- but congrats, Jay! Job well done. I am glad this paper came across my desk today.
The study is a straight forward life-history study of the BSF when grown on three waste streams. Two wastes are common in such studies (e.g., brewery waste and pig manure), while the third I believe is fairly unique (e.g., semi digested grass). The publication information is:
Liu, Z., M. Minor, P. C. H. Morel, and A. J. Najar-Rodriguez. 2018. Bioconversion of three organic wastes by black soldier fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) larvae. Environmental Entomology.
The treatment of most interest to me was the "semi digested grass". This material was not defined in the manuscript (based on my reading- apologies if I missed it) so I am not sure of its composition or how it was produced. I looked up the supplier, and it appears to be a producer of free range lambs.
The development of BSF was compared across these treatments as well as a the semi digested (e.g., broll- wheat bran and wheat flour). I have to admit, broll is a new term for me. Based on information in the study, and new to me, this material is fed to chickens as a feed. This material is the standard for producing BSF used in the primary lab affiliated with this study.
Basic parameters of BSF growth were measured, including survival, development time, larval weight gain, development rate (weight/time), and prepupal dry weight. There were definitely treatment effects- especially for the semi digested grass (massive amounts of time to develop- 70 d vs 14/17 d on other treatments). Other measures were significantly lower for grass-fed larvae (interesting term use as most recognize its use with livestock production) including prepupal weight being 50-75% less.
Other factors measured included protein and fat content- this result is interesting as the protein content was comparable across treatments (40-50%), while fat was significantly lower for those reared on the semi digested grass (5% rather than 17% or greater). The fat content in the manure-reared prepupae was low (based on my experiences) at 17%.
The authors also did a meta-analysis across studies- something I will not dive into here; but, a topic you might consider reviewing to gain perspective across studies.
The authors conclude the semi digested grass is not a suitable resource for producing BSF. However, I would encourage some restraint in closing the door on such opportunities. My reasoning being, 1) it worked (just not to the level produced for other resources), and 2) with what we are learning about the microbiome, I suspect there are steps that can be taken that will allow for enhancements in the system to allow more optimal production levels.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Supporter of Graduate Researchers
I came across this paper today while surfing the web for new information on the BSF. I have to admit, I hadn't thought about pathogens being associated with seaweed; but, I understand the concern. Especially if someone is considering the mass-production of BSF from such material. In the end, we should all recognize that such assessments need to be made on all potential feed streams for the BSF. Here is the link for the paper, but I am not sure you will be able to access the full publication or not. Just in case, I have provided a summary below.
Swinscoe, I., D. M. Oliver, A. S. Gilburn, B. Lunestad, E.-J. Lock, R. Ørnsrud, and R. S. Quilliam. Seaweed-fed black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae as feed for salmon aquaculture: assessing the risks of pathogen transfer. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed 0: 1-14.
In this case, seaweed, many types are harvested from the wild or cultivated for use as livestock feed. Based on the introduction of this paper, seaweed can be surface colonized by a variety of human and fish pathogens- namely, E. coli and Listeria spp (examples of fecal indicator organisms [FIO]).
Findings in the study were fairly promising:
1- FIOs were at low levels in the larvae at the time they were harvested from the seaweed.
2-Larval meal and extracted lipids were free of FIOs
3-Handling larval meal and other associated activities resulted in contamination- but processing treatments decontaminated the insect-meal.
Questions to ponder:
1-What was the microbial load of the BSF used in the experiment at the time of initiation?
2-What is the shelf life of the finished product?
3-Can methods be employed to remove concerns about potential contamination after production (e.g., e-beam technology)? And, if so, is it economical and would it extend shelf life of the product?
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Supportive of Developing SeaLarvae!
I have discussed in previous posts the importance of recognizing, "what you are is what you eat". I think most people recognize this statement for its value as related to another adage garbage in- garbage out. Basically, what you consume impacts your own health and nutrition.
The same is also highly recognized for diet formulations for livestock, poultry, and aquaculture. Such information is critical for optimal production of a species in confined agricultural settings as well as the economics of the system.
With regards to BSF, we know what is fed to them as larvae impacts their own nutritional value in the end. For example, high carbohydrate diets (e.g., fruits) can result in increased fat content of the larvae.
A study recently published by colleagues in the UK and Sweden in collaboration with Protix, Inc examined this from a slightly different perspective- specifically, the impact of the stage of the BSF (larva vs prepupa) as well as stage of processing (with or without fat) on the microbiome (the link is related to the microbiome of humans- but it gives a nice overview of the importance of such work) of fish being fed these materials. Here is a link for a nice review article of microbiomes of marine fish.
The study in question is:
Huyben, D., A. Vidaković, S. W. Hallgren, and M. Langeland. 2018. High-throughput sequencing of gut microbiota in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) fed larval and pre-pupae stages of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens). Aquaculture.
In the study, they used a control fishmeal diet and various combinations (ration of 70:30) of this diet with either BSF larvae; 1) control, 2) fishmeal with larvae, 3) fishmeal with defatted larvae, and 4) fishmeal with prepupae.
The major findings of the study were:
1- diet impact fish microbiome as it varied in fish across diets
2- data indicate using BSF could enhance some beneficial microbes to fish health
The data produced from this study are a great first step in understanding the trophic (layers) interactions between diet, consumer, and associated microbes. I think there is tremendous opportunity here to unite disciplines (as demonstrated by the diversity of authors on this paper) and figure out the appropriate feed formulations and benefits/restrictions of using such diets.
A couple of questions that come to mind from this study are:
1- What was the microbiome of the insects being used (did any of these microbes proliferate in the fish)?
2- What specifically were the insects fed when being produced for the study?
3-BSF produced by Protix were reared on a different diet than those produced by the researchers. Could this be a confounding factor impacting results (i.e., microbiome)?
4- How does shifting larval diet impact their microbiome and does this translate into impacts of the fish microbiome?
5- I recognize limitations of taxonomic resolution (i.e., clarity of identification and data interpretation), but are there microbes specific to fish that engage in gene transfer with microbes from the insects (i.e., do the microbes merge genetically)
6- Was there an assessment of antibiotic resistant genes in the insects before use and could this impact the fish microbiome?
These are questions resulting from reading the study which could be investigated in the future. I believe the authors laid a wonderful foundation on which to build additional research.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Excited about Microbes & BSF
I had a great visit with colleagues and friends from Malaysia and Italy this past week. All came to learn more about the mass production of the BSF and the science being conducted to optimize the process.
WK & Thomas, from BETSOL in Malaysia, are currently developing sites for waste management and protein production.
Francesco and friends from the Instituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale Lombardia ed Emilia-Romagna were learning about mass production as well as the research being conducted to optimize the process.
What was really nice, besides discussing BSF, was the continued development of the BSF network around the world.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Grateful for BSF friends
Black Soldier Fly Larvae Reduce Antibiotic Resistant Gene Frequency in Poultry Wastes: Yes- This is Amazing!
As many of you know, I lead a duel life with one part of career being devoted to research. My laboratory focuses on decomposition ecology as related to a number of topics including the BSF.
Over the course of the past couple of years I have worked with several of my colleagues (Jibin Zhang and Minmin Cai) on the relationship between antibiotics in wastes and their impact on BSF production. We had a publication come out a little while back that demonstrated BSF and their companion microbes actually degrade the antibiotic tetracycline in waste- which is great news for remediation of associated concerns.
You can learn more about antibiotics in the environment through this Science News and associated scientific review on the topic.
The first paper we published (as previously mentioned) is:
Cai, M., S. Ma, R. Hu, J. K. Tomberlin, C. Yu, Y. Huang, S. Zhan, W. Li, L. Zheng, Z. Yu, and J. Zhang. 2018. Systematic characterization and proposed pathway of tetracycline degradation in solid waste treatment by Hermetia illucens with intestinal microbiota. Environmental Pollution 242: 634-642.
As a followup to this previous work, we just had a second paper published demonstrating the frequency of antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs) in the microbial community remaining in the waste after digestion is reduced.
Cai, M., S. Ma, R. Hu, J. K. Tomberlin, L. S. Thomashow, L. Zheng, W. Li, Z. Yu, and J. Zhang. Rapidly mitigating antibiotic resistant risks in chicken manure by Hermetia illucens bioconversion with intestinal microflora. Environmental Microbiology 0.
More specifically we demonstrated:
1. non-sterile BSF reduced ARGs by 95%.
2. remaining bacteria, which was primarily Firmicutes had a 65% reduction in ARGs.
3. human pathogen populations declined by 70-92%.
4. conditions of the substrate impacted the ability of BSF to have this impact.
5. bacteria associated with BSF most likely play a role in this process (it is not just the BSF).
These data are tremendous as they demonstrate other benefits of using BSF to recycle animal wastes- not just food wastes.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Bioremediator of sorts
I recently received an email from my colleague and friend, Professor Arnold van Huis regarding a report issued by the Council on Animal Affairs (hence the title of the post) in the Netherlands. There are two summary sections from the council. The first section provides an overview of the content presented in the section second.
The Emerging Insect Industry: Invertebrates as Production Animals
Topics reviewed include:
-An overview of insect production in the Netherlands
-Legislation and regulations
-Research and Education in the Netherlands
-Relevant social values
The report serves as a suitable model for other government agencies around the world to consider when determining proper legislation and management of the insects as food and feed industry. I found all sections interesting. But, the two that really stood out to me were the discussion with regards to food/feed safety and animal welfare; two areas we are still needing to focus a bit of time culturing and developing.
If you get a chance, check them out and offer comments. I would be interested in knowing what you think.
Jeffery K Tomberlin, PhD, Policy Advocate
Today, I would like to review an article that passed across my desk recently. I must admit the timing was perfect as I was just in the Netherlands a week ago visiting colleagues at Wageningen University. I had the opportunity to meet Joop (one of the authors of the paper) in person. We had a great discussion about the BSF and future research opportunities.
The best part was that he gave me a copy of Dr. Barragán-Fonseca's dissertation!! I now have it on my shelf with other texts on insects as food and feed. I will gladly share it with other students conducting such research as it is a great example of a dissertation well done! The reason that it is exciting is due to the quality of her research, which I reviewed a few posts ago, and I bring it up because the paper I am reviewing today is from her PhD research. I digress.... :)
As a side note, I am always glad to see students carry their work across the finish line and publish it for the world to read. What a great benefit for us all- to have these data to guide us along the path of mass production of the BSF. I encourage all students to do so (publish). Digressing continues.... Apologies. :)
The article for today's post is:
Barragán-Fonseca, K., J. Pineda-Mejia, M. Dicke, and J. J. A. van Loon. 2018. Performance of the black soldier fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) on vegetable residue-based diets formulated based on protein and carbohydrate contents. Journal of Economic Entomology 50: 898-906.
We know from previous work (see link for review of article previously discussed in blog) that protein:carbohydrate ratios impact BSF development. The study reviewed today explored this topic from a real-world perspective where one considers the variability associated with vegetable waste (or any sort of food by-product) rather than a chemically formulated diet. The authors conducted two experiments.
The authors formulated diets containing distiller's grain with grape pulp, potato peels, been seeds, cabbage leaves, and old white bread. All materials were homogenized before mixing. The goal was to formulate a diet at 47% P+C and P:C ratio of 1:2.
In this experiment, they worked with vegetable waste diets at 30% carbohydrate and 17% protein. The authors provide a table that summarizes the nutritional breakdown of the vegetable waste streams used in the experiments.
Overall experiment design:
The authors used 100 larvae (<24 hr old at time of use) in a 750 ml container (well replicated across both experiments). If I read the article correctly, the authors did a single feeding (1 g dry matter per larva). Basic life-history traits were measured, such as larval development time, survival rate, and final larval weight.
Diet impacts production- simply put. Diets higher in carbohydrates resulted in greater larval performance. But, this aspect of the diet is just one factor. The authors suggest amino acid composition could be playing a critical role as well. So, diets deficient is a "keystone" or "bottleneck" amino acid could be the difference be optimal and suboptimal production.
One thing to consider:
Because these small factors (e.g., amino acid composition) can impact BSF development, you might consider using resources available that provide you some data on their nutritional makeup. For example, in the USA, the United States Department of Agriculture provides nutritional assessments of a number of possible vegetable or other organic waste streams.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Impressed by Wageningen Research
Another Great MS Thesis on The Black Soldier Fly: Improving Feeding Efficiencies of BSF Larvae Through Manipulation of Feeding Conditions
I enjoy reading research papers published by established colleagues and friends throughout the world. But (no offense to my colleagues), my excitement for their work pales in comparison to reading theses or dissertations of students. Their work demonstrates the promise such individuals have to the industry as a whole.
I guess some could say it is a compliment to my established colleagues that I find their students' work so exciting. These individuals (the students) invest so much to conduct the research and organize it into a coherent story for us to read.
So much promise- so much potential!
Of course, none of it would be possible without the guidance of the advisor - so many thanks to you as well for your hard work and dedication.
The MS thesis I would like to review today is by a friend and colleague- Devon Brits who is currently seeking his PhD at Louisiana State University (love your dedication, Devon).
I believe the thesis is accessible at the following link:
Improving feeding efficiencies of black soldier fly larvae, Hermetia illucens (L., 1758) (Diptera: Stratiomyidae: Hermetiinae) through manipulation of feeding conditions for industrial mass rearing
The thesis has five chapters. The first is the literature review and the last is the conclusion. So, Devon completed three research projects for his MS (quite impressive).
Chapter 2 examined the impact of food availability, feeding depth, and particle size on the development and feeding efficiency of the BSF larvae. All factors were found to impact BSF larval development. Feeding depth less than 10 cm was optimal for feed conversion; however, larvae developed significantly faster when feed at a depth < 5 cm. The impact of particle size was variable. But, I think it is important to know such work is critical for mass production. How should feed be prepared and provided? Particle size surely has an impact as surface area dictates access to the feed.
Chapter 3 examined the impact of feed rate at a set density on BSF mass-rearing. Basically larvae should have access to 125-200 mg/larva/day. Such results would of course be population specific. Furthermore, feed type will have an impact on the development of BSF larvae as well. One thing noted in the chapter is the need to carry this work to the next stage. If larval size is impacted by feed rate and feed quality, what is the impact on resulting adults and their mating success?
Chapter 4 examined different larval densities (scale) on feed conversion. This experiment is really nice as the larval number ranged from 5 to 50,000 per replicate/treatment (yes, you read that correctly). Feed was provided at 2.12g/larva (feeding was done twice during the experiment). Major finding relate to mortality being high during initial two instars (something to think about). Data generated for lower density were consistent with previously published work. But, as the density increased to more industrial scale, data were quite different- for example, bioconversion rates were slightly higher.
These data call into question the value of bench top versus industrial scale research. I highly recommend students to consider integrating industrial scale work with their bench top studies (or vice versa) as both data types are crucial for industrial development.
Overall: Great job, Devon. Very impressive work and a serious contribution to the BSF community. I encourage everyone to take a look at his work and cite it in your research- it is quite valuable!
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Open to Assisting Students with the Work
Interesting Discussion- Why Feed Spent Grain to Black Soldier Fly Larvae To Produce Feed When It Can Be Fed Directly to Fish?
I had an interesting discussion recently with a fish nutritionist about the use of black soldier fly larvae (BSF) as a potential fishmeal replacement for the aquaculture industry. The conversation was very engaging and led us down an interesting path of debate and enlightenment about this topic. I thought I would share with you some highlights and offer you a chance to reflect and hopefully comment on the topic- so please feel free to respond to the post.
My initial point to this individual with regards to the BSF industry was focused on the "good" the system presents to the environment. The idea that BSF can be used to recycle food waste and produce protein. Doing so, keeps these wastes from entering landfills and potentially polluting the environment. The system appears to have many strengths as it takes something of potentially no value and converts it to products of value. Of course, BSF represent a key product as it has been shown as a potential fishmeal replace for diets of fish grown in aquaculture.
What I learned (informed) is the use of the term "replacement" is not appropriate as the nutritional makeup of the BSF is not equal to fishmeal. This did not come as as surprise to me. But, I did learn I need to me more careful with the language used to describe BSF products and their value. I am still not sure what the appropriate term should be - but I will definitely be more careful with describing the value of the product.
As a side note, I also would like to point out BSF fed brewery waste are higher in some of the key components needed in fish diets (e.g., higher protein and select amino acids such as methionine), while having lower fiber content. Furthermore, where brewery waste can spoil if not used quickly- BSFL produced from the system can be stored. Furthermore, BSF can take heterogenous materials and create a homogenous product where nutrients are concentrated.
The second learning point from this discussion is spent brewery grains can be fed directly to some fish or other aquaculture species grown in culture (I included a few references for your review). These materials can be a partial "substitute" for select ingredients. The key word here is "some" as it cannot be generalized across all fish species. I do not say this as something that is new to me but rather as a reminder to be more cognizant about the language I use and to avoid generalizations. Be specific, do not generalize, and be concise and clear with the language used when talking with others.
A Few Papers to Read:
Incorporation of brewery waste in supplementary feed and its impact on growth in some carps
Pito brewery waste as an alternative protein source to fishmeal in feeds for Tilapia busumana
New developments in aquatic feed ingredients, and potential of enzyme supplements
Third, education is critical for creating opportunities for the BSF industry. While many of us recognize the value of the BSF to the world, many are still not aware of the potential of this system and what it means to the various commodities (e.g., aquaculture, poultry, or agriculture in general as related to compost). So, we all should take the time to start the discussion with learning more about what others know before launching into benefits of the system. Patience and education are vital to gain acceptance and advance the science.
Fourth, we still have a lot of work to do. I really enjoyed the discussion and learned a lot from it. Most importantly, I recognize even more the need for conducting research, building partnerships, and expanding the BSF industry beyond entomology. Experts from other fields bring so much to the table and should be engaged and invited to join the effort for deciphering all aspects BSF.
I thought I would share this experience with you as I came to the realization that such interactions are important for everyone to be aware of (talking amongst ourselves simply creates an echo chamber of agreement)- and that the industry still has a ways to go towards acceptance. I welcome the challenge and look forward to working with those accepting, or not, of the capabilities of the BSF industry to impact the world in a very positive way.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Excited about Outreach
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.
Get Notified Here
Install an RSS app to get notified from us when a new post is up!