Diversity of Black Soldier Fly-Based Products Continues: Rabbit Feed, Bio-lubricants, and Bio-diesel
I was reviewing recent citations on the BSF and came across two unique articles examining uses of BSF-related materials beyond what has been traditionally discussed in the literature.
My first response was- "I cannot make this stuff up!" (pretty exciting)....
My second thought was.. "Well, I know what my topic of discussion will be this week." (very fortunate- the blog sorta writes itself... maybe Google is the puppet master organizing the blog for me)... with that said- I would think Google would love the BSF concept as related to waste management, sustainability, and protein production (anyone have some connections with Google they are willing to share with me? I will gladly reach out to them! :)
And my third thought was, "These papers are refreshing as they present novel uses of BSF."
Now that you know what I was thinking when I read the papers- here we go!
The first paper, out of my friend and colleague's lab in Italy, examined the use of BSF and mealworm fat as a replacement for soybean oil in rabbit feed. They had multiple diets comprised of different amounts of insect oil in the diet (in place of the soy oil)- the good news- criteria measured were not significantly different from the control. Has anyone considered developing the rabbit feed market? Seems like a smaller market that might be attainable with regards to supply/demand.
Gasco, L., S. Dabbou, A. Trocino, G. Xiccato, M. T. Capucchio, I. Biasato, D. Dezzutto, M. Birolo, M. Meneguz, A. Schiavone, and F. Gai. 2019. Effect of dietary supplementation with insect fats on growth performance, digestive efficiency and health of rabbits. Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology 10: 4.
The second study determined the oil extracted from BSF could be a potential use as a bio-lubricant or bio-diesel. Of course, the bioenergy topic has been covered in a few papers over the course of the past five years or so- but the idea of bio-lubricants... fairly original. On the surface, this focus might not seem that exciting. But, I think you should consider the research topics reviewed here and other places online. The topics typically fall into a few areas- which translates into a limited number of products being produced from BSF. So, I like the idea that researchers are diversifying the applications of BSF as diversity leads to stability and opportunity for researchers and industry alike.
A Protein-Based Material from a New Approach Using Whole Defatted Larvae, and Its Interaction with Moisture
I hope you enjoy the articles... and that you have a great weekend!!
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, Director, Glad Spring has arrived in Texas, USA!!!
As with any field, having critical mass in terms of individuals conducting research is critical to advance the science at an efficient rate while allowing for new ideas to develop more quickly and effectively. If numbers are low, I think the impact is obvious. We risk exploring limited topics and applications with production of data occurring at a slower rate.
My background has allowed me to work in a number of different arenas involving decomposition ecology, such as integrated pest management, sustainable waste management, insect production for use as food and feed, and even forensics. In many instances, my linking with researchers outside of the applied sciences has allowed me to conduct research that appeals to a broader audience outside of the applied arena. This result has been truly beneficial to me, and I would like to think the applied sciences, as new researchers have been recruited to conduct experiments in the given area of interest (i.e., increasing army of researchers and diversity of topics covered). In terms of insects as food and feed, more researchers the world over are taking an interest in insects paramount to the industry as potential model organisms.
These model organisms allow scientists to explore topics explaining how nature operates while at the same time producing data that are beneficial for applications- such as mass production. At the same time, when such basic researchers utilize such insect models to address questions that they find interesting, they are able to tap into resources not commonly available to the applied researcher. In the USA, those funds would come through agencies such as the National Science Foundation or National Institute of Health to name a couple.
Berggren et al (2019), in their opinion piece, presents research topics that would allow for bridging basic and applied sciences in the insects as food and feed industry. The authors illustrate the various arenas where basic research on such models allow scientists to explore broader topics while producing data with applied outcomes we all are interested in seeing achieved At the same time such efforts result in the recruiting new researchers. Here is the citation- hopefully you can access it.
Berggren, Å., A. Jansson, and M. Low. 2019. Approaching ecological sustainability in the emerging insects-as-food industry. Trends Ecol Evol 34: 132-138.
Much of the information in the article is readily known to practitioners that might read this blog; however, the real appeal of the article to me is the location in which it was published- Trends in Ecology and Evolution; one of the premiere basic ecology research journals globally.
By using this platform to offer an opinion on the use of the insects of the food and feed realm as models by basic researchers. The authors present a case demonstrating these insect models are adequate to address basic questions ranging from environmental ecology to physiology (just as examples).
Everyone currently working in this realm is doing a great job (so I am not criticizing current efforts at at all); my hope is such an opinion piece will increase interest in such model systems resulting in a stronger research pool (in terms of numbers and diversity of topics covered).
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Encourager of Network Facilitation
Studies Regarding the Fertilizing Capacity of Poultry Manure Biocomposted by Fly Larvae (Diptera: Stratiomyidae)
It's that time of the week again for another addition to the Science Blog about Black Soldier Fly (cue exciting music)!
This week I am reviewing a paper published out of Romania on the use of BSF larval frass as a fertilizer agent- a topic not heavily covered in the literature.
Studies regarding the fertilizing capacity of poultry manure biocomposted by fly larvae (Diptera: Stratiomyidae)
I am not very familiar with this particular journal- but given the topic, I had to take a look at the results.
My thoughts on the topic......
For most people that have worked with the BSF, they recognize the digestate (i.e., residue remaining after BSF larvae feed on a substrate) can be quite appealing as a potential fertilizer for soils. In our case, the residue we produce has the consistency of ground coffee with a moisture content below 20%. Both factors enhance the product in terms of packing and shipping (limited wasted space as particles are all the same size and more material in a shipment as weight is not hampered by water content).
The challenges I have faced with BSF residue/digestate is not the consistency of the product in terms of nutrients but that the material was still very "hot" (i.e., lots of nitrogen); so, I had to be careful when applying it to plants (tomatoes in my case) as too much would resulting in burning and in some instances death. Of course, this experience is limited to a couple of trials conducted early in my career- nothing too in-depth.
However, over the course of the past 20 years, I have talked with BSF producers around the globe and picked up some pretty interesting anecdotal data about the potential for this material as a fertilizer. What I found most interesting besides enhanced plant growth were the claims that using the digested material as a fertilizer resulted in less insect feeding on the plants (herbivore damage). I can imagine this being partially true (lots of promise) as the presence of insects in the vicinity of a plant can induce plant defenses (been documented for a number of insect/plant systems). So I do not think it is too much of a jump to conclude placing insect frass mixed with digested biowaste around plants would result in similar responses. Is this true with regards to BSF- well, I cannot say yes or no. However, I can say that investigating such a topic would be of immense value to the industry, and I encourage others to tackle this topics. But if you do- I encourage you to recruit across disciplines (e.g., plant physiologist, soil scientist) to enhance your project impact.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, a little bit of a green thumb
Dissecting the Gut of An Insect- How Does Black Soldier Fly Digestion Work So Well?
I received this paper this morning from my colleagues in Italy. If you have the time, please do take a look at it. They did an exceptional job detailing the digestive tract of the BSF larva.
Such research is sorely needed as we are attempting to harness the BSF larval process for recycling wastes. They seem to be able to digest just about anything organic (sounds like a grand challenge- "find the organic waste streams BSF are NOT capable of digesting").
Bonelli, M., D. Bruno, S. Caccia, G. Sgambetterra, S. Cappellozza, C. Jucker, G. Tettamanti, and M. Casartelli. 2019. Structural and functional characterization of Hermetia illucens larval midgut. Frontiers in Physiology 10.
In this study, the authors focused on the midgut of the fully developed larva, which had been raised on a standard grain diet. They dissected the full digestive tract and provide excellent images detailing the various anatomical features at a gross scale.
Much like a previous study presented in this blog, the authors detailed the pH of the various regions of the gut. But, they also build on this knowledge with detailed description of the morphology (physical features) of the midgut cell lining (epithelium) while distinguishing the different regions. They then proceed with a description of the digestive enzymes (through a multitude of experiments) identified and their activity in the midgut. They accomplished this goal by adding temperature as a factor and determined if shifting temperature impacted such activity. I consider this a key part of the study as they demonstrate temperature impacts enzymatic activity- with peak performance at 45C. This is really interesting as it suggests BSF larvae are capable of handling these high temperatures during development; however, temperatures above 45C negatively impacted activity).
A couple of questions for the authors and others to ponder:
1. How does the midgut vary across instars (larval development stages)?
2. How plastic is the digestive tract with regards to food provided (i.e., does the morphology shift when larvae are fed different diets)?
3. How much variation do we see across populations from around the world?
4. Any thoughts on how to better prepare larval diets to take advantage of the capabilities of the midgut of the BSF larva (i.e., can we better formulate diets to enhance digestion and protein production)?
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Boggled by Insect Physiology
Part of EVO's mission is to open doors to expand the global knowledge-base on the use of insects as food and feed. We believe such a mission is achieved through collaborating and facilitating research and application opportunities. One such opportunity came through collaborations with Inagro in Belgium to test lights for their ability to enhance BSF breeding indoors.
Inagro is a Belgian non-profit organization for applied research and advice in horti- and agriculture. Inagro’s researchers guide farmers/companies/government into a more sustainable and innovative future. Currently we have more than 200 employees in a variety of research area’s such as: greenhouse cultivation, field vegetables, edible mushrooms, biogas production, circular economy, aquaculture, insect rearing, etc.
In the department for aquaculture and insect rearing, five people are employed involved with the insect research:
Stefan Teerlinck: Head of the department and expert in aquaculture
Dr. David Deruytter: Researcher, specialized in black soldier fly
Ir. Carl Coudron: Researcher, specialized in mealworms
Ir. Jonas Claeys: Project hunter/writer
Lukas Depraetere: Technical assistant
Our insect pilot plant is approximately 300 m² with a laboratory, processing room and 6 climate controlled rooms with a combined area of ± 150 m². Currently we are breeding three insect species (BSF, mealworm and the Argentinian cockroach) and focus our research on:
Besides research we are in close contact with the Belgian and European insect industry and government via the strategic platform for insects (Belgium) and IPIFF (Europe). Finally, we inform the general public, feed manufacturers, investors and (starting) companies about the possibilities of insect production with onsite demonstrations, tours, internships and by demonstrating techniques within the insect production. The latter, for example, has already been done (and will continue to do) for the JM Green breeding LED (https://www.evoconsys.com/blog/comparing-jm-green-breeding-led-with-halogen-lamps).
Inagro is thrilled to be part of the EVO consortium and to further work on the industrial application of BSF to reduce agricultural waste and increase the protein production. As an applied research center, we are open for suggestions from the industry to tackle specific problems.
A visual impression of our pilot plant (https://youtu.be/8WzFKFn-1OM) or our black soldier fly larvae (https://youtu.be/5o5Xr2YRLRQ).
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Facilitator
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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