Hello Everyone- Another week, another article to discuss with you!
Here is a great review on where we are presently with regards to mass producing insects (i.e., food and feed). What I like about this article (by my colleague and friend Christian Nansen, his student [Trevor] and others) is that it encourages individuals to, 1) not have tunnel vision with regards to the insects targeted for the food and feed sector, and 2) consider traditional routes for enhancing mass-production of the insect models currently implemented by the industry.
Fowles, T.M. & Nansen, C. Agron. Sustain. Dev. (2019) 39: 31. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-019-0577
I believe both of these points are worthy of greater discussion (especially point 2), especially considering scientists/industry are quick to apply genetic techniques (see question of the week below) to change the phenotype of an animal to secure the desired features.
As far as diversifying the pool of species currently used for the purposes of producing protein, I completely agree with the authors in terms of encouraging such efforts. Currently, the number of species truly mass produced for use in western culture is extremely limited. When I think about it, cricket, mealworm, and BSF appear to be the primary ones used.
But, as you all know, the diversity of arthropods existing currently on our planet is staggeringly high, and we probably only have a small portion of it identified. I suspect many of those waiting to be described offer great potential for such desired uses (i.e., waste conversion to protein). Not to go on a tangent, but I think this point supports initiatives by taxonomists to describe species around the world. If you ever needed cause to support a natural history museum- well, I think this reason alone would be a good start. Individuals in these museums are charged with cataloging diversity of a number of life forms including insects.
Furthermore, with regards to the species we do currently use, in many cases we do not understand their diversity at the sub-species or population level. Exploring such diversity could lead to the discovery of select populations that are far more efficient at converting waste to protein or handling diverse waste streams. If one were to think about it, following the path used used for animal husbandry with simple breeding programs charged with selecting for these traits. However, selection for a trait of interest could also result in the selection of negative traits as well.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What are your thoughts on using CRISPR-Cas9 technology to produce a "strain" of insect that results in the production of materials (e.g., higher protein, specific vitamins, development at specific temperatures, or to remove the need of sunlight to get BSF to mate) desired?
Insects as Food & Feed In the News....
Save the Lemurs- nice story about eating insects in Madagascar. The article has some amazing photographs and supports one of my previous points about diversifying the insects as food and feed industry.
Know the Other Side- you might find this article interesting as it is a counter story on the use of insects as food and feed. Amazing how things become political!
Maintaining a BSF colony that is proficient in digesting organic waste that can vary in terms of nutritional makeup as well as delivery rate (i.e., hard to predict in some instances when you will receive waste and at what amount) can be a challenge (discussion on selecting strains of BSF for optimal waste conversion and protein production will be discussed in next post).
As far as colony maintenance, there are a host of factors that impact output (i.e., eggs/day). Having a strong adult population is obvious; however, maintaining the adult population can be a challenge. One way to maximize adult numbers in your colony is to stagger your adult production. Typically, BSF producers are at the mercy of the weather and their colony (when working in a greenhouse or other outdoor facilities). However, maintaining indoor colonies (climate control) is also challenging as adult emergence patterns can vary. Basically, you have adults when they are available.
One study provides a method for building up a reserve adult population through delaying adult emergence. As most know, insects are diurnal (i.e., daytime activity), and photo-responsive, which means insects respond to the amount of light they receive each day. Throughout temperate regions of the world, seasonal changes result in varying amounts of daylight. This factor partly regulates the development cycle of many insects (including BSF) as such cues indicate weather conditions could be changing to be more hospitable for their development (i.e., spring) or detrimental (i.e., fall or winter). So, as one would expect as day lengthens, many insects will accelerate/complete development and emerge. And, the opposite happens during the fall and winter- insects develop slower or enter diapause (a form of hibernation).
Holmes, L. A., S. L. VanLaerhoven, J. K. Tomberlin, and C. Brent. 2017. Photophase duration affects immature black soldier fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) development. Environmental Entomology 46: 1439-1447.
1. Storing pupae at different light exposure periods impacts adult emergence patterns.
2. Placing prepupae/pupae in a completely dark environment can extend pupation time by almost double the time.
3. Find a balance- too much time in the pupal stage also increases mortality.
Things to Consider:
1. This study is for a population out of Texas, USA. If you are in a more northern climate, your population might be more sensitive to light duration.
2. We do not know the impact on egg production. While, the researchers in this study were able to extend development (potentially allowing the creation of a reserve), we do not know if such an energy investment by the larvae impacts egg production by resulting adults.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News....
Not much in the media this week- so I challenge you all to keep engaging the public. The more people learn about our industry, the faster it grows!
The Economist- Much of the same as far as general information on insect production. But, to be featured in such a high profile journal is a win for the industry as the readership is quite broad.
Washington Post- Another great location for discussion of insects as food and feed. The article focuses on two companies in Texas (EVO being one of them) as a means to discuss the BSF and its potential. Others are interviewed as well- Fluker Farms and EnviroFlight.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Introduced My Kids to 80s Rock this Summer
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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