Have you ever wondered- what was the black soldier fly known for before it was being mass produced as a feed? Well, here is an answer. Arnold van Huis and I put together a summary of the published history for this species prior to its recognition in the 1990s as a beneficial. Hard to believe, but the black soldier fly was recognized as a pest before then. The major take-home message is- be careful with your production of the black soldier fly. I hope you enjoy the read!!
Tomberlin, J. K., and A. v. Huis. 2020. Black soldier fly from pest to ‘crown jewel’ of the insects as feed industry: an historical perspective. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed 6: 1-4.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, recovering from 2019 (what a year!)
Obviously, fat is something that most people try to avoid in their diets simply from a health perspective. However, fat in BSF is the new form of "black gold".... only it is "white gold" (please link references to oil industry). If not familiar with oil industry reference- maybe pop culture with the Beverly Hillbillies (a popular USA TV show in the 1960s I believe)?
Today- I wanted to draw your attention to a recent publication on methods for extracting fat from BSF. I thought industry would be interested in this paper given the fat is not necessarily the best for formulating diets for other animals, but it represents a resource that can extracted and developed into bio-energy.
Ravi, H. K., M. A. Vian, Y. Tao, A. Degrou, J. Costil, C. Trespeuch, and F. Chemat. 2019. Alternative solvents for lipid extraction and their effect on protein quality in black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae. Journal of Cleaner Production 238: 117861.
A cool finding- they discuss a "green" solvent that can be used to extract the fat!
Insects as Food & Feed in the News!
Tis the Season! (USA)- a nice article in a university newspaper on insects as food.
Crickets in Our Bread (UK)- everyone seems to be enjoying cricket bread in the UK (a number of major chains carry this product).
Who Says Insects Can't Be a Dessert? (Mexico)- a great article on the cultural aspects of insects as food- a long heritage.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Excited about Christmas!!!!!!
My apologies for being silent for several weeks. Without going into detail, I will just say that life throws curveballs.
But I had to make this post- the BSF genome is now available. Please check out this paper as it will serve as a "game changer" in our ability to study the BSF and its use to produce protein while protecting the environment.
I cannot say enough in terms of the joy I am currently feeling with this paper being published- a massive leap forward in the scientific exploration of the BSF.
Many thanks to the team as they were great to work with on this project. Special thanks for Yongping (friend and colleague) for spearheading this project. Enjoy the read....
Zhan, S., G. Fang, M. Cai, Z. Kou, J. Xu, Y. Cao, L. Bai, Y. Zhang, Y. Jiang, X. Luo, J. Xu, X. Xu, L. Zheng, Z. Yu, H. Yang, Z. Zhang, S. Wang, J. K. Tomberlin, J. Zhang, and Y. Huang. 2019. Genomic landscape and genetic manipulation of the black soldier fly Hermetia illucens, a natural waste recycler. Cell Research.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Beaming with Enthusiasm!
One aspect of producing BSF is the typical approach taken for growing BSF is quite general (i.e., not detail oriented). Young larvae are put in a pan with a specified amount of food with the expectation that after a given amount of time, the larvae will peak in terms of growth and food digestion and then be harvested.
As you all know- what we expect and what actually occurs can be quite variable- Biology just does stuff like this (i.e., variation). So, I am often asked how do we develop a more precise approach to producing BSF, while maintaining a high level of precision and accuracy with the model produced?
My typical answer is- well, researchers/industry just have not developed such a system yet (that is publicly available).
However, studies, such as the one about to be listed might be the next step needed to develop a more precise method for mass production of BSF.
Gligorescu, A., S. Toft, H. Hauggaard-Nielsen, J. A. Axelsen, and S. A. Nielsen. 2019. Development, growth and metabolic rate of Hermetia illucens larvae. Journal of Applied Entomology 143: 875-881.
The overall conclusions that I reached after reading this article are the following:
1. Prediction of growth patterns of BSF larvae is relatively consistent (as expected) with slow growth initially followed by vertical growth (i.e., think- weight over time) and then a plateau. This overview is not new, but it does illustrate a point. There is a window of maximum growth producers want to identify with their colony. Predicting when that portion of the growth pattern is complete should represent a harvesting time point. By identifying this point in development, producers could reduce their "in pan" production time by 2 days or more. From a production standpoint, reducing development time that amount is quite significant as related to space occupied by pans and resulting production.
2. Heat generation (significant) occurs at a set point in the development cycle. Producers should be aware of this time point- too much heat and the waste will compost and the larvae will stop feeding. A remedy would be to identify that time point, mix the waste, and allow the heat to escape (be aware, such a process also blends the BSF waste with food not consumed which could be an issue).
3. Something not discussed, or I missed it, is along this growth pattern, the larvae will shift from protein accumulation to fat accumulation. If identified, producers could harvest larvae with different nutrient compositions (e.g., high protein/low fat and vice versa). Of course, many of you have already thought about this point I am sure. But, I like to put it out there for others to consider.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Enjoying fall weather in Texas
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
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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