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
I came across this paper this morning while looking for another paper on a completely different topic (insects as feed for rabbits- I will explain later). But, what a surprise!! I believe this paper is open access, which means everyone should be able to read it.
Nogales-Mérida, S., P. Gobbi, D. Józefiak, J. Mazurkiewicz, K. Dudek, M. Rawski, B. Kierończyk, and A. Józefiak. Insect meals in fish nutrition. Reviews in Aquaculture 0.
So, why do I like this paper so much?
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Blown Away by Comprehensive Review!!!
Periodically, articles are published that provide an overview of the BSF and its use in waste management. In many cases, information presented is a rehash of previously published material in books or other review articles. So, it can be challenging to locate the unique information presented. Now, don't get me wrong. I appreciate any and all papers published on the topic as they all serve a purpose in terms of education and perspective given.
But with regards to today's post.... every now and again, a unique article (a nugget of gold) comes along that I think provides some unique assessments of the BSF as related to a given topic. This paper does exactly that:
Kumar, S., S. Negi, A. Mandpe, R. V. Singh, and A. Hussain. 2018. Rapid composting techniques in Indian context and utilization of black soldier fly for enhanced decomposition of biodegradable wastes - A comprehensive review. J Environ Manage 227: 189-199.
This paper provides some very detailed assessments of the BSF for waste management and where it fits in the current paradigm of BSF industrialization. They provide a general overview of composting (e.g., vermiculture) in general as well. And, they take it a step farther and offer information on current patents (limited overview) currently on BSF technology.
I highly encourage everyone to read this paper if available to you.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Humbled by paper out of India (good show!)
A collaborative paper out of the Gasco & Tomberlin labs . This study was completed in collaboration between Tomberlin at Texas A&M University with Marco Meneguz and Laura Gasco with the University of Turin in Italy. Marco had a chance to spend a few months working with Tomberlin (strange to write about myself in this fashion- but good for the blog) and his lab. Marco did a great job as you will read about in his paper. Laura- thanks for the opportunity to collaborate. The paper is:
Meneguz, M., L. Gasco, and J. K. Tomberlin. 2018. Impact of pH and feeding system on black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens, L; Diptera: Stratiomyidae) larval development. PLOS ONE 13: e0202591.
Major findings from the study:
1. Black soldier fly larvae can digest waste that varies in pH
2. Daily vs total feeding impacts larval development time (try to do single feeding- results in faster development)
3. More work is needed to figure out how pH is interacting with the microbiome of the BSF so that the system can be enhanced more.
Thoughts to Consider: One thing to keep in mind is that pH is just one factor within the system. We need to systematically break the system down and determine what other factors are impacting larval production/waste conversion by the BSF. Other factors: oxygen or CO2 levels, temperature, larval density, container dimensions, particle size, and the list goes on and on and on. :)
A key aspect of this study, like any other laboratory study, is, how do these results translate to industrial scale? Are they consistent?
Something else to think about with these data- can you, or do you need to, manipulate pH with waste you are digesting with BSF larvae? I am still not fully convinced they can handle all pH levels. And, I do think manipulation of pH could be used to enhanced production- we just do not know how to do this manipulation yet.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Proud of Marco!
I had the privilege to attend the Eating Insects, Athens, Georgia Conference a little over one week ago. And, I have to say- if you were there, you know how great an event. For those unable to attend this year- hopefully you will be at the next one- possibly in Austin, Texas?!
There are many items to highlight. The greatest event was the recognition of Dr. Florence Dunkel at Montana State University, and Dr. Craig Sheppard with the University of Georgia. Dr. Dunkel was recognized for her efforts with insects as food, while Dr. Sheppard was recognized for his efforts with the black soldier fly.
I have to say, Joseph Yoon of Brooklyn Bugs did an exceptional job preparing wonderful cuisine with insect flair.
There were also a number of wonderful presentations spanning insects as food and feed in terms of industry and research.
A SPECIAL THANKS to the organizing committee- Marianne Shockley, Justin Butner, Cheryl Pryer, Joseph Yoon, Valerie Stull, and Robert Nathan Allen. Others to be thanked include all speakers, industry reps (e.g., Enviroflight, Aspire, Enterra, EVO), and sponsors (NACIA, Brooklyn Bugs, Little Herds, MIGHTi, ENTOMO Central, and UGA Bug Dawgs)
Jeffery K, Tomberlin, PhD, grateful for new friends made while in Athens, GA
Once you collect your BSF larvae, you need to decide how best to dry them so that you can store them potentially long-term (outside of freezing) or use as a treat or feed. This paper is the first to my knowledge on this topic- drying technique.
Huang, C., W. Feng, J. Xiong, T. Wang, W. Wang, C. Wang, and F. Yang. 2018. Impact of drying method on the nutritional value of the edible insect protein from black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens L.) larvae: amino acid composition, nutritional value evaluation, in vitro digestibility, and thermal properties. Eur Food Res Technol.
The study examined two techniques- 1) oven dry, and 2) microwave dry. Based on their study, they conclude oven dry results in a more digestible product and retains higher levels of valine and lysine. However, if you read the results, you notice that this limitation is nutrient specific. Some amino acids remain higher with microwave drying rather than conventional oven drying.
Data from the study indicate composition of many amino acids was higher than those levels desired by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations- this is good news.
The authors conclude that conventional drying results in a better product as related to Digestible indispensable amino acid score and digestibility; however, both methods resulted in product that exceeded FAO/WHO standards for indispensable amino acid levels.
I would hesitate to draw broad conclusions based off of this study alone. A question that comes to my mind is- can the process be refined (drying process- either oven or microwave) to optimize amino acid composition and digestibility?
An interesting point made in the paper is related to amino acid composition and how it impacts flavor- something that should be pursued further. Does drying method impact flavor?
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, excited about drying method results
This post is a bit off my typical path of this blog, but I just couldn't pass it up. This paper offers a great overview of how animal production (vertebrates mostly) impacts the environment. The authors recognize the limitations of the study, but point out that many of the typical industries in livestock, poultry, and aquaculture have a major impact on the environment in terms of:
The study was conducted by reviewing 148 previous studies assessing animal source food production. The article can be found at:
Hilborn, R., J. Banobi, S. J. Hall, T. Pucylowski, and T. E. Walsworth. 2018. The environmental cost of animal source foods. Front Ecol Environ 16: 329-335.
Based on what is known about insect farming, while not perfect, insects definitely have less of an impact on the environment when produced at a large scale- great news for the BSF!
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Appreciating larger view of livestock industry
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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