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
So, I just returned from the 1st Conference on Edible Insects in Africa, which was held in Zimbabwe (see future post on conference). At the same time, I was reading a couple papers from my colleague, and new friend, Marwa Shumo, out of German via Kenya (field research at ICIPE), via Oman, and I was impressed not only by her research but her journey. BSF clearly serves as a proponent for a globalized community. I commend her dedication, drive, and scientific rigor when it comes to the BSF. If you have time, you might check out her blog as well. Side note- if you have not visited the website for ICIPE before, I highly recommend you do so. The level of research conducted there on insects as food and feed is tremendous!
Nutritional Assessment- in Detail!
The first paper explored exactly as I stated in the previous sentence, the nutritive value of BSF when reared on various substrates (chicken manure, kitchen waste, and spent grain) in Kenya (with a side not on aflatoxin- spoiler alert! no mycotoxins identified in BSF larvae).
Shumo, M., I. M. Osuga, F. M. Khamis, C. M. Tanga, K. K. M. Fiaboe, S. Subramanian, S. Ekesi, A. van Huis, and C. Borgemeister. 2019. The nutritive value of black soldier fly larvae reared on common organic waste streams in Kenya. Scientific Reports 9: 10110.
Climate Change- Something to Think About with This Study
The second paper, which was conducted in part with the previous study (with some variation in substrates used; cow dung and spent grain here), examined the influence of temperature on BSF development. Interestingly, they showed the optimal temperature range for BSF larval growth was between 25-30C. The source population of BSF used in the study is from ICIPE; however, I would like to know if it originated from Kenya or was imported from another area? Also, how many generations has this population been in colony? Has it adapted to the Kenya environment? Can it tolerate higher temperatures or low humidity?
Shumo, M., F. M. Khamis, C. M. Tanga, K. K. M. Fiaboe, S. Subramanian, S. Ekesi, A. van Huis, and C. Borgemeister. 2019. Influence of temperature on selected life-history traits of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) reared on two common urban organic waste streams in Kenya. Animals 9: 79.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News- just one story
Nugget of Gold in Story on Large Scale Study in The Netherlands- nice article giving an overview of a large-scale four year study at Wageningen University on the viability of insects as feed. The nugget of gold I found was the indication the European Union could approve insects as poultry feed.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, 100K+ miles traveled so far this year for BSF & loving every minute of it
Over the years, a few papers have explored the use of BSF as a feed for rainbow trout. And, we seem to be making progress with our understanding of the value of BSF as a feed and how best to optimize its use. This article, see below, was published as part of the special issue in Animals.
Cardinaletti, G.; Randazzo, B.; Messina, M.; Zarantoniello, M.; Giorgini, E.; Zimbelli, A.; Bruni, L.; Parisi, G.; Olivotto, I.; Tulli, F. Effects of Graded Dietary Inclusion Level of Full-Fat Hermetia illucens Prepupae Meal in Practical Diets for Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Animals 2019, 9, 251.
Main point from this particular paper was the inclusion of BSF at 50% resulted in up regulation of genes related to stress and immune response. Keep in mind, these larvae were full-fat. So, it might be possible to reduce the impact of the BSF 50% diet by removing the fat from the larvae. One other thing to note, growth of the fish was not impacted. So, as far as production- no issue.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News
Out of Germany- a brief summary of insects as livestock. Discusses the larger picture of insects that potentially be farmed.
Canadian Company Produces Dog Food- a nice article on Wilder Harrier and the production of dog food from insects (crickets). According the the article they are meet the standards of AAFCO (USA) and CIFA (Canada).
UK - Insects as Food: Not a Panacea for Environmental Issues- interesting article discussing limited evidence supporting the use of insects as food. I think you will find it an interesting read. Keep in mind, this article does not apply to the insects as feed sector.
Is Eating Insects Morally Different than Eating a Cow? So, if you kill one cow for human consumption and kill 10s of thousands, maybe millions, to produce the same amount of protein- which is more morally acceptable?
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, I saw a 750 mg BSF larva recently
Apologies for the delayed weekly posting. I am currently visiting colleagues in China so I am a bit busy with meetings, and my clock is a discombobulated due to travel. But, I made it safely to China, and the visit has been great so far. So many great projects taking place- they are really pushing the envelope with regards to optimizing the BSF process. Now, on to the publication of interest this week.
So, with my weekly readings, I came across the following article:
Nyakeri, E. M., M. A. Ayieko, F. A. Amimo, H. Salum, and H. J. O. Ogola. 2019. An optimal feeding strategy for black soldier fly larvae biomass production and faecal sludge reduction. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed 5: 201-213.
As I read it, my mind kept circling back to a question that has been discussed in detail around the world- what should we digest, or not, with BSF?
As expected many developed nations have taken the approach of limited use of BSF as a means to avoid health issues that could result from using the resulting products. On some level, I completely understand the mindset of government and research officials. However, my concern with this approach is that it has narrowed the scope of research being conducted. Most efforts that we see published are focused on producing materials that can be used in developed nations- and again, I completely understand.
However, such a culture has resulted in limited efforts in expanding the use of BSF for processing other wastes, such as animal waste (e.g., dairy, swine, poultry, aquaculture) or even fecal sludge from urban populations. I recognize researchers are at the mercy of funding agencies and what they want to see accomplished. Believe me, I have received a number of critical reviews of grants I have submitted that stated such efforts would result in producing products not approved for use in the USA (i.e., grant rejected). This expected (unfortunately) response serves as a major limitation in terms of, 1) finding out if the process works, 2) developing methods for ensuring its safety, and 3) diversifying the industry while protecting the environment, creating jobs, and saving lives.
So, with that said- I encourage everyone to read the abstract of the article or the full article if you have access....then consider tackling research projects outside the mainstream of our science... expand our industry.... create opportunities for nations that do not have the resources that others possess. Who knows, such efforts could even benefit industrialized nations?! (a bit of sarcasm)
In the end, congratulations to the authors on a job well done! I hope to read more about your research in the future.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News (not much this week)
CNN Jumping on Board the Insects as Food Train: A nice article on the production of ice cream with insects. I didn't realize it looked so good. I admit, I am an ice cream snob....I simply love it and I am particular with regards to my selection- but I think I would try this ice cream if I had a chance.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Gelato lover
Everyone in the BSF world is aware of its larvae being able to digest practically anything organic. Recognition of such ability has led to diverse studies to determine what exactly this insect can, and cannot, digest. Through a multitude of studies, the conclusion is there is little they cannot digest. In fact, an appealing aspect of this insect is its ability to digest animal waste.
Given the BSF larva can take waste products, such as dairy, swine, or poultry manure (to name a few) and convert it to protein with the remaining waste a potential fertilizer, its value to sustainable agriculture globally is tremendous.
While these findings indicate great potential, I encourage everyone to "pump the brakes" and take pause with regards to implementing this process specifically for recycling animal wastes.
Why you ask? Well, first, we have to recognize what regional regulations permit to be fed to BSF if they are to be used as animal feed. But, the second reason is far more important as it leads to the first being accomplished (i.e., government approval).
At this time, we do not know much about the quality assurance aspects of this process (i.e., feeding animal waste to BSF). This point is made very clear in the following study (please take the time to read this paper- if available to you) as it has some very important findings for everyone to consider.
Müller, A., S. Wiedmer, and M. Kurth. 2019. Risk evaluation of passive transmission of animal parasites by feeding of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae and prepupae. Journal of Food Protection 82: 948-954.
Here are the major points from the publication:
1. Fecal parasites examined in the study survived the BSF process.
2. The parasites were able to survive digestion by BSF.
3. The parasites remained attached to the external surfaces of the BSF larvae.
4. Washing the larvae is not enough to remove all parasites from the external surface of BSF larvae.
What needs to be done (just a couple consideration):
1. Determine how processing the resulting larvae (e.g., boiling, freezing, drying) impacts parasite survival.
2. Continue to diversify the parasites examined.
3. Determine if pre-treatment of manure can assist with suppressing parasites.
4. Increase traceability throughout the world to ensure products produced are in fact safe.
Overall Thoughts: This study provides an extremely important contribution to the insects as food and feed sector. I applaud the authors on tackling such an important subject.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News....
1. National Geographic- They always put together great stories (and they include a nice video as well). While this one is not specifically insects as food and feed, I believe the topic of "sustainable agriculture" is something we all should keep in mind as related to what our industry does. I believe this point is why life cycle analysis studies play a crucial role in the insects as food and feed sector. We need to know the good as well as the bad in terms of what our industry does to the environment.
2. Insects are Packed with Antioxidants- A great overview of a study recently published indicating many insects that are used as food are high (5X than orange juice) in antioxidants, which is great for human health. There is a link to the actual publication as well. Too bad BSF weren't included in the study.
3. Black Soldier Fly as a Super Hero? Just in case you want to see an image of a BSF adult with a cape. A nice story highlighting a start-up in England and its focus on producing BSF.
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Ready for Cooler Weather
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
Apologies for the delay in my post. I just returned to the USA yesterday from Wageningen University where I participated in a summer course on the production of insects as food and feed. I enjoyed the course very much. The group of participants were really engaged, and I am confident they all will be successful with their research and business endeavors. I especially enjoyed our visit to Dr. Leen Van Campenhout, Project Director for Lab4Food at KU Leuven. A tremendous amount of research taking place in her lab through a group of excellent graduate students and postdocs.
On my flight back to the states, I had a chance (9 hours of thinking time) to decide what I wanted to highlight in this week's blog post. And, I selected a paper that discusses adulterants in BSF food and their impact on BSF production. In this case, it is antibiotics- specifically, sulfonamides (antibiotic).
Gao, Q., Deng, W., Gao, Z., Li, M., Liu, W., Wang, X., Zhu, F., 2019. Effect of sulfonamide pollution on the growth of manure management candidate Hermetia illucens. PLOS ONE 14, e0216086.
Major Findings of Paper:
1. BSF can degrade the presence of these compounds in a feed substrate. This news supports previous findings with other antibiotics. One thing to note is the mechanism of this process has not been completely sorted out. Some speculate it is the metabolism of the antibiotic by BSF, while other suggest it is the microbiome of the BSF that is responsible for the degradation process.
One thing to note with the study and something I encourage researchers to consider if they want to conduct similar studies is the compound was placed in solution and then mixed in with the feed. I would like to know how BSF respond to the by-products of metabolism of the antibiotics present in a substrate as that would be more "real-world." The point being, mixing antibiotics in with a feed is not really what takes place. However, the results from this study are not lessened in terms of value as they do provide some clue as to how BSF respond to such materials.
2. Concentration of the antibiotic in the feed is important. There is a threshold at which the compound impacts BSF development and production. However, while low concentrations did not impact BSF production- how they impact adults still needs to be examined (see next point).
3 While low levels of the antibiotic did mot impact BSF develop or resulting adult production, it is not known if these sublethal concentrations impact the ability of resulting adults to mate and reproduce- something that needs to be investigated.
4. Residuals of some antibiotics can be found in resulting BSF. This is a really important aspect for everyone to think consider. Basically, contaminants, such as antibiotics can be present in BSF produced. Such contaminants could result in your BSF product being of zero value as they could not be sold in many global markets.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News...
Insects as Food Industry Valued at $8 billion by 2030- Yes, you read this number correctly- $8 billon. This is the projected value for the insects as food sector.
Insect Meat- Potential and Reality- this article discusses work taking place at Tufts University. They published an article in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. You might check it out as it is a nice review of the topic.
Insects as Food- Another overview of the topics of insects as food and feed. I can't say anything new- but it is always good to have the message continuously put other there for others to read.
EVO Conversion Systems Received Award- Yes, a little self promotion. But, I am so proud of our team and the hard work invested to make our company a success. The Launch Award, which is presented by the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation, recognizes one company that has become established and demonstrated financial success. Here is what they state about the award:
"In determining the annual Launch Award winner, the BVEDC recognizes a company’s scale of operations since startup toward second-stage growth. The company must have demonstrated distinguished industry achievement of technology products and service that validates its potential. The company must have improved or transformed the region’s marketplace in target industry sectors, including advanced manufacturing, agricultural sciences, biotech, engineering, R&D and professional services."
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Happy to have made new friends through the Wageningen Summer Course!
This conference, Insects Feed the World (IFW) has been held twice previously- the Netherlands & China.
The 2020 IFW is now officially schedule for Quebec City, Canada- mark your calendars!!! This conference is an excellent opportunity to engage the global community on insects as food and feed.
Insects to Feed the World 2020
I encourage you all to reserve the dates and plan on attending!
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Excited about seeing everyone in 2020!!
I have been developing some slide sets for a workshop I am participating in at Wageningen University in the Netherlands next week, and one of the main topics is BSF digestion of feedstuff. And, while I typically discuss the use of pre-consumer food waste from homes, stores, restaurants and so on as a feedstock for BSF, I have not talked about the use agricultural food waste.
Thing about it- fruits, vegetables, and grains are harvested from the field but large amounts of by-product remains- such as spoiled material as well as the non-consumable parts (e.g., tomato plants, corn stalks, etc). In many cases these materials are tilled into the ground. Check out this article from a few years ago as perspective.
But, why are these materials not harvested and recycled with BSF? I think one of the primary reasons is the lack of nutritional value of these materials and the high cellulose content. So, I thought I would include this topic as part of my slide set to be presented during the workshop. Based on my quick review of the literature, there really isn't much known about the ability of the BSF to digest cellulose. But, I did come across this recent publication:
Gao, Z., Wang, W., Lu, X., Zhu, F., Liu, W., Wang, X., Lei, C., 2019. Bioconversion performance and life table of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) on fermented maize straw. Journal of Cleaner Production 230, 974-980.
Take a look if you have time; there are two major takeaways from the paper I would like you to pay particular attention to:
1. BSF can digest plant material high in cellulose- although it takes longer and production isn't as great as with traditional feedstock. But even more importantly-
2. The task was completed by adding a fermentation step. I believe it is commonly known that fermentation of materials to be fed to BSF, 1) enhances the process, 2) reduces odors, and 3) allows for the feedstock to be stored long periods of time prior to use.
Insects as Food & Feed in the News
Canadian Government Seeking Input- definitely check out this story. This is an opportunity to provide input on the use of insects as a food ingredient. I did not notice a direct link to where you can submit your input. So you might have to do a little digging.
Protix Opens New Facility- This is definitely something to be read. In fact, check out the video posted to Youtube. I am truly impressed at the size of the facility and its potential.
From Poo to Food in Kenya- I always appreciate the diversification of BSF (as you know). And, I especially liked this story as it demonstrates the utility of BSF to protect the environment. Kudos to my colleagues in Kenya!
Vegan Trend Boosts Interest in Insect Protein- This is an interesting story about insects as a protein source being supported by vegans... but is it vegan???
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, looking forward to seeing friends & colleagues in the Netherlands
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!