A team involving mealworm-based producer, Entec Nutrition, the University of Exeter, and Campden BRI secured a grant of £250K (around US$333K) from the Innovate UK Transforming Food Production program for the project.
The partners are looking to reduce the carbon footprint of the UK feed industry by investigating efficient mealworm production methodologies and the science behind insect nutrition in feed. Such work will involve looking at separation, drying, milling and analysis of mealworm derived protein and oil product characteristics including nutrition, shelf-life and functionality.
Mealworm producer, Entec Nutrition, is the lead partner in the project.
“Campden BRI and the University of Exeter will carry out research and analysis around optimizing mealworm production to align with end user requirements,” said Tiia Morsky, ingredients research team leader, Campden BRI.
Low energy production
The global feed industry is energy-intensive, reliant on international imports, at risk of commodity price hikes, and associated with deforestation, said the research partners. The UK needs to increase feed production resilience to mitigate these issues, they argue. The project is aiming to support the UK's goal to reach net zero carbon target by 2050.
Referencing the environmental benefits of mealworm production outlined in a study from 2017 by Joop et al, Dr Olivia Champion, co-founder and CEO of Entec Nutrition, said lifecycle assessment (LCA) studies for mealworm production indicates it has around 50% the global warming potential of other feed sources.
The team will be evaluating, as part of this project, a host of methods for low energy production of mealworm.
A study from French researchers, published in late 2017, found there was a high energy demand associated with the manufacture of the novel protein.
As regards FCR, the mealworm converts very efficiently, found Joop et al. In terms of rearing substrates for mealworms, Champion told us the project will be primarily evaluating the use of industry by-products.
While insect protein is allowed in fish feed formulations, it is not yet authorized for use in poultry rations in the EU. Asked about such regulatory barriers, Champion said the view of the research partners was that such constraints would be removed “in the near term”.
The collaboration between Campden BRI and Entec Nutrition extends beyond the Innovate UK initiative, with a smaller EU-funded project with similar objectives.
“While the EU funded project is focused around development of methods to produce insect-based ingredients that could be used in livestock feed, the Innovate UK project is focused around developing methods to scale up production of mealworms,” highlighted Morsky.