A newly awarded US$2.2m grant from the US National Science Foundation has established the Center for Environmental Sustainability through Insect Farming, and the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has been assigned as the lead site for the center.
Mississippi State University (MSU) and Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI) will also participate in the work, while 34 US and global industrial partners including Mars Inc., Tyson Foods and insect companies as Aspire Food Groups, Protix and Beta Hatch Inc, are signing up to the research alliance as well.
Insect farming has been identified as a practical, economical, environmentally sound and sustainable method for producing high-value protein, argues the Texas A&M team.
Jeff Tomberlin of the Department of Entomology and Del Gatlin of the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology will lead the center on the Texas A&M campus; they said the research will explore new avenues to produce food either for direct human consumption or as feed for livestock, poultry and aquaculture.
Insect farming represents a burgeoning link in the global food supply chain and has the potential to strengthen and compliment traditional protein production in an efficient and environmentally friendly way, believes Tomberlin.
“Insect farming has the potential to relieve some of the pressure on our increasing agro-industrial systems across the globe.”
Incorporating insect protein into feed for fish, poultry and pork production will reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint, including land and water use, waste and pollution emissions, he continued.
Insects like crickets and mealworms have shown promise as a high-protein food option for people, he added.
“Insect farming is a relatively new concept in the US, but the significance of its potential is widely recognized throughout the world. It is relevant to all livestock and agriculture production, and for Texas A&M to be the central site for this center is enormous for us as an institution.”
The researchers will engage interdisciplinary expertise in microbiology, engineering, chemistry, food nutrition, physiology and biology with cutting edge technologies in labs and in the field to fill scientific and industrial gaps related to insect farming.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists will examine optimization in production and development of food as well as feed products for poultry, swine, aquaculture and pets, while the IUPUI and MSU team will target genetics and quality assurances related to microbiology, respectively.