“Targeted research that will demonstrate the nutritional, environmental and economic advantages of insect farming will be key to maximizing the contribution of the insect sector to the EU Green Deal ambitions and overarching UN Agenda 2030,” commented Dr Teun Veldkamp, senior researcher, insects as feed and food, Wageningen University & Research, within a new report from IPIFF.
In terms of expanding the range of potential raw materials to rear insects, the publication released by the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) outlines how “widening the possibilities of using new substrates will play a key role in enhancing the circularity of insect production, helping European insect farms to reach their full potential. The inclusion of former foodstuffs containing meat and fish, followed by catering waste, will be an essential pillar – such materials, not suitable for other farmed animals are better upcycled by insect bioconversion. To complement the increasing demand for protein in both human food and animal feed, these ‘yet unauthorized’ substrates would enable the European insect sector to reach the expected level of production.”
The organization said that aligning the current legislative framework with the on-site realities of insect farms and the unique ability of insects to upcycle such materials remains a priority for the European insect sector.
The future for frass
Since autumn 2021, when the EU-27 voted on the first baseline standards for insect frass processing, farmers across the continent have the possibility to incorporate frass in their crop fertilization strategies, reported IPIFF.
Insect frass is – from a quantitative point of view – the main output generated by insect farming activities, according to IPIFF. Similar to compost or other types of animal manure, frass contains relevant nutrients and micronutrients, as well as chitin, which could stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in soil, said the trade body.
The IPIFF’s report highlights the current volatility of the global mineral fertilizer market and how crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the unlawful military aggression of Russia in Ukraine will further affect the global supply and demand for such products. “Thus, diversifying the spectrum of locally produced soil amendments will reduce the dependency on imported minerals. In the search for more sustainable alternatives, organic fertilizing materials - such as insect frass - are presently considered a complementary solution. The reuse of insect frass in agriculture will improve the circularity of the insect producing industry. Moreover, building on the recent studies in the past years, a complete research-based characterization of this by-product would contribute to certifying its excellent fertilizing potential – while also generating a complementary revenue for insect producers.”
In the context of functional food, supplements and tailored animal feed, further evidence correlating the inclusion of insects in the human or animal diet with concrete benefits is needed, said the trade group.
The release for further findings into the immunostimulatory and antioxidant properties of insect-derived feed ingredients would facilitate higher inclusion of insect based feed in the diet of pigs and poultry species, while also reducing the use of certain supplements like vitamins as well as antibiotics, according to IPIFF, with it noting that such an approach would make animal farming more cost efficient and sustainable.