Insect farming is not a new concept, but it is gaining momentum as a sustainable and scalable solution for the animal feed industry. Insects are the most abundant and diverse group of animals on the planet, and they have a lot to offer in terms of nutrition, sustainability, and circularity. Insects can convert organic waste into high-quality protein with minimal water, land, and energy use, and they can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and biodiversity loss caused by the livestock sector, which accounts for 14.5% of global human-induced emissions.
Insect protein can also help meet the growing demand for animal feed and human food, as the world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, and the consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products is projected to increase by 70%. Insect protein can provide a more sustainable and cost-effective alternative to soybean meal and fishmeal, which are the main sources of protein for livestock and aquaculture, but are associated with environmental and social issues, such as land degradation, overfishing, and human rights violations.
However, insect farming is not without its challenges. One of the main barriers is the lack of large-scale production facilities that can produce insect protein at a competitive price and quality. This is where technology comes in. Insect start-ups are using advanced technologies, such as AI-powered robots, sensors, and data analytics, to optimize the growth and harvesting of insects in large-scale facilities. These technologies can help automate and monitor the insect production process, reduce labor costs, increase efficiency, and ensure consistency and traceability.
For example, Protix, a Dutch insect company, has built the world’s largest insect farm, which can produce up to 10,000 tons of insect protein per year. The farm uses robots to feed and harvest the insects, and sensors to measure the temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels in the insect containers. The farm also uses data analytics to optimize the insect growth and quality, and to reduce the waste and emissions.
Another example is Enterra, a Canadian insect company, which uses AI to control the feeding and breeding of black soldier fly larvae, which can consume up to 130 tons of food waste per day. The company uses a proprietary algorithm to adjust the amount and type of food waste that the larvae eat, based on their nutritional needs and preferences. The company also uses a robotic system to separate the larvae from the waste, and to process them into insect protein and oil.
Insect farming is attracting significant investments from big agriculture companies, such as Cargill, ADM, and Bühler, who see the potential of insect protein to disrupt the animal feed industry. These companies are partnering with insect start-ups to co-develop and co-market insect products, and to expand the insect production capacity and distribution network. They are also supporting the development of regulatory frameworks and consumer awareness for insect products, which are still lacking in many markets.
Insect farming is not only a solution for the future, but also a solution for the present. It can help address some of the most pressing challenges we face today, such as food security, climate change, and waste management. Insect farming is also a potential source of income and livelihood for smallholder farmers, especially in developing countries, where insects are already part of the local diet and culture. Insects are rich in protein, iron, zinc, calcium, and essential fatty acids, and they can help diversify our diets and prevent malnutrition.
– Why companies are racing to build the world’s biggest bug farm, by Nicolás Rivero, The Washington Post, November 12, 2023
– Why we need to give insects the role they deserve in our food systems, by Antoine Hubert, World Economic Forum, November 12, 2023
– Securing Our Future Food Economy And Sustainability With Insect Farming, by Jackie Abramian, Forbes, September 2, 2021
– Insect Farming: The Sustainable Future of Food Production, by Earth.Org, November 25, 2022