Insects: Nutrient rich fish and poultry feed

Researchers in Eastern Africa have identified insect species suitable for use in fish and poultry feed which are nutritionally superior to fishmeal. Using accessible techniques, insects can be sustainably mass reared, providing a unique opportunity for the economic empowerment of youth and women.

16 insect species are being reared and harvested, including Black Soldier flies ©<i>icipe</i>

In Kenya and Uganda, a multi-funded research initiative is developing nutritionally superior insect-based feeds for sustainable, safe and cost-effective poultry and fish production. Scientists involved in the Insect feed for poultry and fish production in sub-Saharan Africa (INSFEED) project, led by icipe in Kenya and Makerere University in Uganda, have identified 16 insect species with higher levels of crude protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals than are currently available in fishmeal used for fish and poultry feed.

Across much of sub-Saharan Africa, poultry and fish industries are among the fastest growing agri-business sectors. Such growth represents a good opportunity for smallholder farmers to increase their income, but as demand for animal products rises, so too does the necessity for quality animal feed. With livestock feed accounting for 60-70% of total production costs, the high cost of silverfish used in feeds is threatening the survival of the fish and poultry sectors.

With the help of private sector feed companies, market potential was assessed for insect-based feeds; farmer interviews revealed 91% of poultry farmers and 85% of fish farmers are willing to use insects in feed. In response, the INSFEED project has trained more than 75 farmers and young agripreneurs in insect mass rearing using sustainable, accessible and cost-effective techniques, such as harvesting the locally abundant blue Calliphora fly.

According to INSFEED results, a 5% replacement of fishmeal within poultry feed in Kenya alone would require around 32,000 t of dry insects, and the engagement of young agripreneurs is key to meeting the necessary volumes for this venture. In Kenya, a partner research project – the Metro AgriFood Living Lab – is supporting young people to launch their own business ventures, with many interested in insect rearing. Since 2015, training has been provided to help 35 young people produce quality business proposals in order to attract funding from banks and microfinance institutions, enhancing youths’ access to resources, markets and income.

“What excites me most about this project is the huge potential it holds for job opportunities among the youth,” enthuses INSFEED project coordinator, Dr Komi Fiaboe. Also heading the project is Dr Dorothy Nakimbugwe who says of public engagement, “It is especially exciting to hear the public’s enthusiasm and interest in the project on local radio programmes. A common request is, ‘I want to rear and use insects, where can I get them?’”

Following various successful stakeholder meetings in Kenya to promote insect inclusion in livestock feed, the National Livestock Feed Committee prepared and released a draft standard for public review on the use of insect-based feed in January 2017. In Uganda, the National Livestock Feed Committee is working on amending the feed standard to integrate insects as part of the revised draft.

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Sophie Reeve

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.