30 Apr, 2018

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Insects can be used to make feed for livestock
In 2017, Michigan State University’s Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) awarded partners at Michigan State University (MSU), LUANAR, and the University of Malawi, College of Medicine (COM) a grant to support “inception stage” partnership activities. The collaborative partnership aims to improve food security in Sub-Saharan Africa by safely using insects as a novel feed and food stock for livestock (including fish) and humans, and assess the implications of this alternative protein to health.

The project is being coordinated at LUANAR by Professor Jeremiah Kang’ombe in the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries Science, in collaboration with Dr. Andy Safalaoh in Animal Science and Dr. Kingsley Masamba in Food Science and Technology (FST). At COM, the project is led by Dr. Arox Kamng’ona. At MSU the project is being coordinated by Dr. Jennifer Pechal in the Department of Entomology and Dr. M. Eric Benbow in the Department of Entomology and Department of Osteopathic Medical Specialties.

The unpredictable rains have significantly declined crop production, and limited crop resources that can be reliably allocated for livestock feed or human consumption. Additionally, it is very clear that protein intake is limited in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, which leads to malnutrition; thus, there is a need for both livestock and humans to have sustainable, direct and affordable access to protein. Insects as feed is a comprehensive approach to increase food yield quantity and quality through sustainable intensification. The research explores the use, optimisation, and perception of farming insects for protein-rich livestock feed and human food.

Fly larvae of certain insects can feed on decomposing organic matter (e.g., pre- or post-consumer waste) and result in insects that are high in protein or lipids. Larvae of certain species can also reduce associated bacterial populations through direct consumption or antimicrobial secretions (safety of using insect protein) in the decomposing waste material, where these larvae develop into adults. Once the larvae reach a specific life stage they can be dried and milled for use as a novel feed for livestock, poultry, and aquaculture. We are also exploring the role of native insects as human food through direct consumption.

The proposed novel application of insects as an alternative protein source is a transformative area for agriculture-based research with the aim of improving food security and meeting global sustainable development goals. This innovated approach comes at a time when there is uncertainty in local crop availability. Thus far, it has been a continual learning process for all partners to balance equitable, respectful and intellectual input towards the project in a meaningful and productive way. We have established open and transparent lines of communication within the collaborative group to build upon our successes. Additionally, this research provides an opportunity to build partnership and network across African and US institutions and individuals for internal training and capacity building. This partnership also provides an opportunity to secure external funding to promote research and enhance the livelihood for individuals that would implement these techniques using insects.