F&A Alternative Proteins Edition

ARTICLE 58 F&A Alternative Proteins Edition April 2023 “Insect meal is a valuable source of micronutrients that are important for fish health and performance. Insects are rich in a range of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, such as iron, calcium, and zinc. These nutrients are important for a number of physiological processes in fish, such as bone formation, immune function, and energy metabolism. For example, BSFL meals contain 5-9 % calcium.” A rapidly growing aquaculture industry is providing multiple commercial options for insect meal’s potential for use. The focus of these meals tends to be on the protein component but we often forget that fish in the wild use insects as a complete diet. Insect meal is a complex ingredient that can be used in ways that better match its role in natural systems, than simple a protein source. Fish in the wild obtain the nutrients they need for growth and survival from a variety of food sources, a significant source being insects. Insects provide fish with a rich source of protein, essential for body growth and maintenance. Freshwater trout, for example, have been found to feed almost exclusively on insects ranging from mayflies to chironomid fly larvae. Besides protein, insects also provide fish with essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fat. For example, some insects are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are needed for maintaining healthy cell membranes and supporting proper brain function. To specific insects, Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae are most often used in animal feed due to their high protein content, but they also contain other beneficial nutrients such as essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, including carotenoids like astaxanthin which has potent antioxidant properties and is commonly used as a dietary supplement. Overall, insects play a vital role in wild fish species' diets and are a crucial part of the aquatic food web. MAKING CHITIN WORK Insect meal is a highly digestible and palatable protein source for fish that has a similar amino acid profile to fish meal. However, in addition to its protein content, insect meal contains a range of other important nutrients that can benefit fish health and performance including chitin. Chitin is an often-misunderstood component of insect meal, while the science is still out on many aspects of it, evidence is increasingly pointing to positive elements of chitin. Chitin is a unique nutrient that has a number of positive effects on fish health, digestive capacity and boosting immune function. One of its most important functions is as a prebiotic, which means INSECT PROTEIN MEAL; A HOLISTIC NUTRITION Davis Fundi Ireri Nutritionist & Research and Development Manager Nutrition Technologies