“As the Danish great physicist Niels Bohr said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” But I have no doubt the insect sector has a key role to play in the future to provide sustainable and alternative protein on the food and feed market, along with other alternative proteins such as algae and single cells.”
The growing world population as well as accompanying problems such as food safety and sustainability force people to constantly find new resources. For example; with the increasing demand for alternative proteins, insects have become extremely popular among these new sources. Insect-based proteins, which can be regarded as a marginal solution, are talked about much more in both human and animal nutrition today.
We wanted to discuss this issue in detail in the March issue of Feed & Additive Magazine. Our special guest on the subject is Mrs. Anne Deguerry, who has been the President of Asian Food and Feed Insect Association (AFFIA) since 2017. Mrs. Deguerry is Co-founder and Executive Committee member of AFFIA, as well as director and shareholder of the BSF farming company Entofood (Malaysia).
Mrs. Deguerry, who has made great efforts along with her fellow committee members for the development of the Asian insect sector, emphasizes in our interview that insects have a more nutritious effect compared to other protein sources and offer a much more sustainable production opportunity.
We talked to Anne Deguerry, who believes that the insect industry will play a key role in our future, about many issues; from insects used in the feed industry to the contribution of insect-based proteins to sustainability and their role in our lives in the future. We get the details from Mrs. Deguerry.
Mrs. Deguerry, first of all, could you please give us some information about your association? For what purpose was AFFIA established? Who are the members of it and what kind of work do you do?
The Asian Food and Feed Insect Association is a non-profit organisation, which was established in 2016 by a group of stakeholders in SE Asia. The aim is to represent the interest of its members from the insects as food and feed sector across Asia.
Our two main goals are:
• To strengthen the Asian insect sector through a collaborative platform on knowledge sharing, on promotion, on applicable rules and regulations, and on visibility of the Asian insect industry and research, in the global picture.
• To develop good practises in the sector for Asian stakeholders, in conjunction with collaboration with relevant Asian authorities.
Why have insects or insect-based proteins become so important? Why are we talking about insects more in both human and animal nutrition?
Actually, what became really important is the need in alternative protein triggered by a combination of factors: the increase of world population and hence of global consumption, the depletion of marine resources including forage fish, and traditional protein production’s high environmental impact on land, on water resources, and in terms of carbon footprint.
Insects as food and as feed are nutrient efficient compared to other protein sources, well-balanced in protein, amino-acids, healthy fatty acids and vitamins, while their production is much more sustainable.
What is the global acceptability of using insects in human and animal nutrition? In which regions are insects more widely accepted as a food or raw material, and which regions have a more negative approach? For example, what is the prevalence of the usage of insects in the Asian region?
Worldwide, insects are part of the natural food chain and diet of many species of birds, reptiles, and fishes. Therefore, they should be considered as a natural ingredient, and they are very well-accepted as feedstock.
Insects are also commonly eaten around the world and in some places, it is considered as a delicacy, especially in Asia, Africa, and South America. The Mopane worm in central and southern Africa, crickets in Cambodia, and several insects in Mexico are all examples of regional species that play an important role in the culture and diets of local people.
In Southeast Asia, there are disparities; insects’ consumption is widely spread in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar for example, whereas in countries like Malaysia, the entomophagy is more regional. Thus, the Sago worms are broadly eaten in East Malaysia states, Sarawak and Sabah, but not on peninsular Malaysia.
It is quite difficult to measure the prevalence of usage of insects in the Asian region as the data are not available. However, in the wealthiest and urbanized countries like Singapore, the trend followed what happened in western countries: insects as food are now considered as high-end and trendy sustainable products.
What kind of predictions does the current situation offer you for the future? What role will insects play in our lives in the future according to your opinion?
As the Danish great physicist Niels Bohr said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” But I have no doubt the insect sector has a key role to play in the future to provide sustainable and alternative protein on the food and feed market, along with other alternative proteins such as algae and single cells.
Can you also talk a little about the insect species / insect-based proteins used in animal feed? Which insects / insect proteins are used for which animal species?
Globally, the insects as feed sector focuses mainly on two species: The Black Solder Fly (BSF or Hermetia illucens) and to a lesser extent the Yellow Mealworm (Tenebrio molitor), the latter not being produced in Asia for feed. Actually, BSF offers many advantages: it is a worldwide species, with a wide feeding regime and a short life cycle. BSF is not a pest and the yields are high.
From BSF farming, the available products are: live larvae, dried larvae, defatted BSF meal, and BSF oil. The two latter, BSF meal and BSF oil can be integrated in compound feed for many species, from poultry to fish, from shrimps to pets. Many studies have already been published in the scientific literature. Many trials have been achieved by insect producing companies, research centres, and even feed companies. Insect can be considered as a valuable feed ingredient.
How are insect-based proteins different from other proteins? How do they contribute to animal nutrition in terms of nutritional value, productivity and health?
Insect proteins vary greatly from one species to another, but also from one stage of development to another – larva vs. adult, and also depending on their diet. They are often compared to fishmeal or soybean meal because they are the two most used sources of protein in animal feed.
In general, insects have a lower protein rate than fishmeal (40-60%), but not all insect proteins are equal and the Amino Acid (AA) composition is very taxon dependent. Coleoptera and Orthoptera have an essential AA profile closer to soybean and Diptera, like BSF, closer to fishmeal and is better balanced than soybean meal.
There are many studies, which demonstrate that including insect meal promotes growth and can improve the health of farm animals. Animal welfare can also be stimulated by live insects inducing natural behaviour. Nutritionally, although insect protein differs from fishmeal, it generally meets the needs of poultry and aqua species very well. Insect meal is one of the ingredients used in the compound feed of various species. It is valuable to complete the food and balance it to meet the needs of the animal.
How will insects contribute to sustainability in livestock and animal food production? What are the future promises of the insect industry for sustainable production?
The environmental benefits of insect farming toward a sustainable production are: It uses less land and water, greenhouse gas emissions are lower, the feed conversion ratio is high, and last but not least, insect farming has a bioconversion potential: insects can transform low-value organic by-products into high-quality food or feed, creating a circular economy loop; hence they reach and even exceed market expectations.
What is the current production amount of the insect industry? How much of this can meet the demand in the feed industry?
The feed industry is a huge market. Insect production is today still marginal, but it is gaining momentum. It should be mentioned that in Southeast Asia, funding for insect farming is less important than in Europe or in North America, hence, the development of the sector is slower. However, the insect as feed sector is strengthening. The industrial projects are meeting the feed industry in terms of quantity, quality, and price. As I mentioned earlier, insect protein production is part of alternative protein production, promoting circular economy and sustainability. The time for change is now.