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University flies in to take part in new animal feed study

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A black soldier fly
A black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) - which could be used as an ingredient in animal feed. Picture by Emilie Devic.

THE University of Stirling is taking part in a new EU-funded project – investigating how FLIES (or insect larvae) could become the basis for future animal feeds.

PhD student Emilie Devic, from the University’s Institute of Aquaculture (currently based in Ghana, West Africa) said: “Flies – often considered something of a household nuisance - have the potential to become a cost-effective and novel source of protein for livestock and fish feeds in the future.”

The three-year €3 million PROteINSECT project, launched earlier this year, is being led by the UK based Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), working together with an international consortium of partners from  Europe, Asia and Africa.

Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture brings its expertise to the project by carrying out insect-based feed trials in conjunction with a commercial  tilapia (fish) farming company  partner in Ghana, and also in UK with a commercial fish bait manufacturer near Hull.

The Institute’s Professor David Little said: “With an increasing global population and a rise in meat and fish consumption in many developing countries, there is a need to investigate alternative sources of protein for use in livestock and commercial fish feeds."

Will Leschen, who is coordinating the Institute’s contribution to the project as part of a focus on Africa, said: “Europe’s high demand for livestock feed protein is currently largely met though imported soya and increasingly expensive fish meals and oils. However, insect larvae have the potential to be utilised  effectively as a natural ingredient in high-protein livestock feeds.”

Elaine Fitches,  FERA Project Coordinator,said: “PROteINSECT is focusing its research efforts on insect larvae not only for their ability to grow rapidly on a range of organic wastes, but also because there is already considerable expertise in their  rearing in countries such as Mali, Ghana and China. PROteINSECT provides us with the opportunity to work in partnership to exchange and build on existing expertise and improve methods suitable for both local and commercial scale production.

“With three billion extra mouths to feed by 2050, the need to improve the efficient use of land for protein production and the effective recycling and utilisation of waste materials has never been greater.”

Although there is growing European interest in insects as a novel source of human food, the PROtecINSECT project is focussing solely on its potential use and value in creating livestock and fish feeds.

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