Firm raises hope of small scale farmers and millers with protein-rich insect product

By Clifford Akumu


With the global urban population expected to grow approximately 1.84 per cent per year between 2015 and 2020 putting pressure on food production among cities, there is need to put more effort on agricultural production for sustainable development.

The growth is expected to further worsen the growing scarcity of protein-rich resources used in feed production by millers and small scale farmers such as fishmeal (omena), cotton seed cake, sunflower meal and soybeans, that is already consumed as food by human.

To bridge that gap, researchers have found the solution in insect protein that offer an important replacement for expensive protein sources from fish or plants used in aquaculture and poultry production.

Insects add more value to the feed and food basket thanks to high nutrition component and as a source of income to those venturing in the innovative agriculture sector.

Sanergy-a Nairobi based waste and sanitation outfit, has joined in the production of insect based protein ingredient that is geared towards supporting this crucial sector through mass rearing of black soldier fly.

After championing a revolution in the waste management in the slums of Nairobi, the firm has set its eye on curving a niche in the animal feed sector with a product it calls ‘PureProtein’ set to be rolled out next year.

“The main aim of the product is to empower the average farmer who are the drivers of the food basket. We have already done the ground work for large production and what remains is the roll out which we intend to start next year” said Edith Karimi senior communications officer, Sanergy.

With technical and capacity building support from the South African based-AgriProtein, the firm has developed what it says will revolutionise livestock feed industry in Kenya.

“We want to be the leader in the production of a consistent and high quality raw materials that will benefit both farmers and feed millers by investing in the use of sustainable resources like the black soldier fly” said Karimi.

Some of the most promising insect species for industrial production of feed includes; Black Soldier Fly(BSF), the common housefly, the yellow mealworm, the lesser mealworm, silkworms (Bombyx mori), and several grasshopper species.

Prohibitive costs, seasonality and adulteration of fishmeal, for example, she continues, are some of the major constrain hampering growth of the livestock feed sector in East Africa.

Animal feeds account for 70% of production costs and, therefore, have a significant effect on the farmers’ production costs and profits.

With per capita meat consumption in high-income countries expected to increase by 9% in 2030 a phenomenon that will subsequently result in increase in the demand for coarse grain as feed for livestock, producers must look into alternative sources for increased production.

Relying on a sustainable sources of protein such as insects, such as black soldier fly, will meet the nutritional needs for those in the manufacturing industry of animal feeds.

In Kenya, most feed millers depend on fishmeal but the current consumption of dagaa(omena) is about 650,000 tonnes but what is produced locally is about 400,000 tonnes meaning the protein resource is already overstretched.

“Pureprotein will benefit chicken, fish and pig farmers” said Karimi.

In 2011, combined world feed production was estimated at 870 million tonnes, with revenue from global commercial feed manufacturing generating approximately US$350 billion. Food and Agriculture Organisation projects that production will have to increase by 70% to be able to feed the world in 2050, as meat and fish outputs are expected to double.

Through a project funded by International Research Development Centre (IDRC) the Nairobi-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) is conducting various research on insects geared towards providing a solution to the undernourishment in the African region, because they reproduce quickly, and are valuable sources of protein, minerals and vitamins.

Dr. Komi Fiaboe, senior scientist with ICIPE explains that rearing insects for feed and food are founded on the high feed conversion efficiency, ability to emit fewer greenhouse gases and significantly require less land to rear.

Fiaboe explains that rate of multiplication, ease to rear and faster maturity and cheap protein are some of the features for insects for feed production.

“For feed purposes we need insects that multiply quickly and matures very fast, while for food we go for delicious and bigger insects which might take longer to grow. The priority right now is to create a vibrant colony that is able to create jobs for small scale farmers.” said Fiaboe.

BSF contains more protein content in the dry matter compared to the conventional ingredients used in manufacturing livestock feeds.

“Whereas Omena contains 40.3% Crude Protein (CP) content in the Dry Matter (DM), Black Soldier Flies’s Larva (Hermetia illucens) contains about 49.3% CP in DM making it more viable” explained Fiaboe, who is also the leader, Insects for Food, Feed and other Uses(INSEFF)Programme.

The insects, Fiaboe adds, play a significant role in bio-conversion of organic waste into bio-fertiliser while contributing to sustainable management of the environment. “Studies show that BSF have biomass conversion of over 50% – rate to re-usable, less pathogen filled residue thus creating a safer environment”

“As other resources are constantly getting deplete, waste on the other hand is not likely to run out, so we invest in the sustainability and use the resources we have” added Karimi.

The black soldier fly, has a gestation period of four weeks. According to Karimi, the firm collects about 330 kilos of black soldier fly pre-pupa stage every month.

“At Sanergy we give emphasis on the pre-pupa stage since this is the stage with high content of pure protein and fatty acids which farmers need for their animals. But the rest, we let them mature and take them back to the cages to retain our colony” she said.

BSF do not like laying eggs in places with light, so for a better return for investment, there is need to provide the insects with a dark laying material.

“After every two days the baskets are emptied and are taken to another place where they can hatch into the larvae.”

In Uganda for example, poultry feeds account for nearly 80% of all feeds, followed by dairy feeds (20%). Feeds of other types include Hog meal, Rabbit pellets and Hound meal. Vitamins and mineral premixes are imported from Europe and Kenya and the other ingredients are obtained from local suppliers.

With 5% of aquaculture farmers in the co rely on termites for feeding fish either by collecting the termites directly or purchasing them from collectors and there is a huge prospect for exploiting other insect species for use in fish meal.

“We have initiated similar projects on insects for food and feed in Uganda. We want to cover the whole of East Africa” Fiaboe added.

A socio-economic survey conducted by ICIPE this year in Kisii, Nakuru, Nyeri and Nairobi towns indicated that most feed millers used dubious means to increase protein content in their feed formulation.

“In other parts of the country people were even using growth hormones on the feeds for chicken” noted Fiaboe.

Although the two countries lack standards and policy on animal feed production affording feed millers leeway in adulterating the products, Fiaboe is optimistic that soon, a silver bullet to this would be in place.

“Setting standards will rid quacks who involve in bad rearing, bad processing of the insect and also open markets for feed millers across the region” noted Fiaboe adding that progress is being made in the two countries.

In its bid to extract value from waste, Sanergy is conducting advocacy at all levels on the benefits of waste.

“We want to invest in value chains that work, there are viable markets for waste and really we are creating solutions that will work for the communities” concluded Karimi.

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