Will insect farming ever become mainstream?

Animal Nutrition Views

Dr. Ioannis Mavromichalis is an animal nutritionist holding graduate degrees from Kansas State University (MSc) and University of Illinois (PhD). He is the Principal of Ariston Nutrition Consulting International. He may be contacted at [email protected]. See all author stories and blogs.

Will insect farming ever become mainstream?

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Some experts believe the concept of insect farming is just a fad.

Insect farming for protein and fat inclusion in farm animal feeds has been making much noise during the past few of years. So many startups and pilot projects along with much research have created the impression that insect-based ingredients are already a staple ingredient in animal feeds – or, at least, they are about the make their big debut worldwide, and save the day.

In fact, the truth is that insect farming is still in its infancy, if only because there has not been enough funding (or interest) to take pilot efforts of startup companies to commercial scale. Beyond that, research is already there supporting the use of insects as a valuable part of future animal feeds. Thus, the question is, why there is not much interest in commercializing this concept fast enough?

Some experts believe the whole concept of insect farming is just a fad that will soon pass as it has been pushed mainly by political/social interests and not genuine farming backing. Some even go a step further, comparing insect farming with lab-grown meat equivalents, or even plant-based meat imitation products. The idea is that all such concepts are fashion/time related and will soon disappear like so many other interesting ideas.

There is also a group of animal nutrition professionals that question the marketability of food products produced by animals fed insects. I do not need to elaborate here, but there is enough bad press about our business out there and many interested groups that look for another opportunity to talk against us. The question is whether consumers will be willing to buy foods produced by insect feeding. We must keep in mind that the general public is far removed from any agricultural background, and save the few fashion-driven individual groups, the majority are looking for safety and low cost when it comes to their foods.

What is my insignificant opinion? I tend to lean toward insect farming becoming a good concept that will fail at the commercial end of it – like so many others. And, this is why I have opted not to get involved much with it, but I have been asked about my opinion several times, and now you have it.

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Dear Dr. Mavromichalis (and other interested stakeholders).

I have been part of the insect sector for 8 years (almost since it started at the vision level back in 2012). Within the last 1-2 years there has been a massive increase in the number of insect farming companies and end-users that are moving fast forward on commercializing production and refining products for particularly feed and pet food. Currently, huge production facility projects are undergoing construction in most part of the world and the commercial age of this young sector has kicked-off. You already find insects on classic trade shows like VIV and Eurotier; and this will only increase in the coming years. So my humble suggestion is to ‘stay tuned’

Best regards,
Lars Heckmann, Head of Business Development, PhD

N.Roskam says:

It is not a question IF insect will become mainstream, but more a question WHEN it will become mainstream.
As an independant consultant for Black Soldier Fly production in Africa, Europe and Latin America, I see a huge increase in the amount of startups and new technological solutions.
The main issue in this industry is access to feedstock and creating a market. Until now, the global production has been relatively low, resulting in feed companies having few access to insect proteins, but I foresee a huge increase in demand once volumes increase from multiple producers to supply multiple feed companies.
Meanwhile, small farmers are more aware of the benefits for self-consumption to reduce their rising feed cost for their aquaculture and poultry. The symbiosis of insect farming with additional agricultural activities, can be seen as a win-win for farmers or producers of waste.