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Insect meal helps urban poverty, poultry farmers in Kenya

Insects grown on human waste are proving to be a valuable source of protein for the East African nation’s poultry farmers, as well as improving sanitary conditions for slum dwellers.

Paulrommer SL |

Insects grown on human waste are proving to be a valuable source of protein for the East African nation’s poultry farmers, as well as improving sanitary conditions for slum dwellers.

In many parts of the world, traditional feed ingredients are rising in price as the result of many factors — including climate change and less reliable weather patterns — making animal products such as meat, milk and eggs less affordable for local people. As a result, feed manufacturers are seeking out alternative raw materials, with insect meals showing particular promise. Providing safety issues are appropriately managed, the rapid growth and multiplication of the huge variety of insect species offer plentiful opportunities for researchers to explore this potential further.

Kenya-based company Sanergy has developed a solution to help solve two pressing global issues — a shortage of affordable protein, and the health of poor people living in cities — and it is achieving these aims by using human waste as a substrate to grow fly larvae to be included in poultry feeds.

Not only has the insect meal feed doubled the laying rate of the hens, their eggs are larger and have yellower yolks, one poultry farmer told Reuters.

The insect meal is made from black soldier fly larvae, which leave behind a valuable fertilizer after growing for 10 days at an organics recycling factory near to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

As well as producing the feed ingredient and fertilizer, the process helps improve sanitation in poor areas of the city.

Key to the process is the fly larva substrate, which comprises food waste from hotels and agribusinesses, and human waste. The waste is collected regularly by one of Sanergy’s waste management franchisees. The slum dwellers pay a small fee to use the franchise’s toilets, which already number 2,500 for 100,000 people.

Sanergy has plans to expand the recycling plant, increasing its output of larvae from 7 metric tons (mt) to 300 mt per month, and 400 mt of fertilizer.

According to the company’s website, Sanergy began in 2009 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), when co-founders David Auerbach, Lindsay Stradley, and Ani Vallabhaneni were assigned to overcome a challenge facing at least 1 billion poor people around the world. Their solution was to develop a full value chain approach to addressing the sanitation crisis in urban slums. Today, the Nairobi, Kenya-based firm has more than 250 employees.

Insect meal has potential as protein source in livestock feeds in Africa

Poultry have been shown to perform well on insect meal as a source of protein, and its potential is highest as a feed ingredient when the cost of conventional raw materials is high.

This year, a shortage of corn was blamed for a rise in compound feed prices in Kenya.

This situation has not improved, and in early June, KBC reported that animal feed prices were soon to hit a three-year high as corn stocks look likely to run out by the end of this month.

Feed companies were again calling on the government to release corn stocks and permit tariff-free imports. More than 50 animal feed companies have already halted operations because of the corn shortage.

Exacerbating the corn shortage in Kenya are the late arrival of seasonal rains, breakdowns in large irrigation systems, reduced subsidies for fertilizer use, and crop damage caused by the fall armyworm.

Just last month, it was reported that French biotech company Cycle Farms has launched its first facility for the production of insect meal in Ghana. Researchers in the West African state had identified insect meal as a feasible, safe and cost-effective source of protein for livestock, and a cheaper alternative to fishmeal and soybean meal.

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