Expanding market opportunities for enterprises that rear insects for animal feed

A woman and her child inspect equipment.
Makerere University

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the world will have to produce 200 million tonnes more meat by 2050 to feed the predicted world population of 9.1 billion people. This growth calls for the development of cost-effective and socially and environmentally sustainable protein sources for animal feed. Advocates are promoting insects such as black soldier flies (which are natural feed sources for poultry, fish, and pigs across sub-Saharan Africa) to sustainably replace expensive fishmeal and soybean protein sources.

Phase 1 of the INSFEED project established a strong scientific basis and demonstrated technical feasibility, economic profitability, and established standards to promote and guide the use of insects in animal feed in Kenya and Uganda. This second phase builds on these achievements to test and review production scaling models and market opportunities for smallholders, develop insect-nutrient and cost-benefit analyses, and explore the possibility of mass insect rearing to provide waste management solutions in Kenya and Uganda.

Emerging outcomes

Insect-rearing incubation training

Since January 2019, 1,294 farmers completed a five-day, hands-on incubation course on all aspects of black soldier fly farming. Of those trained, 356 farmers are already rearing black soldier flies in Kenya and 37 insect-based enterprises were established that produce up to 3 tonnes of black soldier flies weekly. The Kenyan insect-rearing enterprises InsectiPro Ltd and Ecodudu Ltd are processing, packaging, and marketing the farmers’ dried black soldier flies to four local feed millers.

In Kenya’s Bungoma, Kiambu, Nyandarua, and Siaya counties, youth groups with approximately 60 members each are participating in insect enterprise incubation. Furthermore, to assess and monitor the economic benefits of black soldier fly production, 45 farmers from Kiambu county were randomly selected, trained, and received starter kits (consisting of an adult fly cage, 15 plastic polystack containers, and 3-5 kg of five-day-old black soldier fly larvae). Each farmer will be monitored for at least 12 months and household income data will be collected and analyzed for evidence-based decision-making to optimize community production.

Optimizing nutrition and performance

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya and Makerere University in Uganda developed and tested 28 black soldier fly substrate recipes using urban wastes, such as brewers’ spent grains and fruit and poultry processing wastes, to enhance the nutritional attributes of the insects. When black soldier flies were reared on the optimized substrate recipes, their crude protein level increased by approximately 16% when compared to the basic single substrate feeding. The fat content of the flies also increased, achieving a good balance of amino acids. These nutrient qualities are comparable to those of fishmeal and superior to plant-based animal feeds. The development time for black soldier flies to reach the size required for mass production was also reduced by approximately half when the optimized substrate recipes were used (reduced from three weeks and longer to 10-12 days).

In collaboration with the Kenyan feed miller enterprise Treasure Feeds Ltd, ICIPE also developed and tested insect-based feed formulations for fish, pigs, and poultry. Diets that included 25% black soldier fly larval meal were found to be the most suitable in terms of chick and grower performance. Chicken layers fed on this diet produced a significantly higher number of eggs with better shell and yolk quality, and a higher profit margin than those fed on conventional fishmeal feeds. Broiler chickens and pigs that were nourished with insect-based feeds also reached market size earlier than those nourished with fishmeal feeds. When catfish were fed diets with 50% and 75% black soldier fly larvae meal, they were much heavier and their crude protein content increased from 65-75% and 72%, respectively.

An opportunity for organic fertilizer

The effects of black soldier fly feces or “frass” fertilizer on the growth, yield, and nitrogen-use efficiency of French beans, kale, maize, and tomatoes were established under screenhouse and open field conditions in central Kenya. Open field plots treated with black soldier fly frass fertilizers increased maize grain yields by 6% when compared to other fertilizers. The application of black soldier fly fertilizer at a rate of 100 kg/ha also increased maize nitrogen uptake by 39% when compared to SAFI (another organic fertilizer product) and by 21% compared to plots treated with urea (chemical fertilizer). Increased nitrogen uptake improves soil health and enhances crop growth. These results are encouraging Kenyan sanitation and waste management companies, such as Sanergy Ltd, to start processing frass-based organic fertilizers and biofuel briquette products for commercialization.