Insect-based food project expands at Aberystwyth University

Scientists at Aberystwyth University are looking at insects as a potentially valuable source of animal feed.

Researchers at the University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) have been awarded European funding to build on their research into insects as a source of food for people.

The work is part of ‘ValuSect’, an international project which aims to improve the sustainable production and processing of insect-based products.

Insects are a common feature of people’s everyday diets in countries around the world, such as Mexico, China and Ghana. They offer a more environmentally friendly source of protein than many other foods, and could help feed the world’s growing population.

To date, the project has been studying crickets, grasshoppers and yellow mealworms as human food. The grant will see the black soldier fly species (Hermetia Illucens) added to the research menu and extends the work to look at using insect products in animal feed.

Professor Alison Kingston-Smith, who leads the ValuSect research at Aberystwyth University, said: “This grant is an excellent boost for the project. Insects have a big potential as a food source for both people and animals. With a rising global population, the world needs more sources of sustainable food.

This project is a great chance for the Welsh agriculture and food sector to diversify into new markets. There’s no doubt that insect protein is an increasing focus in the food sector, and our researchers will be part of those exciting developments.

Professor Alison Kingston-Smith, Aberystwyth University

ValuSect, which stands for ‘Valuable Insects’, is a consortium of partners coordinated by Thomas More University in Belgium and supported by a €2,08m grant from the INTERREG North-West Europe programme. The additional grant extends the research network and includes new project partners in Germany.

Aberystwyth University and BIC Innovation, with the support of the Welsh Government, are working with partners from 6 other countries in the North West region of Europe. The research findings will be shared with food and agriculture businesses across northern Europe.

Research indicates that approximately 30% of EU consumers are willing to eat insect-based food. ValuSect aims to increase this number by improving the quality of insect production and processing, carrying out consumer tests, and reducing its environmental impact.

Research will focus on the emission of greenhouse gasses, the impact of substrates, food safety and on the shelf life of insect-based food products.

As part of the extension to the project, ValuSect will this year offer vouchers worth up to €40,000 to businesses proposing services to develop insects as feed business, for example optimising insect breeding conditions.

The global insect feed market was estimated at €133 million in 2020 and is expected to reach €736.7 million by the end of 2026. Some of the commercial possibilities are already coming to fruition.

Dr Geoffrey Knott, who studied at Aberystwyth University, is Managing Director and Co-Founder of HOP, a business that produces cricket protein bars.

Dr Knott said: “HOP’s mission is giving individuals more control over their long-term health and wellbeing through the foods they eat. Currently HOP sells sports nutrition products made from crickets. We use crickets because they provide superior quality protein than plants and are more sustainable and ethically farmed than traditional animal sources.”

Original news source: Aberystwyth University