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Periodic Report Summary 2 - PROTEINSECT (Enabling the exploitation of Insects as a Sustainable Source of Protein for Animal Feed and Human Nutrition.)

Project Context and Objectives:
The principal sources of protein for animal feed are currently soya and fishmeal. However, the EU has a substantial protein deficit and has to import more than 80% of the protein required to meet demands for animal feed, mostly from Brazil, Argentina and the USA. As the world population increases and meat consumption in developing countries becomes more widespread, the demand for animal feed will also increase. Further issues in relation to land and water availability will place additional pressures on the world’s ability to meet growing demands for animal feed protein production. Thus, there is an urgent need to identify and exploit novel sources of protein. Insects offer a promising alternative to conventional protein sources for animal feed for fish and monogastric animals (poultry and pigs).
The principal objective of the international and multidisciplinary PROteINSECT consortium is to facilitate the exploitation of insects as an alternative source of protein for animal and human nutrition. The programme is focused on a comprehensive and integrated evaluation of the potential for the incorporation of insect protein into the human food chain via utilisation as a component of animal feed, although possibilities for the inclusion of processed insect protein in food are also considered.
Fly species are the most extensively researched insect order for mass production and use as animal feed. Furthermore they can utilise a wide range of waste substrates offering potential for low economic and environmental costs. Therefore the project focuses on the use of fly species to encourage timely uptake of insect based production technologies. The concept is driven by the current reliance of the EU on protein from non-sustainable and environmentally damaging sources, concurrent with the need to utilise increasing quantities of organic wastes produced by agriculture and food industries. As such, a primary goal is to determine the safety criteria of waste substrates and insect protein products in line with EU guidelines and regulation. Of equal importance is protein quality as this will be a major factor in determining economics and appropriate levels of inclusion in animal feeds and ultimately the extent to which insect products can reduce the reliance of the feed market on plant and fish derived protein. Comprehensive and comparative environmental, social and economic life cycle (International Life Cycle Data System, ILCD) assessments of insect based production systems will provide a sound basis for developing optimal and sustainable production systems in the future. Stakeholder engagement is essential to provide a positive and appropriately regulated platform for the timely adoption of new insect based production technologies and is
considered as a key challenge to be addressed in the proposed programme of work.
The PROteINSECT project has identified five principal objectives as key to the comprehensive evaluation of insects as a novel source of protein for animal and human nutrition:
1. The co-ordinated development and optimisation of fly production methods for animal feed production in EU and International Cooperation Partner Countries
2. Determination of safety and quality criteria for substrate and insect protein products
3. The evaluation of crude and refined insect protein extracts in fish and monogastric (poultry and pig) animal feeding trials.
4. The determination of optimal design(s) of insect-based animal feed production systems for both EU and ICPC countries through comprehensive ILCD assessments
5. To build a Pro-insect platform in Europe to encourage a holistic adoption of sustainable protein production technologies in order to reduce the reliance of the feed industry on plant/fish derived proteins in the short term, and to encourage the acceptance of insect protein as a direct component of human food in the longer term.
Project Results:
Insect rearing systems have been established and existing systems modified using the expertise of project partners. Systems that have been set up or modified range from those suited to mass production at a semi-commercial scale to systems designed for use by farmers to provide a feed source for their livestock and include:
Musca domestica (house fly) in the UK
Hermetia illucens (black soldier fly) and M. domestica in Ghana
M.domestica and H. illucens in Mali
M. domestica and Chrysomya megacephala in China (2 sites)
Substantial progress has been made to optimise all systems and data on the biology of the fly species, methods to improve oviposition and to optimise the larval yields have been developed. The systems have used various substrates for the production of the larvae with primary focus placed on the use of organic manures. More than 2.3 tonnes of dried larvae have been produced by different rearing systems and used to enable nutritional and safety analyses and process optimisation studies. The bulk of the produced material will be used in animal feeding trials. Analysis of the nutritional profiles has found insect protein to be highly compatible with use in feed, having both high total protein content and levels of key amino acids that are comparable with those found in fishmeal.
Options for processing methods to obtain protein from insect larvae have been assessed and suitable extraction methods determined. High extraction yields and final protein concentrations are obtained by solvent extraction. The optimised methods have been used to extract protein for inclusion in animal feeding trials. In Europe, trials on poultry, fish and pigs will compare performance on diets containing crude insect meal with extracted insect protein, whereas poultry and fish trials in Africa and Asia are using crude insect meals.
Levels of chemical and biological hazards in larvae have been determined for samples produced in the UK, Ghana, Mali and China. Analytical screening for five subclasses of chemical risks: veterinary medicines, pesticides, metals, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and mycotoxins found that levels of potentially toxic contaminants (over 500 tested) were all below recommended maximum amounts suggested by bodies such as the European Commission, World Health Organisation and Codex. However, the toxic heavy metal cadmium was found to be of concern in some of the M. domestica samples. This can be mitigated by screening of the substrate prior to use. The study has been published in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed.
Data from the insect production systems within the PROteINSECT project have been used to build generic, but system specific models to permit life cycle assessment comparisons of initial baseline and optimised systems. Economic and environmental impact assessments will be used to provide recommendations for future research activities.
To achieve the goals of the PROteINSECT project it is important that there is a positive and receptive platform in Europe for the utilisation of insect derived protein in animal feed. Key stakeholder engagement has continued through the holding of a Round Table meeting, material from which was used together with the expertise of PROteINSECT partners to produce a consensus business case, which was published on the project website in February 2015. This document will support the development of the White Paper to be presented by the project at a European Parliamentary Reception. An additional information gathering exercise is examining consumer understanding and perceptions on eating animals fed on existing and novel proteins. Monitoring of media coverage on the topic of insects as feed and food has continued.
A range of dissemination materials have been produced together with a project website ( and partners have taken part in more than 20 events since the start of the project to drive awareness and understanding of the project’s aims.

Potential Impact:
PROteINSECT aims to facilitate the exploitation of insects as an alternative protein source for animal and human nutrition thereby enhancing sustainable production systems. We believe that the project will provide a research platform that will make a positive contribution towards reducing the rising dependence of farmers and the food and feed industry on plant and fish derived proteins. Our focus on the exploitation of organic manures for insect rearing brings further long-term opportunities for reducing waste resulting in further economic and environmental impacts.These will be derived from the following key activities; the development and improvement of larval rearing systems at different geographical locations; analyses of nutritional quality and safety; development of extraction methodologies; poultry, pig and fish trials; life cycle analyses and communication with key stakeholders across the supply chain.
The establishment and optimisation of larval rearing systems will provide in depth knowledge of the requirements necessary to enable automated large-scale systems to be developed. It is hoped that improvements to rearing systems in Mali and Ghana, alongside dissemination activities (training and publicity events), will drive the adoption of smallholder scale insect rearing in the short term. Whilst the project will not develop automated production systems, it will provide key information about the technical challenges that must be overcome in order to achieve economically viable house fly rearing in Europe. enabling the commercial production of insects on a magnitude suitable for adoption in Europe. The production of larvae has also enabled the nutritional quality and safety of house fly larvae reared on manures to be assessed for samples obtained from different geographical locations. To our knowledge this is a first and the data obtained has contributed to the EFSA opinion on the safety aspects of insects as food and feed and will also provide information allowing the commercial value of insect meal and insect derived protein to be evaluated. This research will also provide a basis for the assessment of the potential use of insect protein in human food.
Evaluation of both crude and refined protein extracts in poultry, pig and fish trials will contribute to the assessment of suitable dietary inclusion levels as well as helping to identify the most appropriate livestock sector for which insects should be produced. Again this has been facilitated by the ability of the insect producing partners to supply adequate amounts of material for trials to be conducted in different parts of the world.
The project will undertake an environmental, social and economic life cycle impact assessment for the insect rearing systems developed. An initial assessment has provided indicators of how environmental impact can be improved and has informed development of the systems. A comparison with an existing protein source has also been included. Our goal is to reduce the environmental impact of protein production for animal feed by reducing the land and water required to produce a given amount of protein, reducing the use of non-sustainable sources and reducing and adding value to organic waste materials through a reduction in volume and use of remaining substrate. Life cycle assessment is an iterative process and it is anticipated that both the environmental and economic assessments will act as a baseline platform for further research and development.
The significant efforts made to engage key stakeholders have already had an impact upon the progression of the insect movement in Europe. It is believed that the dissemination of key findings and communication with interested parties, ranging from regulatory bodies to researchers, producers and consumers has helped to drive the insect movement forwards in an informed and non-sensational manner.
The project has built a network of research and industrial organisations interested in the use of insects as food and feed which will last beyond the life of the project and has generated new collaborations and research initiatives.

List of Websites:


Elaine Fitches, (Molecular Biologist)
Tél.: +441904462564
Numéro d'enregistrement: 182632 / Dernière mise à jour le: 2016-05-18
Source d'information: SESAM