Scientists mull insect based animal feeds to tame cost

insert foodScientists are exploring ways of introducing low cost insect based livestock feeds with over 500 species being studied following unprecedented rise in animal feeds especially poultry which have taken a toll on farmers earning and East African economies.

The initiative is being spear headed by ICIPE with the scientists tasked to develop insect-based animal feeds for the fish and poultry industry in Kenya and Uganda. The project dubbed INSFEED will use insects as a protein substitute in the manufacture of animal feeds due to shortage and increasing cost of producing plant protein and fishmeal.

According to ICIPE Director General Dr. Segenet Kelemu, the research on the use of insects to supplement other protein sources will focus on insects species in the African continent, which are edible and can be cost effectively and sustainably domesticated and multiplied to provide a cheap source of proteins that is increasingly becoming insufficient to meet the increasing demand of the population. She further explained, “This project will develop an easy-to-adapt, and cost-effective insect rearing, harvesting and post harvest techniques among small-scale poultry and fish farmers in East Africa to reduce the cost of buying animal feeds. This would include identification of suitable insect species, assessing the potential market and nutritional attributes of the products.”

At the end of the adoption of the insect feeds, the scientists hope that the cost of poultry and fish production in East Africa will greatly reduce.

The success of the project is hinged on idea aggregation with ICIPE, which has a wide experience in insect science, collaborating with the University of Nairobi, Egerton University and Makerere University in Uganda. The project is also working with research institutions and feed manufacturers in Uganda, to conduct research and evaluate the use of insect proteins in feed manufacture and its use by poultry and fish farmers in the future.

The Project Cordinator Dr. Komi Fiaboe also expressed optimism for farmers after the successful completion of the research. “Farmers are currently in dilemma whether to continue with their ventures or dump them because ingredients for animal and fish feed such as soya beans, fish oil and seed cakes are becoming expensive due to lack of land for production while fish such as omena, which is the major source of fishmeal, are reducing due to overfishing.” He further added that insect protein is much superior compared to protein obtained from plant supplements that are used in feed formulation therefore offering farmers a cheaper but conclusive remedy. In addition, insects have a higher protein content compared to conventional sources of protein that are currently used in feed manufacture.

The project which cost about $2million is funded by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada. It will be undertaken in 12 urban sites in Kenya and Uganda.