Demand for animal protein in developing countries is predicted to double by 2050 putting pressure on protein sources for food and animal feed, such as soya and fish. More sustainable protein sources are urgently needed. Entomophagy – the consumption of insects as food - is traditionally practiced in many cultures, also in Africa, and is mainly carried out through harvesting the insects from the wild. However, the potential of insects as a protein source is still untapped, and the answer to unleashing their potential lies in domestication and large-scale production. Such an industry is still in its infancy, but is a high prospective new sector. Insects are highly efficient converters of food into body weight, are highly nutritious and are an environmentally friendly protein source. Insects can also live off waste streams that would otherwise not be consumed by humans. In Kenya, experimental domestication of termites and crickets has been initiated, while industrial production remains to be pioneered. GREEiNSECT will bring together a multidisciplinary consortium of public, private and international partners to research the potential of insects for food and´feed as an instrument in developing a pro-poor green economy in Kenya. The research will address small- to large-scale production practices; institutional framework for health risk and disease management; product development and consumer preferences of edible insect products; potential greenhouse gas emission impacts from production; potential government incentives through economic growth, nutritional contribution and business models for a novel industry. The outcomes of the project are knowledge and tools to drive innovation, entrepreneurship and employment related to insects as food and feed, along with supporting capacity building of Kenyan research institutions and public-private partnership. The knowledge generated by this consortium will be disseminated to national and international stakeholders.
Project completion report:
Overall, the outputs from the project have been achieved. Of the PhD students, 5 have graduated and 2 students with delayed start have completed all research and by the end of 2018 are close to submitting. Summarizing the outputs, more than 30 scientific papers have been published plus 1 book published by Springer with chapters from most project partners.
More scientific papers are in process. In total 6 information briefs have been published, with the support from FAO and icipe. One end policy brief is submitted. A stakeholder workshop for the development of recommendations was organized jointly with expert consultation and held as an international conference in March 2016 in Kisumu, Kenya. More than 125 key stakeholders attended on invitation. In summary, the project has made a significant contribution to the development of insect farming systems in Kenya.
The GREEiNSECT project has made a significant contribution to the development of two important insect farming systems in Kenya: Cricket (Acheta domesticus, Gryllus bimaculatus and other species) and Black Solder Fly, BSF (Hermetia illucens). Though the sector is still emerging, GREEiNSECT has contributed important basic research for transferring cricket rearing technology from Thailand, the most developed edible insect sector globally. The research covered technical aspects such as identification of indigenous cricket species suitable for farming in Kenya (including the discovery of a new species, Scapsipedus icipe) and the establishment of optimized rearing and feeding management under different climatic conditions.
Another aspect of incentives for insect farming is the consumer’s perception and willingness to buy insect-based food products. Two PhD studies contributed important knowledge of the diversity and nature of the Kenyan consumers, essential for the development of a commercial sector. Also, the nutritional contribution of insects in foods targeted food insecure children has been investigated. This research is important to inform the private sector about the potentials and complexity of introducing insects in the context of modernized diets in a yet food insecure population.
To compensate for the early and premature stage of an insect farming sector in Kenya, a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) was conducted in Thailand to inform about the perspectives of cricket farming as a sustainable animal food sector. The LCA study was the first study ever to quantify the environmental impacts, including the global warming potential of a fully developed commercial insect farming system. The results showed that crickets can be produced with significantly less environmental impact than broilers, in a comparable system in Thailand. The feed source for rearing crickets was identified as the key component for further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.