Insects offer a cheaper option to expensive chicken, fish feed ingredients
The urgency to find an alternative livestock feed ingredient for fishmeal and soybean meal has led to the recognition of the insect protein market.
Two years ago, in need of cheaper chicken feed, Shem Awiri started a black soldier fly (BSF) project on his farm.
Located in Lukenya, Machakos County, about 100 km from Nairobi, Bugs Life Protein Farm has become a supplier of dry weight BSF larvae not only for its chicken farm but also for a local feed business animal.
The BSF section is under two large greenhouses each measuring 42m by 8m, as well as a warehouse on the 20 acre farm. Here they produce a ton of dry weight BSF larvae per month.
“Of what we produce, we feed half of our poultry and we sell the other half to a local feed company. We also produce BSF eggs for breeding, which they sell to future local farmers. After the last stage of harvesting, the bio-waste excretions are used as fertilizer,” Shem explains.
In Tanzania, Otaigo Elisha operates the NovFeed BSF farm, located in the coastal city of Dar es Salaam. For five years, the company has been supporting small local fish farmers by developing sustainable fish feed. To do this, they breed black soldier fly maggots, then dry and grind them into a protein-rich powder.
This was after he returned from Indonesia, where he had gone to do a master’s degree in natural resource and environmental economics.
“During my stay, I traveled to different provinces to see the contribution of the fisheries sector to development.”
When he returned home, he conducted a survey of fish farmers and found that harmful and expensive feeding options were inflating production costs.
“They mainly used seasonal ingredients and silverfish (omena) in small batches, which was nutritionally inadequate and caused stunted growth of the fish, making the cultivation period too long to grow and sell fish. fish.”
Source of protein
Currently, soy and omena are the major protein ingredients in animal feed processing in East Africa.
However, the cost of these two protein sources for animal feed has continued to rise in recent years, making them inaccessible and unsustainable for smallholder poultry and fish farmers across Africa.
Rwanda imports protein raw materials for animal feed, such as soybeans, often at high prices. “It has increased the cost of animal feed. Between 2019 and 2022, prices increased by more than 130%, from $0.44 per kilogram to $1.01 per kilogram in 2022, forcing farmers to settle for low-nutrient foods,” said said Dr Solange Uwituze, Deputy Director General of Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources. Development board.
The situation is no better in Kenya. “Kenya needs around 70,000 metric tons of soybeans a year, but the supply is barely 15,000 metric tons. And competition for human consumption has made matters worse,” says Jo Ryan, Acting CEO of True Trade Africa, a social enterprise providing smallholder farmers with a pathway to market and fair prices for produce.
The situation has been further aggravated by Covid-19. A 2021 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on the impacts of Covid-19 notes that in West Africa most live markets have been closed during the pandemic. , causing a drop in the supply of cattle and small ruminants.
These supply disruptions, caused by Covid-19, have hampered access to nutritional foods, particularly in Africa.
The state of food security and nutrition in the WFP’s 2020 global report indicates that in 2020, Covid-19 may have added up to 132 million undernourished people.
It further indicates that in Africa, where the number of undernourished people is growing faster than in any other region, it is estimated to have reached more than 250 million undernourished people, as the pandemic has compounded the effects of climatic shocks and conflicts that were already causing hunger in many parts of the region.
The cost of grain, another important ingredient in the production of animal feed, was also affected by the Russian-Ukrainian war.
According to Trade Map 2022 statistics, Africa imported $4 billion worth of agricultural products from Russia in 2020. On the other hand, Ukraine exported $2.9 billion worth of agricultural products to Africa in 2020, and soy was on the list of exported grains.
The FAO estimates that food production will need to increase by 70% to be able to feed the world in 2050, with meat production (beef, poultry and pork) expected to double. Demand is leading to protein shortages and the search for alternative supplies of sustainable protein sources is needed.
A major constraint is the cost of feed, leading to substitutes like fishmeal and soybean meal, which account for 60 to 70 percent of production costs.
The urgency to find an alternative livestock feed ingredient for fishmeal and soybean meal has led to the recognition of the insect protein market. “Such shocks call for innovative solutions to cushion small-scale poultry and livestock keepers,” says Zimbabwe-based insect researcher Dr Lesley Macheka.
Dr. Macheka says BSF larvae as an alternative low-cost protein source are attracting interest across Africa.
A study, Edible Insect Farming as an Emerging and Profitable Business in East Africa, published on ScienceDirect last year, estimates that up to 9,780 metric tons of dried BSF protein is produced each year. in the region, thanks to a circular economy approach.
This, the report says, is enough to replace fish or soymeal in animal feed.
According to research conducted by Icipe in 2020, the BSF agriculture market in Kenya grew with around 63 small and medium enterprises in 2020, and more than 5,000 farmers were trained in BSF farming by the institute.
The situation is similar in Rwanda.
“We are planning scale-up operations to produce at least 5,000 tons of dry insects for poultry feed, while processing approximately 100,000 metric tons of waste per year. Our goal is to achieve a production capacity of 25,000 metric tons of dry insects by processing more than 500,000 metric tons of waste per year,” said Jean Baptiste Musabyimana, CEO and Founder of Abusol Ltd, a poultry farm business in Nyamata, Rwanda.
So why a sudden interest in the insect across the continent?
According to experts, insect farming has low land and water requirements and high feed conversion efficiency in insect biomes.
“Insect production systems reduce reliance on conventional feed streams like fishmeal and cereals, especially soybean meal,” adds Dr. Chrysantus Tanga, a researcher at Icipe.
There is also the nutritional aspect.
“BSF protein is made up of high quality essential amino acids such as methionine, an essential amino acid essential for poultry health. Chicken and fish reared with BSF-based feeds had improved carcass characteristics and better taste,” says Monica Ayieko, professor of consumer economics at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology at Kenya.
According to Prof. Ayieko, a farmer can sell the products in the BSF value chain – dry BSF larvae, BSF fish mash/pellets, BSF poultry mash, thereby reducing the cost of livestock feed such as poultry and fish.
But besides the nutritional value, it has to do with the sustainability of the production of this type of protein.
“When it comes to BSF, you need a small piece of land to raise and basic husbandry inputs that are naturally available. Also, BSF multiplies faster in a short time. This insect has a short life cycle and within 14 days the larvae are mature for use,” she explained.
The benefits of this type of farming extend to the environment. According to Dr Tanga, farming insects feeds valuable ingredients back into the food chain from organic wastes from agriculture, food industries and other sectors. But supply seems to be the main headache.
“That’s why we initiate the procedure by ensuring safe treatment methods to eliminate pathogens.”
“Although farmers have shown great interest in the product due to the growth performance of livestock and fish, the supply is not sufficient and no company uses only BSF grub meal. This is because there is no consistent supply from farmers to meet the demand from processors,” says Dr Tanga.
In addition, he says, current market prices for insects as feed ingredients are either comparable to or slightly higher than prices for other protein sources (fishmeal, soybean meal).
“Apart from this, the nutrient (especially protein) content of BSF larvae fluctuates greatly depending on the substrates they feed on. Formulating feeds with BSF larvae requires repeated testing for better accuracy, unlike other protein sources with less variation in protein content.
He says there is a need for increased extension services to educate farmers about the nutritional benefits of insect meal in animal feed.
“The existing market opportunities will improve farmers’ attitude towards utilization and significantly reduce the existing pressure on conventional fishmeal feed resources,” adds Dr Tanga.
By Pauline Ongaji and Learnmore Nyoni. Reporting for this article was supported by the Global Nutrition and Food Security Program of the International Center for Journalists, Eleanor Crook Foundation.