A DEVON scientist shared her findings on insect farming at the 2023 Nuffield Farming Conference in Exeter last month. 

Dr Olivia Champion NSch 2022 has now published her Nuffield Farming report, sponsored by the Richard Lawes Foundation, entitled 'Can carbon neutral insects be farmed profitably?'. 

The report can be viewed on the Nuffield International Farming Scholars website. To view it, click here

Olivia travelled to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Canada during her scholarship. 

Her aim was to understand the market readiness for insect ingredients as food and feed, identify the main costs and understand the regulatory landscape. 

She discovered that carbon-neutral insect farming is possible when waste unsuitable for animal consumption becomes insect food. 

In her report, Olivia said: “Edible insects offer an alternative protein source suitable for both humans and animals. Insects require less space, water, and emit fewer greenhouse gases.

“However, my research journey revealed that producing insects for food and feed is constrained by limitations in scale, high costs, and inconsistent quality. Improvements like automation, enhanced insect genetics, and optimized diets are crucial for advancing insect farming.

“Many insect farms presently utilize soya-based materials, which contradicts the goal of reducing soya in animal feed. Utilizing livestock manure as insect food could be a strategic alternative, subject to careful risk assessment. Blending waste as a substrate for insects and integrating renewable energy can establish carbon-neutral insect farming as a viable option.

“With rising living costs and changing spending patterns, the demand for costly and unfamiliar insect-based foods and feeds might stay limited. But overcoming challenges through ongoing research and innovation could position insect farming as a pivotal player in constructing sustainable and nutritious food systems.”