A UK STARTUP is hoping to soon bring a farmed mealworms product to the market that could supplement poultry diets.
Entec Nutrition says that mealworms are a fast-growing protein source that could help to reduce the UK’s reliance on imported soya.
The firm is exploring ways to rear the worms using organic food waste.
For example, Entec is using funding from an Agri-Tech Cornwall grant to refining methods of using brewers spent grains as a substrate to feed insects.
A separate grant is funding the company’s research into further optimising mealworms’ diets by looking at nutritional geometry in the form of protein, carbohydrate and lipids.
These elements need to be optimised to suit different end markets. For example, aquaculture requires low fats while poultry need more.
The firm is also researching the processing of mealworms alongside Campden BRI, which looks specifically into the methods of extracting some aspects like proteins, fats or other compounds.
In addition, the funding has gone towards exploring packaging, shelf life and potential contaminants – aspects that are essential to getting any products to market.
“The industry needs to know how to store mealworm products safely and how long they will last,” according to Emma Theobald, business development and research at Entec Nutriton.
“Though products are already with a small number of partners to test, commercial rollout will require development of production facilities which we are focusing on in 2021.”
The next hurdle to cross will be regulatory conditions.
At present, EU regulations place serious restrictions on what can be fed to animals going into the food chain, limiting what mealworms can be fed.
There are also limitations on the form in which mealworms can be fed to other animals like pigs and poultry, explained Ms Theobald.