FERA, the research institute, has opened a £1m specialist insect laboratory at its Bioscience Campus in York.

The new facility will help scale up the production of insect protein for animal feed. It is the first of its kind in the UK and one of the first in Europe.

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The goal is to help different industries to evaluate the feasibility and scale-up processes relating to commercial insect bioconversion.

Insect bioconversion is the process of feeding insect biomass residue to create valorised products, such as high-quality proteins and oils, packaging materials or soil nutrients.

It is a circular economic practice that has the potential to reduce waste and provide alternative – sustainably sourced – ingredients for animal feed.

Black soldier fly larvae

Most of Fera’s work to date has focused on developing this application with black soldier fly larvae.

The species lends itself to an efficient production process and yielding product that is protein-rich and contains a good balance of essential amino acids, minerals and fats – highly suitable for feeding monogastric animals (such as poultry, pigs and fish).

Andrew Swift, chief executive officer at Fera Science said: “Today’s launch of our specialist insect laboratory is an important step in the delivery of expert support from Fera to help the food production industry and its stakeholders, in both the commercial and public sector, to respond to the opportunity this technology presents.

Additional protein needs

“The rising pressure to meet consumption for the growing population globally estimates that more than 250 million metric tonnes of additional protein will be needed per year in the decades ahead.

“This puts immense pressure on our current animal feed protein sources such as soy and fishmeal, which are derived from unsustainable sources.

“Insect bioconversion presents one route to provide sustainably sourced protein into the food chain to help overcome this challenge.

“Under a circular economy, this technology can reduce biomass waste through consumption and conversion into high-quality protein for animal feed as well as other bi-products of high value to food production.”