October 2020 Newsletter No 37

Webinar Series - Ask the Expert

Friday 16 October 13:00 BST (UTC+1)

Robert Nathan Allen, Founder and Director of Little Herds, Austin, Texas, Director North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture will lead the next webinar.

To Register: book on the Woven Network website SHOP

Next Webinars, Fridays at 13:00 GMT (UTC+0) 

13 November – David Drew, Agriprotein
11 December – Jo Wise, Monkfield Nutrition

Webinar Report - Arnold van Huis

Webinar, 18 September 2020

  • A video recording of this webinar is available through Zoom

  • and will appear on the Woven Network YouTube channel when the zoom recording is taken down.

Professor van Huis introduced himself and described his career, and his interest in insects that stemmed from 3 years working in Niger in the 1980s. He is currently Emeritus professor, Editor-in-chief of Journal of Insects as Food and Feed, on the board of the EU funded project SUStainable INsect CHAIN that will run to 2023 to overcome barriers to the economic viability of novel protein provision from insects, and INSECT DOCTORS training pathologists to prevent insect diseases in mass reared insects. A selection of the interests of Professor van Huis appears in
The website that gives most of his projects on insects as food and feed is at: PROJECTS
One large project is SUSINCHAIN or at Wageningen 
There is also a EU project "Insect Doctors"

He summarised current challenges to insects as food and feed being legislation, nutritional and health benefits, insect products, genetics, and insect welfare.
Europe does not allow feeding insects to poultry and pigs, but it is allowed in Canada and the US. Aquafeed is allowed. An enhanced immune system is a benefit from eating insects. Public acceptability is subject to modern influences. A celebrity endorsement could suddenly change consumption. Products derived from insects include fertiliser, oils for cooking, cosmetics, biodiesel, biolubricants, bioplastics, biomaterials. There are 70 years of experience using genetics to improve farmed mammals. Now there are companies just beginning to apply the same techniques to farmed insects. Insect welfare questioned as soon as insects are used for food.
Cricket farming. Are there differences in nutrition profile between Acheta domesticus and Gryllodes sigillatus? They have equal protein content and similar nutrition profile. Mixed rearing has no apparent benefit as they have different requirements.
Mealworms or crickets? Crickets have consumer acceptance, but crickets taste better. Mealworms are cheaper to raise. Insect bars are often flavoured; so there is a taste other than insect in the product.
What is the best drying process? The first step is decontamination that can be done by blanching. Freeze drying is expensive but retains more protein and less fat than spray drying. Mealworms are more susceptible to brown colouring during spray drying. Cricket lipid has an unpleasant odour so removing the lipid before freezing may be required.
How do you evaluate an insect species being suitable for farming? First priority is to decide what use you have for the farmed insect. Then if multiple species are suitable, which suits your method of farming? Crickets less easy to farm than mealworms or black soldier fly. If you can automate the stages of farming a species it becomes more attractive, as is disease resistance such as densovirus in Acheta not Gryllodes.
Palm weevils are being investigated, and African caterpillars like mopane worm, Gonimbrasia belina, tried to be farmed, but parasites and diseases prevented productive farming. Fly species other than house fly and black soldier fly have attracted attention. The bamboo caterpillar in Asia, Omphisa fuscidentalis, has had domestication rather than farming to make harvesting easier.
The composition of feed for farmed insects is a trade-off between the performance of the insect population and cost. Using organic waste in a circular economy may be cheap, but can insects thrive rather than just survive? Automation and cheap substrates are the way to reduce production costs. Over 2000 species could be farmed but very few are used: crickets, locusts, mealworm, black soldier fly, house fly. Each innovation in production can render redundant expensive equipment that has had little use.
How do you evaluate insect growth and yield? Use of substrates, automation, selecting strains of species, genetic improvement, ambient environment, light humidity and temperature all contribute. A short development cycle helps selecting good strains.
Legislation. Manure generates big problems for nitrogen and ammonia emissions. The public reaction to feeding manure to insects is important to the industry to allay concerns about pathological effects akin to the BSE outbreak. IPIFF are addressing these issues
Alternative proteins compete with insect protein. Plant based and, macro algae are established. Micro algae in progress, and the costs of cultured meat are much reduced. There will be room for all protein sources in the market whilst demand is ever increasing.
Cost of insect feed vs mainstream remains too expensive, but it is nutritionally equivalent, better environmentally, and more sustainable. There are subsidies and there were European investments of € 600 M in 2019. Innovation is costly. Large companies wait until a profit is being made before buying a profitable start-up. There are success stories with Protix, Agriprotein, Yinsect, and many startups.
Waste processing. Mealworms digest plastics. Mealworms chew through plastic. Gut bacterial can digest polystyrene, but not the mealworms themselves. Polystyrene may not increase insect mass. Zophabas atratus superworm reputed to digest polystyrene at 4 x the rate of mealworm. Degradation not guaranteed to achieve biotransformation
Leading journals Journal of Insects for Food and Feed, Frontiers in Insect Science (coming soon)
Crickets. When breeding large colonies do you keep a closed group or buy in new genetics from other farms? Bringing in new material is dangerous. Your own insects adapt to the conditions. New material may introduce disease and not be suited to environment. Experiment with trial groups of insects separate from your production colonies. Production and reproduction unit must be kept separately to allow repopulation if the production unit becomes diseased.
Optimal fibre and oil in substrate for crickets? Yields differ from 4-10% oil and 10-25% fibre of total feed. Insect nutritional value is affected, the protein content stable, but fatty acid content changes. Microbes can help by fermenting high fibre feeds before feeding to insects. The effects of feeding live or dead yeasts to insects not known.

FEED-X Challenge - results

Project X is a WWF founded corporate accelerator which helps organisations adopt sustainable innovations in their supply chains.
We are pleased to see the good progress of the FEED-X Challenge programme (funded by WWF, Skretting, Climate-KIC, Project X) in identifying innovative companies with innovations to create sustainable aquaculture feed for the sector, at scale.  
As one of the Panel of Judges, Nick Rousseau, was able to see the range of insect farming companies that entered and help with the selection of these. The Project X website hints at the successful innovators which clearly includes two mealworm farming companies. The names of the winners will be announced in the Autumn.

The project is also organising Knowledge Exchange webinars that are free to join – they relate to the challenges of developing sustainable aquaculture feed solutions.


  • Van Huis, A., 2020. Insects as food and feed, a new emerging agricultural sector: a review. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed 6(1): 27-44. Doi: 10.3920/JIFF2019.0017
      This report supports the long term growth and competitive advantage of Australian insect farmers by developing a practical, industry-led RD&E roadmap toward a $10 million industry. This report will also serve to guide future investment into this emerging industry, ultimately helping the industry to achieve its potential.
The roadmap includes three key recommendations. The first two recommendations: 1) investment in Industry Convening Initiatives; and 2) the development of Industry Guidelines, can be completed in parallel. These recommendations have been designed to provide the building blocks for a strong Australian insect industry, thus laying the foundation for its success. Following the successful implementation of these, the third recommendation is to make investments into prioritised Foundational Research initiatives, as developed through the implementation of the first two recommendations.


1 October 2020 marked the 5th anniversary of the Woven Network newsletter. The first issue in 2015 went to 20 people, but 75% of them did open the email. This is issue 37; so there have been about 7 newsletters per year and you are one of 623 people to receive it. Regulation, events, meetings, and publications appeared in the first and subsequent issues as Woven promotes networking and exchange amongst those interested in insects for food and feed.
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