Amongst all the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) approved insects to be commercially farmed such as the common housefly, silkworms, mealworm, and crickets, BSF has received the most attention from insect farmers around the world. Nonetheless, will insect meal ever be a commercially viable alternative?
The use of insect meal as a substitute for fish meal has been gaining popularity over the years due to its nutritional, economical, and ecological benefits. Several experiments with insects in livestock diets have been focused on the BSF. However, new insights have shown better performance results with mealworms. In a deep analysis conducted by EU researchers, the mealworm (Tenebrio Molitor) achieved the best overall score. The analysis assessed 15 different insects across over 30 parameters. The parameters included supply consistency, quality, safety, technological potential, nutritional composition (amino & fatty acid profile), animal performance, commercial viability, and market analysis.
Let us provide you with only the salient factors that one should know about insects as a farmer while we overcome the commercial challenges for you.
A wave of feed trial ensued since the first breakthrough of mealworms as a viable aquafeed alternative. It has been established that:
Substituting 100% of fishmeal with mealworm significantly enhanced weight gain while reducing FCR and mortality rate for Rainbow trout juveniles.
Mealworms can consist of up to 25% of European sea bass diets with enhanced performance parameters.
Replacing up to 80% of fish meal with mealworms in African catfish diets resulted in growth performance and feed utilization efficiency similar to the control diet.
It is safe to substitute 25% of fishmeal with mealworm in Gilthead seabream without affecting growth performance.
Chitin, found in the exoskeleton from insects, contains anti-nutritional components. Despite the chitin content, digestibility of Mealworm-based aquafeed was not reduced as compared to commercial aquafeed. Instead, digestibility of proteins was more efficient in fish fed with Mealworm-based aquafeed compared to fish fed with commercial aquafeed without the need for supplementation of digestive enzymes. Chitin itself also possesses an anti-microbial effect that kills off and prevents the growth of unwanted microorganisms.
Mealworms were found to be highly palatable in a feed trial conducted with the African catfish. When fed with live/dried mealworms in the morning and commercial aquafeed in the afternoon, the African catfishes grew equally well or better than their counterparts fed solely with commercial aquafeed.
Amino & Fatty Acid Composition
Insects possess a well-balanced nutrient profile that meets the amino acid requirements for livestock. Containing high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, micro-nutrients, and vitamins. The amino acid profile of Mealworms meets 8 out of the 10 essential amino acid found in fishmeal and FAO’s reference protein requirements as compared to BSF’s 6 out of 10, with BSF lacking in Cystine and Threonine. Amongst all the insects approved for farming by the FAO, concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids were found to be higher in mealworm (60–70%) and lowest in black soldier fly larvae (19–37%).