icipe wins Food Planet Prize

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (www.icipe.org) has been awarded the prestigious, USD 1 million Curt Bergfors Foundation Food Planet Prize, from about 650 global nominations, in recognition of the Centre’s pioneering research and development (R&D) activities on insects for food, feed and other uses. The Centre will share the prize with Sanergy, a Kenya/United States-based organisation.

Currently the largest accolade of its kind in the world, the Food Planet Prize acknowledges ground-breaking initiatives that offer solutions to tackle the Food Planet Challenge; the need to keep a rapidly growing world population alive and well-nourished – without destroying the Earth.

Despite some positive trends, much of our food system is wasteful, polluting or toxic – impacting air, land and water. The food system contributes to about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. The world uses about half of available land on Earth for food production and about 70% of the freshwater consumption is directed to agriculture. The food system is the main driver of a mass extinction of life on Earth. Therefore, it must be reinvented. Against this background, the Food Planet Prize has endorsed four approaches that focuses on existing scalable solutions for sustainable foods and innovative ideas and projects that challenge or even disrupt current thinking and practices.

“Insects can contribute to the transformation of the current food system into a more sustainable and vibrant circular economy. They have a better ecological footprint and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions,” states Dr Segenet Kelemu, Director General & Chief Executive Officer, icipe.  “Insects are also an alternative, more affordable and nutritious source of food for people and livestock. Moreover, they are efficient in bio-converting waste, and are a basis of organic fertilizer and pest control products.”

Transforming food systems with insects

Over the past several years, working with partners, icipe has led the way towards translating the latent benefit of insects in reshaping the food system, through a holistic approach combining ethno- and scientific knowledge. The Centre has generated evidence on the nutritional and socioeconomic value of insects; designed improved, low-tech options for their mass-rearing; established simple extraction methods for insect oils; and supported the development of harmonised standards and policies for safe, equitable use and trade in edible insects. These efforts have been backed by massive awareness raising and training efforts, resulting in the emergence of small- and medium-scale, insect-based enterprises that are producing a range of innovative products. 

“Our initiatives are impacting on all aspects of the food system including farming, waste management and inputs, while also interacting with other key systems like energy, trade and the health of people, animals and the environment,” explains Dr Sevgan Subramanian, Principal Scientist, icipe.

Across the region, insects are being incorporated as protein replacements in animal feed. For instance, 4% of Kenya’s annual animal feed protein is currently being met through insect proteins, with projections that in two to three years time, such integration could go up to 40%. The use of insect proteins in feed is helping to realise the full potential of the fast-growing fish, poultry and piggery sectors. It is also freeing up conventional options like fishmeal and soybean as food for human consumption, while supporting healthier environments through biowaste conversion by insect larvae.

In human health, many communities are increasingly integrating insect-based proteins into their diets, thus diversifying their food sources.  And in agriculture, environmentally safe, more affordable and sustainable insect-based organic fertilizers are promoting enhanced crop productivity and improved soil fertility. icipe is also exploring the development of pest control products from insects. For instance, chitin, the scaffolding material around insects can be used for suppressing pests, and as a soil amendment.

The Centre is also exploring the production of novel, high value products such as insect oils, enzymes and pharmaceuticals. This thrust is guided by icipe’s published evidence on the nutritional superiority of insect oils, which, in comparison to plant oils, are richer in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamin E. These findings are supported by icipe’s discovery that consumption of the desert locust could be good for people’s hearts. The Centre showed that the insect is a rich source of therapeutic sterols known as phytosterols which have cholesterol-lowering properties, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

Overall, icipe-led insect farming is becoming a transformative force in creating ingenious employment and income generation opportunities especially for women and youth, thus taking pressure off scant land resources, and circumventing a range of challenges associated with traditional agricultural activities. Mainstreaming insect farming pre-empts seasonal and unsustainable harvesting of this highly valuable resource from the wild, which boost its biodiversity, as well as overall ecosystem health. This has multiple benefits for agriculture, such as pollination and natural control of pests.

icipe is undoubtedly in the forefront of tackling the Food Planet Challenge, and the Centre’s insect for food and feed programme presents an exciting opportunity of using resources to meet needs without destroying the sustaining and regenerative capacity of our environment.


Notes for Editors

The Curts Bergfors Foundation was established on August 30th, 2019, in recognition of the perils that our current system of food production and distribution pose to the climate and the biosphere, and with the conviction that it must be radically and urgently reformed if future generations — and the planet itself — are to survive and thrive. The foundation is registered in Luleå, Sweden. It operates globally.

Food Planet Prize award announcement:  https://foodplanetprize.org/entry/prizewinner-icipe-inseff/; https://foodplanetprize.org/nominations/

Food Planet Prize: finalist announcement https://foodplanetprize.org/entry/finalist-icipe-inseff/

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (www.icipe.org): Our mission is to help alleviate poverty, ensure food security, and improve the overall health status of peoples of the tropics, by developing and disseminating management tools and strategies for harmful and useful arthropods, while preserving the natural resource base through research and capacity building.

Funding: icipe research and development activities within INSEFF have been funded by: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC); Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany (BMZ); Rockefeller Foundation; Danish International Development Agency, Denmark (DANIDA), Denmark; Dutch Research Council (NWO); Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) through BioInnovate Africa Programme; Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD); East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO); National Research Fund (NRF), Kenya. icipe gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the following core donors: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC); Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida); UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO); Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Kenya; and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Selected references:

Key collaborators:

Wageningen University, Netherlands; University of Hohenheim’s Food Security Centre (FSC), Germany; Copenhagen University, Denmark; Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, Kenya Bureau of Standards and Uganda Bureau of Standards; Department of Livestock Sciences, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Frick, Switzerland; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium; Ghent University, Belgium; Roslin Institute, The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Makerere University, Uganda; InsectiPro farm, Kenya; The Insectary Limited, Kenya; SANERGY, Kenya.