Launch of Emerging Insect Technology Hub (EIT-Hub) between Africa and Australia
Date: 17 March 2022
Time: (GMT) 06.00 – 07:30am (5:00 – 6:30pm AEDT; 9:00 – 10:30am EAT)
Registration link: https://pages.agrifutures.com.au/InsectHubLaunch_Landingpage.html
Over the past decade, the narrative and reality surrounding insects has shifted dramatically. Far from the predominant image of crawly nuisances that ruin crops and cause diseases, insects are now increasingly becoming valued as green, more affordable and nutritious sources for people and as alternative proteins in animal feed. Insects create the biological foundation for all terestial ecosystems. Indeed, insects are catching global attention for their potential in the transition to a greener environment and to a circular economy, as sources of various high value products such as oils, chitin and chitosan, frass fertilizer, antimicrobial peptides, enzymes, biodiesels among others, which have diverse uses in the energy, industrial, pharmaceutical, food and crop protection sectors.
Within this context, AgriFutures, Australia; the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe); have created the Emerging Insect Technology Hub (EIT-Hub). The aim of the platform is to enable collaboration and knowledge-sharing among research and industry partners, scientists and investors in Africa and Australia.
The EIT-Hub will capitalise on the goal of promoting insect farming as an emerging industry in Australia, by AgriFutures Australia. It will also build on the investments by various development partners in the insects for food and feed sector in Africa, through icipe, including: ACIAR; International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada; Rockfeller Foundation; Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO); Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA); Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD); National Research Fund (NRF) Kenya; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF); Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), UK; BioInnovate Africa Programme; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), UK; World Bank and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The hub will also benefit from icipe’s globally reputed leadership in advancing knowledge, and a thriving insect-based sector in Africa and beyond.
The launch event will feature prominent leaders in the African and Australian insects for food and feed sector, who will deliberate topics such as: progress and challenges in the African, Australian and global insects-based sector; mutual benefits for stakeholders in Africa and Australia through the EIT-Hub; opportunities for prospective stakeholders to become part of the EIT-Hub steering committee; and announcement of EIT-Hub’s first major activity, a ‘Gold standard manual for black soldier fly production, processing and use’ .
Registration link: https://pages.agrifutures.com.au/InsectHubLaunch_Landingpage.html
i) Launch a collaborative Networking and Knowledge-sharing ‘Hub’ around emerging insect technologies between Australia and Africa,
ii) Invite prospective stakeholders to provide an Expression of Interest (EOI) to become part of the Hub steering committee,
iii) Announce the first activity of the Hub, a ‘Gold standard manual for BSF production, processing and use’ (with an Expression of Interest to follow).
Launch Date: 17 March 2022
Launch Time: 5:00-6:30pm AEDT, 9:00-10:30am Kenya (Nairobi) and 7:00-8:30pm New Zealand
Facilitator & Chair: Dr Olivia Reynolds, Senior Manager, Emerging Industries (AgriFutures Australia)
Key collaborators: Dr Anna Okello, Research Program Manager, Livestock Systems (ACIAR), Dr Chrysantus Tanga, Senior Scientist & Head of Insects for Food, Feed and Other Uses (INSEFF) Program (icipe) and Mr Duncan Rowland, Chair (Insect Protein Association of Australia) and Executive Officer (Stock Feed Manufacturers' Council of Australia).
1. Welcome and Introduction (speakers TBC) [15 mins]
i) Mr Michael Beer (on behalf of Mr John Harvey, MD), GM, Business Development, AgriFutures Australia: Introduction and overview of AgriFutures investment in Insects - 5mins
ii) Professor Andrew Campbell, CEO, ACIAR: Overview of ACIAR investment and partnerships in Insects – 5mins
iii) Dr Segenet Kelemu, Director General & CEO, icipe: Overview of icipe strategic vision and science strategy – 5mins
2. Background to the Emerging Insect Technologies Hub [40 mins]
a) The Partnership perspective
i) Purpose of Hub, partnership & mutual benefits to Australia and Africa (Dr Olivia Reynolds, Senior Manager AgriFutures) – 5 mins
ii) Emerging opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region for insect technologies (Dr Anna Okello, Research Program Manager Livestock Systems, ACIAR) – 5minss
iii) Background to icipe’s work on insects for Feed and Food (Dr Tanga Chrysantus, Head of Insects for Food, Feed and Other Uses (INSEFF) programme, icipe) - 10 mins
b) Perspectives along the Insect Value Chain
i) Ani Vallabhaneni, co-founder and CEO of Sanergy Ltd – a producer’s perspective, Kenya – 5 mins
ii) Talash Huijbers, CEO, Insecti Pro, Kenya – a producer’s perspective, Kenya – 5 mins
iii) Olympia Varger, CEO, GOTERRA – a producer’s perspective, Australia – 5mins
iv) Shaun Eislers, Founder, BuggyBix – a commercial perspective – 5mins
3. Hub Launch [15 mins]
i) Chair Hub – Role and expectation of committee - Mr Duncan Rowland – 5 mins
ii) Call for EOI for Hub panel – Dr Olivia Reynolds – 5 mins
iii) Details of Proposed First Activity - Dr Chrysantus Tanga, Working Group Lead: ‘Development of a Gold standard manual for BSF production, processing and use’ – 5 mins
4. Q&A session [15 mins] – facilitated by Dr Olivia Reynolds
5. Conclusions/wrap-up/Final comments and Thank You [5 mins] – Dr Olivia Reynolds and Dr Anna Okello
We look forward to seeing you online. You can join via this link
AgriFutures, Australia; the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe); have created the Emerging Insect Technology Hub (EIT-Hub), as a platform for collaboration and knowledge-sharing among research and industry partners, scientists and investors in East Africa and Australia. Using black soldier fly as a model, the Hub will enable stakeholders to deliberate issues including public goods aspects such as knowledge translation, policy and regulation; standards setting, best practices and public perception; and public awareness on insects as feed and food. It will also serve as a basis for studentships, exchanges and technical field trips.
Over the past decade, the narrative and reality surrounding insects has shifted dramatically. Far from the predominant image of crawly nuisances that ruin crops and cause diseases, insects are now increasingly becoming valued as green, more affordable and nutritious sources of food for people, as well as alternative proteins in animal feed. Insects create the biological foundation for all terestial ecosystems. Insects are catching global attention for their potential in the transition to a greener environment and to a circular economy. For instance, insects recycle organic waste into nutrient rich fertilisers for improved soil health and crop yield. They are also sources of various high value products such as oils, chitin and chitosan, which have diverse uses in the energy, industrial, pharmaceutical, food and crop protection sectors.
Within this context, the black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, has distinguished itself in its versatility and consmopolitan nature. Unlike other flies, black soldier flies are incapable of transmitting diseases or damaging plants; thus, they pose minimal risk to people, animals, crops and the environment. Also, black soldier flies are one of the most efficient organic waste recyclers; their larvae can devour a wide range of organic waste material, quickly converting it into protein and nutrient-rich organic fertilisers. The black soldier fly larvae or the proteins derived from them, can be used as components in for feeds for poultry, pigs and fish.
3. AgriFutures Australia and insects-based enterprises
Insects have the potential to transform Australian agriculture and will be a key contributor in the country’s $100 billion farming economy ambitions. AgriFutures Australia has identified insect farming as an emerging industry with high potential to reach $10 million per annum in the next five years, a core driver of the AgriFutures Emerging Industries Program. Currently, many Australian insect farmers are startups or small businesses, some of which are yet to reach a commercial scale. However, the industry remains a highly attractive target for potential investors given unique characteristics of the Australian market. For example, farmers experience favourable conditions for raising insects compared to overseas, strong biosecurity measures already in place to protect the industry against pests and diseases, growing demand for insect products, particularly from stockfeed industries, and the ability to leverage Australia’s world class agricultural research capabilities, which are not unique to Australia alone. Despite this potential, there are several challenges the insect farming industry must overcome. For example, there is very little public data available, globally, due to high commercial sensitivities. Consequently, the industry is experiencing challenges with respect to collaboration and foundational industry knowledge sharing between its members. As a result, there is limited information to inform regulators, provide guidance to industry, and give confidence to potential customers and investors. These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that insect farms, unlike most other farms, can attract venture capital investment due to their high use of technology and suitable economics. These are global challenges that must be addressed for the industry to grow. (Information source: 'Catalysing a $10m Australian Insect Industry' plan; available at https://www.agrifutures.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/20-059.pdf).
4. ACIAR’s investments in insect-based enterprises
In partnership with the International Development Research Centre, IDRC), ACIAR has invested in a number of insect-based enterprises in Africa. ACIAR’s support enabled icipe to implement two phases of the ‘Integrating insects in poultry and fish feed in Kenya and Uganda’ (INSFEED) project between 2014 – 2021. The initiative identified suitable insect species and assessed the potential market and nutritional attributes of the products. Through INSFEED, cost-effective insect rearing, harvesting and post-harvest techniques were developed and adapted by smallholder producers. The project also established the risk factors associated with insect-based feeds along the food chain and their mitigation strategies, and also informed policies for promotion of safe, sustainable and cost-effective use of insect in the feed sector. In February 2022, ACIAR provided additional funds to icipe to upscale the benefits of insect animal feed technologies for sustainable agriculture intensification in Africa (PROTeinAfrica, a four year project).
5. icipe’s leadership in insects for food and feed
It is worth noting that in Africa, Asia and Latin America, insects have historically been consumed, with about 2000 known edible species. In Africa alone, around 500 insect species, primarily caterpillars, termites, grasshoppers and crickets and palm weevils, are eaten. Over the past decade, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, has capitalised on Africa’s advantage, employing a multi-faceted approach that harnesses and advances ethno-knowledge and boosts it with science-led insights. Indeed, icipe has earned global reputation as a leader in insects for food, feed and other uses. In 2020, the Centre was awarded the prestigious Curt Bergfors Foundation Food Planet Prize, in recognition of the Centre’s pioneering research and development (R&D) activities on insects for food, feed and other uses.
icipe has comprehensively documented edible insects in Africa and generated scientific evidence on their nutritional and socio-economic value; their superiority in terms of water consumption, space requirements and greenhouse emissions; and impact on livestock productivity and health. Further, the Centre has prepared protocols to improve harvesting and mass rearing of insects and to produce novel, safe and affordable, insect-based products like biofortified foods, feed proteins, organic fertiliser and pest control products. In specific regard to black soldier flies, icipe studies have helped to optimise suitable substrates based on available organic waste in East Africa, and the impact on productivity, crude protein levels and fat content in black soldier fly. Further, the Centre has conducted tests on the most optimal black soldier fly rearing infrastructure in relation to scale of production. icipe has also conducted research on the biosafety and microbial contaminants in black soldier flies, and ways to mitigate them in the value chain.
Overall, icipe’s efforts are supported by massive capacity and awareness building, as well as the development of policies and national standards in East Africa. As a result, in less than one decade, insect farming has increased dramatically in the region. Over 1000 large scale and microentreprises have been established, with the production capacity of the top nine insect farms estimated at approximately 9780 metric tonnes of dried insect protein annually. This is sufficient to substitute at least 5 percent of the major protein sources (fish and soya bean) in animal feeds. Performance studies show that insect-based feeds contributes to 62 percent egg increase with better yolk quality, rapid growth of broiler chicken and pigs to market size; improved quality of catfish (72 – 75 percent crude protein), while Nile tilapia fish are 23 percent heavier. Insect-composted organic fertiliser increases yields of vegetables and cereals by up to 40 percent, compared to commercial organic and inorganic fertilisers. icipe’s studies have also demonstrated that 5-50 percent adoption of insect-based feed by the entire poultry sector in Kenya alone would free-up enough fish and maize to feed 0.47 – 4.8 million people, create 25,000-252,000 jobs per year, recycle 2 – 18 million tonnes of organic waste into 1.8 – 18.4 thousand tonnes of organic fertilizers and improve the country’s economy by USD 69-687 million. In total, the Centre has trained 73 researchers in nine countries in insects for food and feed at postdoctoral, PhD, MSc and BSc level. icipe’s network includes over 250 public and private sector organisation, spread in 61 countries in five continents.
6. Vision of the EIT-Hub
The EIT-Hub has two goals: (i) to centralise engagement and knowledge sharing around insects as food, fodder and fertiliser; (ii) to provide a forum to bring together industry stakeholders, scientists and investors from Africa and Australia for deliberations and support on issues linked to emerging insect technologies, particularly public goods aspects such as knowledge translation, policy and regulation, standards setting, best practice and public perception, community sensitisation on insects as feed and food.
While several activities are envisioned, an initial proposed activity is the development of a Gold Standard Technical Manual for black soldier fly rearing that is readily adaptable and appropriate for diverse countries and contexts. The manual will serve as a guide for prospective entrepreuners to engage in black soldier fly production in Africa and Australia. It will also be an education tool for students and researchers working on this particular insects, and other edible insects.