Insects for Food and Feed

The Insects for Food, Feed and Other Uses (INSEFF) Programme is delivering innovative research for development agenda that addresses a wide range of unique and critical issues associated with human, animal, plant, and environmental health within the context of One Health. The INSEFF programme addresses its R4D activities from “Grassroots to Policy” ensuring a system change to counter food planet challenges to achieve One Health impacts.

The mission of INSEFF is to enhance food and feed security and economic wellbeing of smallholder producers through insect-based technologies and innovations that are sustainable and environmentally benign. This aim is being achieved through developing, disseminating and promoting insect-based technologies for food, feed and other uses to enhance productivity, value addition and overall competitiveness of the agricultural system for improved livelihood. The programme focuses on understanding environmental factors favoring sustainable availability of edible insects; technological innovations for efficient mass rearing, wild collection and processing of edible insects; analyzing nutritional value and biosafety of insects as food and feed; using insects to safely recycle bio-waste into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer for improved crop productivity; value addition on edible insect products; and developing policies on efficient and equitable production and utilization of edible insects.

Although the focus of most edible insects R4D is driven by the potential to use insect as protein additives in the feed sector, the novelty of icipe’s INSEFF programme lies in its holistic view of the edible insect sector and opportunities for a circular economy that delivers in icipe’s “One health” agenda including but not limited to:

  • Innovative technologies for enhancing availability and sustainable access to edible insects in Africa and beyond. Smallholders and entrepreneurs are increasingly adopting improved and low-tech options developed by INSEFF for mass rearing and trapping of edible insects, particularly crickets, grasshopper, locust, palm weevil, mealworm, dung beetles and black soldier flies. Technologies for sustainable mass rearing and safe harvesting of some of the insects which are a delicacy in Africa have been developed for the first time.
  • Innovative utility for organic fertilizers from insect farming: Technologies for the generation and utilization of novel nutrient-rich high-quality organic fertilizers from insect production systems for improved soil health, vegetable and staple crops production have been optimized and deployed in farmer fields. Multiple benefits are linked to this innovation, such as organic waste mitigation, reduced capital outlay for enhanced crop productivity for food security, reduced GHG emission, and reduced pollution of soil and water geared towards a cleaner environment and healthy and greener cities.
  • Development of novel and high-value added products from edible insects: High-value insect oil-based products for household healthy food recipes, and nutraceuticals for use in the cosmetic and health sectors, as well as additives in animal feeds have been developed. Current research is also focused on chitin and chitosan from insect pupal exuviae (by-products) that can be used as soil amendments for suppressing below-ground (nematodes) and above-ground pests, use as natural preservatives, and as healing agents in wound dressing. New ongoing research areas include bioprospecting for novel microbes and anti-infectives from gut microbiota of insects; evaluating antimicrobial activity of insect-based products (chitosan, oil and extracts) against multi-drug resistant strains of bacteria and fungus; in vitro antimicrobial and in vivo wound healing activities; exploring the potential of insect-based feeds to improve gut microbiome to minimize the use of antibiotics; evaluating insect-based oils as adjuvants for improved persistence and efficacy of plant-based mosquito repellents and antimicrobials.
  • Facilitate the creation of enabling policies for scaling insect-based technologies: INSEFF programme has actively engage with regulatory and policy organizations in in Kenya and Uganda to facilitate the creation of standards using evidence-based data that has allowed the use of insects in both the food and feed sector. Similar applications are underway across many African countries to harmonize these standards for the benefit of the continent through the enhancement of safe and equitable policies for access and trade of edible insects.
  • Building entrepreneurship for edible insect sector in Africa: In the past six years, several entrepreneurs have emerged based on INSEFFs insect-based technologies. Among these, eight key entrepreneurs in Kenya alone produce more than 2220 metric tons of dry insect protein which equals to 4% of conventional animal feed proteins demand in the country.
  • Forging public-private partnerships for scaling insect-based technologies: INSEFF values partnerships for achieving its larger goals of circular economy, One Health, and sustainable food systems through scaling of edible insects. Partnerships of INSEFF extends to over 200 public and private sector organisations, spread in 61 countries in 5 continents.
  • Building capacity for research and technology extension for scaling the edible insect sector: Over the years, INSEFF has built research capacity of 2 Postdoc, 8 PhD, 41 MSc, and 22 BSc students from 9 countries.
  • Awareness creation, knowledge sharing and media outreach: INSEFF has been mentioned in 494 articles produced in 15 major languages across 40 countries in 4 continents.
  • Socioeconomic – The replacement of conventional protein (fishmeal and soymeal) and energy feed sources (maize) in the commercial poultry sector by 5-50% insect-based feed will (1) make available fish and maize to fed over 0.47-4.8 million people per year, which otherwise would have ended in the feed sector; (2) create employment opportunities to 3,300-33,000 people per year; and (3) improve Kenyan economy by $16-159 million with potential to lift 0.07-0.74 million people out of poverty per year. 

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