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growing, processing, distributing and consuming. While in- sects are considered a source of protein with a lower environ- mental impact than meat products, previous research showed that in certain cases their environmental impact might be similar to chicken and pork products, e.g. nitrous oxide emissions (Oonincx, 2017) and land use (Smetana et al., 2016). However, the level of impact highly depends on the diet, production system and species, as some of them lead to increased emissions compared to others (Oonincx, 2017). “The goal of our study was therefore to look at the environ- mental impacts of insect based intermediate products (usa- ble for feed and food) and to provide guidance on how the insect industry should move forward to become even more sustainable,” explains Dr Schmitt. The LCA study is based on a dataset of BSF production and processing (2015-2017) from a pilot plant from Protix producing above average volumes. The researchers looked at the production of raw materials (feed for BSF), feed processing and storage, cycle of BSF development (egg production, larvae hatching, growing, larvae harvesting) and processing of outputs into a few products: organic fertiliser, fresh puree, protein concentrate and fat.


Insect diets and energy – biggest factors The LCA study explains the two most effective ways to im- prove environmental sustainability of insect products. These are: using more sustainable feed for the insects and good en- gineering practices. The LCA looked at the production of BSF fed on the side-streams diet. The diet consisted of commer- cially available side-streams from the food industry (milling, alcohol production and brewery). The greatest sources of im- pacts in all categories were feed production (feed for the in- sects) and energy use (growing of the insects). For the BSF puree these made up 43% and 36.5%, respectively. This ratio, whereby feed production had a slightly higher impact than energy, was observed for the other products as well, except for BSF meal, where 55% of all environmental impacts were associated with production of electricity used along the pro- duction chain and 38% of impacts was allocated to insect feed production. This difference was because of the energy requirements needed in the additional processing steps to transform BSF puree to BSF meal. Insect fertiliser (IF) and BSF fat were co-products of BSF puree and BSF meal produc- tion. Fertiliser production, even at the pilot scale was more environmentally favourable compared to conventional organic fertiliser.


Optimising insects’ diets The authors write that one of the ways to make insect farm- ing more sustainable is to look at the diet that is fed to the insects. The EU laws allow insects to be fed protein-rich side-streams from the food processing industries. “This is a good thing of course, but these food by-products are also


completely or partially suitable for other livestock. The use of non-utilised side-streams for feed that are unsuitable for conventional livestock can reduce the direct impact of BSF production again by a quarter we saw in the LCA study,” Dr Schmitt explains. So should legislation allow more types of ingredients for insect production, and in particular ones that are not competing with livestock feed? Dr Schmitt says that the insect industry can develop quite a bit further with- out major changes in the regulations regarding the products used to feed the insects. Dr Schmitt: “There is enough vol- ume of allowed feed ingredients on the market that insect producers can use. In my opinion we could also rethink the way we separate certain waste streams from restaurants for example. Some are now restricted but could be logical to allow, but risks should always be managed. I think it is important that the food processing industry makes cleaner


▶ ALL ABOUT FEED | Volume 27, No. 3, 2019


The Black Sol- dier Fly is known as an efficient converter of bio- mass into pro- tein.


27


PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK


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