before we make really bold claims about how big those effects will be.”

Better than fishmeal and vegetable meal? But what about the sustainability of insect meal when used in fish diets and livestock diets, compared to other protein sources such as fishmeal and vegetable proteins? Fishmeal production is markedly different from land-based protein production as its production does not require additional in- puts of land or water, and energy is primarily from nature. On the other hand, it is noted for its damage to biodiversity and ecosystems. This makes it difficult to compare with land- based proteins. Overall, the LCA study indicated that insect proteins showed lower impacts than fishmeal over most of the impact types. Plant-based proteins are among the most sustainable. In the mid and long term, insect proteins could be environmentally competitive across most of the impact types, but again a switch to sustainable feed and more effi- cient production or use of renewable energy is vital to gain the beneficial position compared to plant-based proteins. There were two exceptions to this pattern: fresh water deple- tion and land use. Insect production, even at the baseline showed lower impact estimates in these categories than soy- beans and with the efficiency gains in next-generation pro- duction it became competitive against rapeseed cake. There- fore, while the outlook may be that it will require mid (2-5 years) to longer term improvements for BSF proteins to achieve impacts as low as plant-based sources across many types of impacts, in locations where water and land are scarce, or habitat destruction for agriculture is an issue, BSF production may already be a preferable protein source.

Organic waste and renewable energy in the mix “We have learned from this LCA study that we can improve further to make insect farming even more sustainable. Our new Protix plant in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, is de- signed with significant improvements on that front. Overall, I strongly believe that using insects is a good sustainable way to lower the impact of food production. It gets even better if we can find ways to use other and more organic waste prod- ucts in insect farming. Furthermore, I really like the long term scenario in the LCA study, showing what happens when you add renewable energy into the mix. Soy and fishmeal both get a lot of free energy from nature, which is great, while most other land-based proteins require man-made energy in- puts. By switching to renewables we can make significant steps forward in further reducing the environmental impacts from feed and food production by levelling the playing field,” Dr Schmitt explains. And what about the ideal location to grow insects? Dr Schmitt explains that two types of locations seem particularly attractive for insect farming. For starters, lo- cations with high population density – these often have quite

a lot of food waste and are limited on resources like water and land, which BSF production is more sustainable than any of the other protein sources we produce in large volumes. “If you look at Brabant (the south of the Netherlands), where Protix started, we have a lot of people and livestock and import a lot of feed, and resources like land are tight. BSF production makes a lot of sense here, but also in a place like Beijing or Singapore or Mexico City. Secondly, insect farming can be done at locations which are far away from the food chain and produce a lot of waste, Some locations produce a lot of agri- cultural output and process it, think of a region in the middle of Brazil. Shipping the organic waste out is a costly matter. If the abundance of waste is fed to insects then a higher value product with a smaller volume can be economically produced and shipped.”

Integration in food chain The insect industry is on the verge of transitioning from pilot scale to industrial scale production. Producers at the pilot scale have focused on stable, safe production to demonstrate the potential of their production process. Now it is time to move into the next phase. Consequentially, the full potential for environmental impact reduction from insects still lies ahead. “The insect sector has improved and grown a lot over the last years. The biggest challenge for now is that we make sure that insect farming becomes fully integrated in the exist- ing food chain. The LCA study we did shows that insect pro- duction is a sustainable way forward for the feed and food in- dustry and this is helping us to gain trust along the whole food chain,” Dr Schmitt concludes.

The original paper: ‘Sustainable use of Hermetia illucens insect biomass for feed and food: Attributional and consequential life cycle assessment’ has been published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Volume 144, May 2019.

Overall, the LCA study indicated that insect pro- teins showed lower impacts than fishmeal (pictured) over most of the im- pact types. Plant-based pro- teins are among the most sus- tainable.

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




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