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Durham University

Durham University News


Insects provide strategy for sustainable food production

(15 October 2020)

Did you know that each year 1.3billion tonnes of food are wasted? 

If a quarter of the world’s waste could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.

Our bioscientists are helping to tackle this problem as partners in a £10million project to build the UK’s first commercial scale black soldier fly (BSF) farm.

Alternative proteins for animal feed

BSF farming involves feeding surplus food waste to black soldier fly larvae. When harvested, protein can be extracted from the larvae and used as a sustainable alternative to fishmeal or soy-meal in feed for fish, chickens and pigs.

The residue that remains after harvesting the fly larvae, known as frass, has huge potential for use as novel organic biofertilisers in agriculture, reducing the need for chemical fertilisers.

Soy and fishmeal are key sources of protein for animal feed, but the ever increasing demand for meat, fish and eggs to feed our growing global population is threatening the sustainability of livestock production.

New sources of feed proteins are essential if we are to reduce the negative environmental impacts, such as deforestation and the depletion of oceanic biodiversity, associated with the production of conventional protein sources.

Future organic fertilisers

Our bioscientists will evaluate nutrient-rich frass samples to understand their ability to enhance crop growth and soil health, and will also develop formulations suitable for commercial application.

We will also determine whether plants grown on soils containing frass are more resistant to fungal pathogens and insect pests to identify longer term opportunities to reduce the need for chemical pesticides.

Protecting the planet

The project hopes to reduce CO2 emissions associated with food waste and traditional feed protein production, helping the UK improve its food and animal feed security through the development of more localised supply chains.

Find out more

  • Durham has received £490,000 out of a total of £10million from UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
  • The project is being led by Dr Elaine Fitches and Professor Ari Sadanandom from our Department of Biosciences, working with researchers from Warwick University.
  • Find out more about studying biosciences with us.

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