By Scott Wright

SCOTTISH researchers are to collaborate on a project to develop the UK’s first large-scale industrial insect farm – and ultimately help meet rising demand for protein-rich food.

Experts from the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, Cooke Aquaculture and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) have joined efforts to deliver a demonstrator system for the conversion of food waste into insect-based animal feed and biofertiliser. It is hoped that the farming of black soldier flies to feed into this system will ultimately support the fish farming and agriculture sectors. The idea envisages feeding insects with waste food, with the insects then harvested for the protein used in animal feed, and potentially human food.

With no single organisation currently understood to have the expertise to make this viable, Entocycle, which makes ingredients for pet food and animal feed, has brought together leading researchers to turn the ambition into reality.

Backed by £10 million from the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the project will be supported by the University of Warwick, Durham University, Tesco, Beta Bugs, AB Agri, Better Origin, ISCF Future Food Production Systems, Fera Science, and Insect Technology Group UK, as well as the researchers in Scotland.

The long-term aim of the consortium is to establish the UK as an international centre of excellence for the farming of black soldier flies and the development of related technologies by 2040. By that stage it aims to have delivered more than 100 international sites, creating 3,300 jobs in the UK in the process, and to have saved 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the next 20 years.

Heather Jones, chief executive of SAIC, said: “As the human population of our planet grows, the demand for food and protein will also increase exponentially. At the same time, it has never been more important to reduce the carbon footprint of our food production systems. Farmed fish will be integral to delivering on that need, as a low-carbon source of quality protein, and the research capabilities and expertise we have in Scotland will be a key part in making the UK an international centre of excellence. We can and should always look for new ways of further enhancing the aquaculture sector’s impact on the environment and new sources of feed will be critical in meeting that challenge.”