Black soldier fly as feed: Move over, fish meal

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This is the first of our three-part blog series exploring the importance of the black soldier fly as a sustainable source of quality protein for animal feed.

Did you know that most animals are raised on fish? It’s true! Fish meal is the main source of protein in many animal diets. This includes your pets at home as well as farm animals and even farmed fish.

According to a United Nations FAO report in 2016, global fisheries produce around 168 million tonnes of fish each year. And that number keeps rising! Fish are plentiful and high in protein, around 65%, but there are two major problems with using fish for animal feed.

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1. Food security

We use almost one-third of the world’s ocean fish catch for animal feed rather than human consumption. These smaller bait or “forage” fish are used to make meal to feed pigs, chickens, and farm-raised fish.

On average, it takes three to five pounds of fish meal to produce one pound of farm-raised fish.

In a world where almost 795 million people go hungry every day, this is a huge amount of quality protein that could be used directly and more efficiently to address human food security.

2. Ecological damage

Fish are fundamentally important to the overall health of our oceans. Forage fish are at the foundation of the marine ecosystem, nourishing larger fish, marine mammals, and sea birds.

With the increase in fish catch every year, we are seeing major species disappearing and many fisheries closing. Why? We’re over-fishing and not allowing fish populations to recoup. Once abundant species are becoming endangered or being killed-off altogether.

The price of fish meal has increased 200% in the last ten years, and the demand is expected to outpace supply in the very near future.

Even as the aquaculture industry is pushed to implement and regulate more sustainable practices, there remains a critical need for quality alternative protein sources that are safe, plentiful, and affordable.

black-soldier-fly-larvae-feed-production

Soldier flies to the rescue!

Enter the black soldier fly, nature’s miraculous little bug that is revolutionizing the food and feed industry.

Yes, a fly! Black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens) are disrupting the aquafeed game as a low-cost, high-protein, alternative to fish meal.

Currently, BSF larvae are the only insect approved for use as feed for one group of commercially-raised animals: salmon, trout, and their relatives. The amino acid profile of BSF meal is very similar to that of fish meal, making it an ideal protein source for aquaculture rations.

The black soldier fly is not a pest to humans or other animals and uses its natural bio-conversion ability to upcycle the food waste it consumes into valuable proteins, fats, and chitin.

BSF production is a naturally sustainable and environmentally-friendly process compared to resource-intensive feed stock alternatives.

Soldier Fly Technologies is proud to be contributing to the growth of the emerging insect protein industry as we research and develop innovative technology to optimize black soldier fly production processes that are both economically and environmentally sustainable at the commercial level.

Extra Reading & References

Barroso, F. G., C. de Haro, M.-J. Sánchez-Muros, E. Venegas, A. Martínez-Sánchez, and C. Pérez-Bañón. 2014. The potential of various insect species for use as food for fish. Aquaculture. 422–423: 193–201.
Food and Agriculture Organization. 2016. The state of world fisheries and aquaculture. Rome, Italy.
Finke, M. D. 2013. Complete nutrient content of four species of feeder insects. Zoo Biol. 32: 27–36.
Merino, G., M. Barange, J. L. Blanchard, J. Harle, R. Holmes, I. Allen, E. H. Allison, M. C. Badjeck, N. K. Dulvy, J. Holt, S. Jennings, C. Mullon, and L. D. Rodwell. 2012. Can marine fisheries and aquaculture meet fish demand from a growing human population in a changing climate? Glob. Environ. Chang. 22: 795–806.
Sheppard, D. C., L. Newton, and G. Burtle. 2007. Black soldier fly prepupae a compelling alternative to fish meal and fish oil. Tifton, Gainesville.
Veldkamp, T., and G. Bosch. 2016. Insects: A protein-rich feed ingredient in pig and poultry diets. Anim. Front. 5: 45–50.
Drew, J., and J. Joseph. 2012. The story of the fly and how it could save the world. Cheviot. 16 pp.
Drew, J., and D. Lorimer. 2011. The protein crunch. Print Matters Planet. 184 pp.

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