Project to put insects on the menu receives financial boost

SCIENTISTS from Aberystwyth received a financial boost for their project to put insects on the menu for food and feed.

Researchers at the University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) have received EU funding to expand their research on insects as a food source for humans.

The work is part of ‘ValuSect’, an international project that aims to improve the sustainable production and processing of insect products.

Insects are a common feature of the daily diet of people in countries around the world, such as Mexico, China, and Ghana.

They provide a more environmentally friendly source of protein than many other foods and could help feed the growing world population.

To date, the project has studied crickets, grasshoppers and yellow mealworms as human food.

The grant will see the black soldier fly (Hermetia Illucens) species added to the research menu and expand the work to the use of insect products in animal feed.

Professor Alison Kingston-Smith, who leads ValuSect research at Aberystwyth University, said:

“This grant is a great boost for the project. Insects have great potential as a food source for humans and animals. With a growing world population, the world needs more sources of sustainable food.

“This project is a great opportunity for the Welsh agriculture and food sector to diversify into new markets. There is no doubt that insect proteins are occupying an increasingly important place in the food industry, and our researchers will be part of these exciting developments.

ValuSect, which stands for ‘Valuable Insects’, is a consortium of partners coordinated by Thomas More University in Belgium and supported by a grant of 2.08 million euros from the INTERREG North West Europe program. Additional grant expands research network and includes new project partners in Germany

Aberystwyth University and BIC Innovation, with support from the Welsh government, are working with partners from 6 other countries in the North West Europe region.

The results of the research will be shared with agri-food companies in northern Europe.

Research indicates that around 30% of consumers in the EU are ready to eat insect-based foods. ValuSect aims to increase this number by improving the quality of insect production and processing, performing consumer tests and reducing its environmental impact.

Research will focus on greenhouse gas emissions, the impact of substrates, food safety and the shelf life of insect-based food products.

As part of the extension of the project, ValuSect will offer this year vouchers worth up to € 40,000 to companies offering services to develop insects as a feeding activity, for example by optimizing the conditions of insect breeding.

The global insect food market was estimated at EUR 133 million in 2020 and is expected to reach EUR 736.7 million by the end of 2026.

Some of the business opportunities are already happening.

Dr Geoffrey Knott, who studied at Aberystwyth University, is CEO and co-founder of HOP, a company that produces cricket protein bars.

Dr Knott said: “HOP’s mission is to give people more control over their long-term health and well-being through the food they eat. Currently, HOP sells sports nutrition products based on crickets. We use crickets because they provide higher quality protein than plants and are more sustainable and ethically raised than traditional animal sources.

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