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Insect farming goes commercial: A historical perspective

09 September 20226 min reading

The first decade of the insect sector has been a most interesting chapter - paving the way to enable commercial business through the regulatory milestones that have been achieved. Yet, as we commence on the second decade of modern insect farming, the outlook reveals that several large-scale production facilities are undergoing projecting or construction in all major regions. In the article ‘Insect farming goes commercial: From R&D to business’ to be published in the next issue of Feed Planet Magazine you will get the opportunity to read more about this.

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann
Head of Business Development
Better Insect Solutions



Ten years ago, a group of people from various backgrounds met in Rome end of January 2012 for a meeting hosted by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The meeting was organized by Paul Vantomme of FAO and Arnold van Huis of the University of Wageningen – two pioneers that have since been leading advocates of insects for feed and food. At the meeting, entitled Assessing the Potential of Insects as Food and Feed in assuring Food Security, the perspectives of insects as food and feed was discussed. Driven by the global need of sustainable food and feed alternatives, this event signifies the international ‘birth’ of insect farming as a new sub-sector in modern agriculture.

While using insects as feed and food dates centuries, even millennia, back, the meeting in Rome constitutes the point of origin of large-scale insect farming under controlled condition. The spark that was ignited in January 2012 became a ‘fire’ the year after in 2013 when FAO published their report Edible insects – Future prospects for food and feed security. This report was downloaded >1,000,000 times within the first 24 hours of being released and caused FAO’s twitter account to crash temporarily. An immense interest in this new and alternative animal-based protein source grew, not least due to the high potential of insects as a sustainable and resource-effective way of farming. Personally, I got introduced to this new business area when I attended the first global meeting Insect to feed the world (IFW) in May 2014 in Ede, The Netherlands hosted by FAO and the University of Wageningen. After returning from the meeting I was captivated; and thankfully I was not the only one.

Shortly after, in 2015, the international insect producers and stakeholders of this new sector organized themselves in the trade association International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF). In fact, IPIFF had been active since 2012, but got formally established in 2015. Today IPIFF, has grown from a few founding members to >80 members, In 2016, the sister trade associations North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture (NACIA) and Asian Food and Feed Insect Association (AFFIA) were established. The work of the trade associations is of great importance in securing a dialogue and progress with international legislators as well as uniting the regional insect stakeholders. Specifically, IPIFF has during the last five years enabled a wider use of insect for feed and food in the European Union as well as using the manure from insects (known as frass). A few highlights include getting insects approved as feed in aquaculture in 2017, which also involved that seven species of insects, including e.g. black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens), common mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) and the housefly (Musca domestica) became defined as farmed animals by the European Commission (Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/893). Hence, the same legal requirements of animal farming, with regards to general food law (Regulation (EC) 178/2002) and feed hygiene (Regulation (EC) 183/2005), apply for insects to be compliant on the EU market. This means, as stated in the feed marketing regulation (Regulation (EC) 767/2009), that former foodstuffs containing meat and fish as well as catering waste are not, at present, legal to use as feed for insects. Increasing the scope of including more feeding substrates to be legally applicable for insect farming is ongoing in the EU, and is a major priority of IPIFF. In other regions, like Asia, there are less stringent legislations that allows for a wider use for insect farming, including applying food waste with meat and fish as feeding substrate. More recent developments in the EU driven by IPIFF have legalized the use of insect protein in feed for poultry and pigs (Commission Regulation (EU) 2021/1372) and ensured using frass for certain applications (Commission Regulation (EU) 2021/1925).

IPIFF official inauguration event (13 April 2015) IPIFF founding Members (Credit IPIFF Secretariat).

In parallel to the various trade associations and their activities, there are also a wide range of organizations that, since the emergence of the insect sector, help with connecting the various stakeholder by arranging annual meetings. The largest of these is still IFW, initially hosted by FAO and University of Wageningen in Ede, The Netherlands in 2014. Since then global IFW meetings have been held in Wuhan, China in 2018, and lately in Quebec, Canada in June 2022. Other international meetings include for instance Insecta (Germany), Insectinov (France) and EAAP (all Europe) that have been ongoing since 2015.

The first decade of the insect sector has been a most interesting chapter - paving the way to enable commercial business through the regulatory milestones that have been achieved. Yet, as we commence on the second decade of modern insect farming, the outlook reveals that several large-scale production facilities are undergoing projecting or construction in all major regions. In the article ‘Insect farming goes commercial: From R&D to business’ to be published in the next issue of Feed Planet Magazine you will get the opportunity to read more about this.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann is Head of Business Development at Better Insect Solutions, an international leading technology provider of total solutions for insect farming. He has a background in biology and insect farming with extensive experience in R&D and business development. During 2014-2020, he was developing and leading the business area “insect farming for feed and food” at the Danish Technological Institute. In parallel, he was active in task force groups at IPIFF during 2016-2020 as well as a member of the executive committee of IPIFF from 2018-2020.


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