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Bugs for humans…and now, for livestock

Family-run farm to use insect protein to tackle the growing global need for animal feed

By Kyra Lightburn, University of Guelph Agricultural Communications Student, for Farms.com

Bugs for dinner for humans…but not for livestock? That’s the unusual situation Next Millennium Farms finds itself in as it works to legalize the sale of insect protein as a livestock feed in Canada.

Having achieved considerable success since the launch of its human edible cricket products in 2012, the family-run Peterborough based company is now set to use insect protein to tackle the growing global need for sustainable, affordable, nutritious animal feed.

To accomplish this, the company has teamed up with researchers at the University of Guelph to formally establish the impact of feeding livestock worm-based protein meal.

“Our trials have been promising. We have confirmed that fish perform very well when fed a diet that includes super-worm meal,” says Next Millennium Farms co-founder Jarrod Goldin. “Insect protein offers a high and complete protein content, a rich source of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids…our results indicate a tremendous opportunity for innovating and enhancing feed inputs.”

The focus on fish has been very strategic. Last year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published a study warning that the availability of fishmeal is declining rapidly, because of tighter quotas and controls on unregulated fishing. Accordingly, its price has more than doubled in the last decade.

Goldin acknowledges the suitability of this market, but also notes that feed infused with insect meal is widely applicable for many types of livestock, pointing to the possibility of lowering the environmental impact of livestock with less efficient feed conversion ratios. 

“Imagine feeding livestock, especially natural ‘insectivores’ like fish and chicken, insect protein that hasn’t been augmented by steroids, pesticides or antibiotics and is produced utilizing consumer food wastes, needing little water or land resources. It’s very clean… it’s a no brainer!” he says.

Goldin has statistics on his side. Recently, the E.U. initiative PROteINSECT documented that one hectare of land produced a minimum of 150 tons of protein per year, a significant increase on the one ton per hectare soy provides.

So, what’s next for the company, now that fish have officially taken the bait? Well, the Goldins are in the process of organically certifying their insects, thereby expanding their potential market. They also want to pursue more research, such as how the extremely high vitamin B12 in insect based feed translates into nutrient enhanced animal products.

More immediately, Next Millennium Farms must address the current lack of licensing and regulations surrounding insects as a feed resource in Canada. To do so, they have partnered with consultant and past president of the Agriculture Institute of Canada, Dr. Douglas Yungblut.

“Provided the efficiency at which insects convert feed into protein… their utilization as a feed resource has been a long time coming,” he says. “Once insects are registered as a feed additive through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the biggest challenge for Next Millennium Farms will be ramping up production to commercial scale.”

The Goldin brothers are enthusiastic to undertake this challenge, noting they have fully automated their infrastructure toward scaling up, pending CFIA approval.

Kyra Lightburn grew up on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and from a very early age, her family encouraged her appreciation for horticulture and the environment. In 2011, she completed a Bachelor of Arts at McGill University majoring in English. Today, she is passionate about studying ecological agriculture and in communicating current agricultural issues. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science, majoring in organic agriculture at the University of Guelph. She aspires to a post-graduate level study of agriculture, focusing on how we can produce food without compromising essential ecosystem services like biodiversity conservation, water regulation and carbon sequestration. When she is not studying, you'll find her knee deep in the spruce swamps of northern Alberta with her trusty red husky, working hard in reforestation to fund her education. This article is part of Kyra's course work for the University of Guelph agricultural communications course, instructed by Prof. Owen Roberts.


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