Using Bio Waste as Feed for Farmed Insects

The summer has been busy time for me and for that reason I have not been able to find time to write anything new for a while now. I will be writing something new again very soon, but before that I give you a small piece of my thesis that is available completely in this blog in the pinned post that you find listed first in the opening page. There are some references in this piece of text, if you are interested to look deeper to the topic and review the referenced pieces you can find the complete list of references from the thesis.

The topic of using bio waste as feed has been discussed quite a lot in relation to the upcoming EU-level discussions about risks of opening the markets for insect food. The use of bio waste as feed is not only a possible risk for the end consumer, but also it is a big challenge for the production planning. Wanna know why? Enjoy the “Using Bio Waste as Feed” chapter of my thesis:

Using Bio Waste as Feed

Using bio waste for feed is ecological and a cheap choice, but the waste based feed comes with multiple difficult issues that must be addressed. Unlike certified feed, waste can be a health risk, but also its inconsistent nature may cause difficulties in production schedule and product quality. The bio waste must be treated at least to a certain level before giving it to the animals in order to remove the health risks. The health risks are discussed in detail in chapter five.

Because of these mentioned points the approach taken by the Agriprotein- company to feed the insect by offal waste, catering leftovers and possibly even with society waste can be considered surprising and risky. Interestingly, a Canadian IFF- company Enterra is using waste streams as well, but unlike Agriprotein they are using controlled, pre-customer waste instead of waste coming from for example catering left overs used by Agriprotein. The pre-customer waste means food items that would otherwise go to landfill if not used as feed. Catering leftovers, let alone collected household wastes are inconsistent by quality, water and nutrient levels, and may include unwanted items if not very carefully controlled. Pre-customer wastes might be inconsistent as well, but together with offal waste they are traceable which is a significant benefit over the lefto-vers from the regulatory perspective. From these four options offal waste has one up-side more that is consistent in quality. The Enterra- company writes on their homepage “Enterra does NOT accept household or institutional food waste, yard waste, garbage or manure.”(Enterra Feed Corporation, 2015). Enterra’s comprehension over the risks and traceability issues underlines the issues that are related to the different type of waste used by Agriprotein, and Enterra’s approach seems to be better from risk man-agement’s point of view. The use of pre-customer waste does not completely clear out of the quality supply chain risks, but when farming the black soldier fly it must be ac-cepted that some type of decomposing materials must be used because of the nature of the animal (Erens et al., 2012).

When looking at the feed and the costs related to it the companies must look at the total cost of ownership closely when deciding which operations are economically beneficial to do in-house, and which outsource. In the case of bio waste depending on where the waste is coming from and how well it has been controlled, there are multiple risks that must be managed before it can be used as feed. Unlike the certified feed, the bio waste might be inconsistent by unit size or the unit size is not directly usable. For example, if the waste includes animal organs, they cannot be given directly to insects because they are too big by size and this leads to two issues: First of all, if the feed unit is too big the insects are not able to consume it fast enough and long exposure to humid and warm environment at the rearing facility increases the risk of bio hazardous fungal and pathogen exposure. Secondly, the large and also the inconsistent unit size are a challenge to feed distributor machines. Additionally, the risks can be unwanted items in the waste such as stones, pieces of plastic, metal or class. These items can cause a health hazard for the insects, but also might break down machinery in the production facility. For all these reasons the bio waste must be controlled with specific machines and workforce that both increase the total cost of ownership. Purchasing of these machines requires an investment, but might be a beneficial choice in the long run. For companies using bio waste having the machines in-house would make the horizontal integration easier as the standardization of quality would be done at the site and possible variance in feed unit size could be eliminated and unwanted items removed.

Unlike the bio waste that is not designed for feed use, the certified feed producers manufacture their products to be safe and consistent so that they are ready to be used directly at a farm. Even though there are many feed producers with strong knowledge of the field, the knowledge of feed designed especially for insects is very limited. For this reason it is possible that the IFF- farm should apply certain especial treatments also on the certified feed. For example, it is possible that some feed materials contain insect eggs. The miscellaneous eggs do not cause any harm for livestock, but once placed into an IFF-farm where the perfect environment for insects are provided hatching of the unwanted insects is a possibility might lead to risk endangering the safety and functionality of production.

The mentioned companies refused to discuss how the bio waste is sourced and how they are controlling the risks. The missing knowledge directly from the companies leaves questions open and creates a need for further research. What is known about Agriprotein’s approach is their brief explanation offered online at their homepage: “Tested on arrival and then blended and processed into a formulated larval feed” (Agriprotein.com, 2015). Additionally, in Agriprotein’s social media channel a video from 2013 shows that the company has at least tested collecting kitchen waste from private citizens (YouTube, 2015). These small bits of information can be found, but how the companies manage the issues raised in this chapter remains unknown.

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