While insects are well-known for the critical role they play in the environment and in agriculture, a good number of them often find themselves on the opposite end of human tolerance and are targeted for destruction.
Today, however, some insects are becoming stars in the human feed chain – they are being recognised for their high value protein and nutrients.
Insects have been said to be a highly nutritious and healthy food source with high fat, protein, vitamin, fibre and mineral content.Their great nutritional component has added a new angle, as they are now seen to provide more value to the feed and food basket, becoming a source of income for those venturing into innovation in the sector.
In western Kenya, including Nyanza, crickets, grasshoppers and termites (chiswa, in Luhya), have always formed a part of the traditional diet as a seasonal delicacy. People here consume the insects for free proteins they would have been forced to dig into their pockets to get it from meat, chicken or any other source of protein.
However, with an increasing population and its high demand for nutritious food and faced with strain from climate change that is depleting feed sources like water bodies, the need for other sources of nutrition is rising.
The Black Soldier fly is among the insects recognised for its high protein content among practitioners in the animal feed industry.
In a corner of Nairobi’s Industrial Area, a company is taking advantage of this new opportunity and meeting the needs of the animal feeds manufacturing industry. Sanergy Company breeds Black Soldier flies and processes them into a high quality protein.
“Our company is involved in waste disposal using container- managed toilets. We use the waste to make organic fertiliser for sale and also breed the black soldier fly, which we use to process high nutritional quality feed for animal feed companies,” says Sanergy communications manager Madora Brown.
Since 2013, the company has been breeding the flies in a four-week cycle. During that period, the fly lays eggs. “We are very particular in the larvae stage, where we harvest high protein of between 40 and 50 per cent,” she says.
The company has seen increasing demand for the high protein feed with time. Millers who make animal feed buy the product and combine it with other supplements to come up with a high quality feed vital for animal growth. These companies usually repackage the product according to their specifications, and depending on the type of animal they are making the feed for.
The insects are bred at the factory, where they are fed on organic waste matter, consuming up to 200kg per day.
“The beauty is that the waste is not expensive and is readily available,” she adds. “We harvest the larvae, which are then dried for one week and the feed processed into powder and packaged in 50kg bags, which are sold at a wholesale price of Sh110 per kilo. Chickens and pigs like this feed.”
The animal feeds market is growing at seven per cent per year, and feed millers are looking for alternatives to the available proteins.
“The millers appreciate the consistency and quality of our protein inputs,” says Ms Brown.
Insect-based animal feed, especially from the Black Soldier fly, has more advantages compared to other protein sources such as sardines (omena), which are not in steady supply due to poor fishing methods. Additionally, omena only supply a protein content of up to 30 per cent.
Insects also need only a warm climate for breeding, which is the norm in many parts of Kenya. Insect breeding, like the Black Soldier fly venture, has also proven to be a sustainable solution for human waste management for areas with high populations such as slums. The fly can eliminate pathogens or germs READ MORE IN ISSUE 33