Kenyans will soon taste the newly-discovered edible cricket, according to researchers working at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Nairobi.
The species, Scapsipedus icipe, gives great promise for mass production for human consumption and inclusion as an alternative protein ingredient in animal feeds, according to scientists working on icipe’s insect for food and feed programme.
Its discovery has been published in the Zootaxa Journal, a global science publication.
“Scapsipedus icipe is widely farmed across Kenya. However, until now its true scientific information was unavailable, and it was erroneously mistaken for a different cricket species known as Acheta domesticus L.,” notes icipe scientist, Dr Tanga Mbi, who found the insect as part of his postdoctoral research. Dr Mbi’s work will focus on the cricket’s habitat, sound behaviour, and current distribution across the country and its nutritive profile.
According to the researcher, this knowledge is important as it will enable the development of proper, more effective rearing techniques, and ultimately the effective incorporation of the species as a component in food and feed.
Commonly found around the buildings and fields, this species is characterised by a distinctive yellow band between the eyes and differs from other species within the genus Scapsipedus by a characteristic call and territorial nature of its males.
In the last three years, Icipe and its partners have conducted research on the potential of farming of edible insects as an important contribution to food now and in the future.
“We have tested indigenous Kenyan cricket species to investigate their potential to become ‘mini-livestock’ for mass production for feed and food.
Therefore, the discovery of Scapsipedus icipe is exciting and important, not just because it is a new species to science, but because the species already has demonstrated great potential for large-scale farming,” observes Dr Nanna Roos, Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Denmark and one of the partners in the Icipe Insect research programme.
Globally, according to Icipe, over 2 billion people in Africa, Asia and South America consume some 2000 different species of insects- a chief source of proteins. With this huge potential, Icipe has been exploring ways of using insects as human and livestock feed.
In recent years, the organisation has highlighted the importance of insects in boosting supply of proteins in an ecologically –friendly way to the growing populations, especially in the developing world.