Insect Meal – A Prospective Alternative

What is your opinion on the use of insect meal in the poultry industry?

The use of insect meal in poultry is technically feasible, Recent research conducted by India’s leading poultry research institute, ICAR-DPR, under Principal Scientist Dr. MVLN Raju, utilizing KovaiBSF’s BSFL meal, indicates that inclusion levels as high as 12% are viable. However, completely replacing soy meal with BSFL poses challenges for the industry, primarily due to cost considerations and the difficulty of matching the volume of soy with BSFL. Nonetheless, BSFL and its derivatives can serve as effective supplements in poultry diets, enhancing the overall health of the birds. Additionally, it’s worth exploring the use of live or sterilized frozen BSFL in poultry feed, a practice already employed in other parts of the world. Some forward-thinking poultry producers have already begun experimenting with this approach, which could help reduce costs in the long run.

What are your thoughts on using by-products from insect farming in broiler feed? (
Utilizing frass directly as poultry feed could pose challenges. It’s important to consider the substrate used for rearing BSFL. If BSFL are raised in a homogenous substrate like DDGS and have undergone proper preprocessing before being biologically processed by BSFL, the frass obtained could be safely used. However, it would still need to be formulated into feed. Similarly, Chitin extracted from BSFL exoskeletons can boost immunity but has also proven anti-nutritional in poultry feed if it exceeds a certain level. Considering this, it might be more beneficial to develop a product rather than simply using frass directly in chicken feed.

Can you provide a nutritional and economic comparison between fish meal and insect meal?
BSFL meal pricing is currently at par or slightly less than sterilized fish meal pricing. When we look into the nutritional aspect good quality fish meal typically contains around 64-65% protein, whereas a BSFL meal contains 54-58% protein. The fat content is usually below 10% in both cases, depending on the processing methods used. Sometimes, the ash content in fish meal raises concerns.

BSFL offers more than just protein; its bio-molecules play a crucial role in enhancing overall health, feed conversion ratio (FCR), and immunity. Components like AMPs, Lauric acid, and Chitin in BSFL improve disease resistance in aqua species. In the current scenario, incorporating these natural defenses into the diet can be economically beneficial and help partially replace fish meal with BSFL meal. In the future, further research on BSFL biomolecules and improved extraction methods could lead to higher level inclusion of BSFL meal in Aqua Feeds.

The insect meal industry has good potential in the aqua feed industry, but the shrimp industry has been affected by fluctuating demand in the international market. What impact has this had on the industry?
In India, the use of BSFL in shrimp feed is just getting started, with major trials underway. The commercial usage of BSFL in shrimp feed will open up the evolution of the BSFL industry. Introducing BSFL as an ingredient faces challenges like ensuring a steady supply, and maintaining sufficient volume with consistent quality. These challenges will be tackled as the BSFL industry expands. As far as current fluctuation in the shrimp industry is concerned, it may deter the early adopters in the shrimp industry from delaying their decision for the usage of BSFL in their line of products. Still, eventually, it will happen, given the merits of BSFL biomolecules for the Aqua species. This aligns with global trends in aquafeed, and BSFL has already demonstrated its effectiveness in commercial salmon feed.

What is the current production cost and what is the potential for exporting insect meal?
Right now, the cost of producing BSFL meal varies among suppliers. Unlike fish meal production, which tends to be concentrated in regional clusters along coastal areas, BSFL production is spread out. Market demand will stabilize the pricing of BSFL meal and as stated it can be at par or slightly less than sterilized fish meal, but hard to bring the price down to the price of Soya DOC. To my understanding, exporting BSFL from India is highly possible and can be profitable, we have production advantages, once the required volume is achieved. The good news is that the BSFL market and industry are evolving positively.

The government must recognize and support the industry to explore the export market. This is important because developing the BSFL industry can help tackle two critical issues in the country: managing wet waste and providing a sustainable source of quality feed.

Additionally, the biomolecular applications of BSFL and its derivatives extend beyond animal feed; they also hold potential for human use in the future.

What were the main takeaways from the recent Larvaecon India webinar?
Larvaecon is India’s first digital conference on BSFL organized by Favcy VB and Agremarket. It brought together global leaders of the BSFL industry to discuss various aspects of the industry. The discussions revolved around the market scenario, gaps and challenges we faced and we approached it. We also talked about the general aspects of farming BSFL and further processing it into value-added products. It acted as a platform to gather details for potential entrepreneurs who want to enter the BSFL industry.

by Anupa Velusamy, Kovai BSF