Emerging protein for humans is also a drought-proof stock feed solution

Australia is the among the world’s largest and most efficient producers of commercial livestock. But with the New South Wales drought rattling the livelihood of farmers, the cost of feeding cattle is forcing them to the abattoir.

However, a potential solution to this plight lies within the insect food industry. Claimed to be highly water efficient, this new technology is aiming for steady growth to compete with current livestock feed in the market.

According to Skye Blackburn, entomologist and owner of Edible Bug Shop, 200 grams of beef takes almost 4000 litres of water to produce. By comparison, 200 grams of crickets require under a millilitre of water.

“When people think of farms, they imagine rolling fields. But all insect farming happens inside and is climate controlled like a laboratory,” Blackburn said.

“From the floor to the roof insects are farmed vertically, using all the space that we possibly can. Because insects get water from their food, if you replace one meat meal a week with a meal of edible insects, you’ll be saving roughly 100,000 litres of drinking water a year.”

Feed security

Moving forward from human consumption of insects, companies like GoTerra are working to provide the agricultural industry with feed security.

GoTerra, in the ACT, says it is working to change the landscape of livestock feed, redefine how we look at sustainable waste management solutions and creating a  livestock feed compound, from insects.

Commercial food waste is used to feed insects which are then turned into feed for monogastric animals such as chickens, pigs as well as pet food.

“This market waste comes from vineyards, restaurants, city councils and even some residential clients,” said Olympia Yarger, GoTerra Founder and CEO.

“We are working on using insects to manage food waste as well as providing a quality livestock feed to farmers.”

Superfood

Labelled as a ‘superfood’, insect produce is widely known for its nutritional benefits, and is expected to rival traditional livestock feed once it enters the industry on a competitive level.

“As the industry progresses and becomes more mature [insect livestock feed] will drop in price and be able to compete,” Yarger said.

Despite being a sustainable practice, some insects must be raised on specific produce, which puts a restriction on the industry. Mealworms are raised on bran, which is not readily available during times of drought.

“If we were to exhaust resources in order to feed our insects, we would just replicate the current agricultural system,” Yarger explained.

“We are working towards being different to the current industry, which is very new at the moment but something we believe will pay off in the future.”

Originally published in Australian Food News.

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