Insect waste could be used as a crop fertiliser, say researchers working on a major government-funded project.
Scientists at Warwick and Durham universities are examining the viability of rearing insects for animal feed. They believe waste material – or frass – from the Black Soldier Fly larvae could be used as a plant fertiliser and growth stimulant.
Project lead Rob Lillywhite said: “Frass is a by-product of producing insects and is likely to contain many of the essential elements required for plant growth. We are excited by the opportunity to examine its use in plant production.”
Finding a value-adding use for the frass would add to the sustainability
of using insect protein for livestock as an alternative to products like soya-based animal feed, added Mr Lillywhite.
“It’s early days in the project with very little science of this sort having gone before. We are looking forward to be working on a
project looking at new potential food systems, with sustainability and closed loop ideals at their core.”
Durham University researcher Elaine Fitches described the project as a fantastic opportunity to join forces with experts in crop nutrition at Warwick University to understand the value of insect frass for crop and soil health in the UK.
She said: “At Durham, we will conduct complementary fundamental research to explore how frass can be used to boost plant immunity and will seek to explain the molecular mechanisms underpinning enhanced plant responses to pathogen attack.”
The project is part of a £10m funding package from the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to construct the UK’s first large-scale industrial insect farm and accelerate the development of sustainable food production systems.