Mealworms, a protein-packed nutrition has been considered a novella substitute to soya. Mealworms are rich in amino acids, minerals, fats, vitamins, and energy, have the potential to be a valuable feed source for poultry, as well as aquaculture and pets.
To add further into its favorable list, organic food waste and can be reared using less land and water than their livestock options, making them a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option.
The project is currently in the research and development stage, investigating the best conditions for breeding and rearing mealworms, including optimising nutrition and growth rates.
The end goal is to create a cost-effective feed source that maximises the desirable traits of mealworms, like short rearing times and increased protein content.
One key target is to supply as much of the mealworms’ diet as possible with industry by-products, and using funding from an Agri-Tech Cornwall grant Entec is refining methods of using brewers spent grains as a substrate to feed insects.
A separate grant is funding the company’s research into further optimising mealworms’ diets by looking at nutritional geometry in the form of protein, carbohydrate and lipids.
These elements need to be optimised to suit different end markets. For example, aquaculture requires low fats while poultry.
The firm is also researching the processing of mealworms alongside Campden BRI, which looks specifically into the methods of extracting certain elements like proteins, fats or other compounds.
In addition, the funding has gone towards exploring packaging, shelf life and potential contaminants – aspects that are essential to getting any products to market.
The industry needs to know how to safely store mealworm products and how long they will last.
The next hurdle to cross will be regulatory conditions. At present, EU regulations place serious restrictions on what can be fed to animals that are going into the food chain – which limits what mealworms can be fed. There are also limitations on the form in which mealworms can be fed to other animals like pigs and poultry.
If insects get approval for poultry feed in the UK, the market would be so under saturated and demand would far outstrip supply.