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Netherlands moves forward on 'insects as feed' research

Protix Protix 3 .jpg
The black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) is a key player in the emerging insect farming sector as their larvae provide a unique source of protein for food and feed.
Insects may be part of protein solution while building natural and circular food system with minimized food waste.

The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research announced that professor Marcel Dicke of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands will take on the management of a large new research project about how insects can be used as animal feed.

According to WUR, the project will be conducted in collaboration with partners that include the University of Groningen, Dutch Food & Safety Authority (NVWA), insect companies and Rabobank.

On top of the nearly 3.5 million-euro grant, the insect sector contributed additional funding for the research. Together with its partners, WUR will examine how insects can be bred as a type of “mini-livestock” to serve as sustainable animal feed in a circular economy, the announcement said.

To that end, the research group will investigate the topics of health, welfare and intrinsic value in regard to the production of insects. They will also measure the health and welfare of poultry that will be fed the insects and will determine the economic robustness of the new insect sector, WUR said.

The new insect research is part of Netherlands' National Science Agenda.

Advanced insect farm

In related developments, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands officially opened the world's largest insect farm June 11 at Protix in Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands.

Protix produces insects for sustainable proteins by using plant waste from the environment as feed for insects. The proteins and other nutrients of insects are very nutritious and can be fed to animals, especially fish and chickens, Protix said. In this way, non-sustainable sources, such as fish meal and soybean meal, can be replaced by a sustainable alternative.

The Protix cultivation process takes place in a controlled environment and is highly automated with sensor and data systems, robots and climate control.

Protix founder and chief executive officer Kees Aarts said, "This is, of course, an important milestone for Protix. The opening of our new facility signifies a real transformation not only for our company but for the entire sector and markets -- the transition from prototype to a mature and commercial sector.

“We are proud to have been able to bring our innovation to maturity in the Netherlands. This opening is the springboard to move our products and technology across borders and build our leadership in this industry around the world. A 'Global Technology with Local Impact' aligns our vision to achieve a global food system in balance with nature," Aarts added.

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