Insect Farming for Animal Feed

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Insect farming for animal feed involves raising insects, such as black soldier fly larvae, mealworms, and crickets, as a sustainable protein source for livestock and aquaculture. Insects are highly efficient at converting organic matter into protein, requiring significantly less land, water, and feed than traditional animal protein sources like soy or fishmeal.

Impact on climate action

Insect farming for animal feed significantly reduces the environmental footprint of livestock production by offering a sustainable protein alternative. This innovation curtails methane emissions from traditional feed sources, mitigating the livestock industry’s contribution to climate change. It fosters a more eco-friendly approach to agriculture, crucial for effective climate action.


Insect farming leverages a combination of biological principles and technological advancements:

  • Insect Biology and Rearing Techniques: Understanding insect life cycles, nutritional needs, and optimal rearing conditions is crucial for efficient and scalable insect production.
  • Vertical Farming and Controlled Environments: Vertical farming systems and controlled environment technologies, such as climate-controlled rooms, allow for maximizing insect production within a small footprint while minimizing environmental impact.
  • Bioconversion of Organic Waste: Insects can be raised on a variety of organic waste streams, such as food waste, agricultural byproducts, and manure, effectively converting waste into valuable protein.
  • Automated Farming Systems: Automation and robotics are being integrated into insect farming to improve efficiency, reduce labor costs, and enhance production scalability.
  • Insect Processing and Feed Formulation: Efficient processing techniques, such as drying, grinding, and oil extraction, are used to create insect-based feed ingredients. Nutritionists then formulate these ingredients into balanced diets for livestock and aquaculture.

TRL : 6-8 (Insect farming for animal feed is already commercially implemented, with ongoing innovation focusing on increasing efficiency, scalability, and product diversification).

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Black Soldier Fly Farming Optimization: Optimizing rearing conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and substrate composition, can significantly enhance black soldier fly larvae production yields and reduce costs.
  • Automated Insect Harvesting and Processing: Automated systems are being developed for harvesting, separating, and processing insects, improving efficiency and reducing labor requirements.
  • Precision Insect Nutrition: Research is exploring the optimal nutritional requirements of different insect species to develop tailored feed formulations that maximize growth rates and protein content.
  • Insect Frass (Waste) Utilization: Insect frass, the excrement from insects, is a nutrient-rich fertilizer that can be used to enhance soil fertility and reduce reliance on synthetic fertilizers.
  • Insect-Based Pet Food and Human Food Ingredients: Beyond animal feed, insect protein is also being explored as a sustainable ingredient for pet food and human food, expanding market opportunities.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Insect Life Cycle Optimization
  • Vertical Farming Techniques for Insects
  • Climate-Controlled Insect Rearing
  • Bioconversion of Organic Waste by Insects
  • Robotics in Insect Farming
  • Efficient Insect Processing Methods
  • Nutrient Formulation for Insect Diets
  • Black Soldier Fly Farming Innovations
  • Automated Insect Harvesting Systems
  • Precision Nutrition for Insects
  • Insect Frass as Fertilizer
  • Scalable Insect Protein Production
  • Market Expansion for Insect Protein
  • Eco-Friendly Animal Feed Solutions

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Ÿnsect:
    • Technology Focus: Ÿnsect specializes in insect farming, particularly mealworms and black soldier flies, to produce high-quality protein for animal feed. Their technology involves vertical farming methods, automation, and optimized insect diets to maximize protein yield.
    • Uniqueness: Ÿnsect stands out for its advanced farming techniques, which enable efficient production of insect-based protein at scale. Their emphasis on sustainability, quality control, and traceability sets them apart in the emerging field of insect farming.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include livestock farmers, aquaculture producers, and pet food manufacturers looking for sustainable and high-protein alternatives to traditional feed sources.
  • Protix:
    • Technology Focus: Protix focuses on insect farming, particularly the black soldier fly, to produce protein-rich feed for animals. Their technology involves modular insect rearing systems, optimized feed formulas, and innovative processing methods.
    • Uniqueness: Protix is known for its circular economy approach, using organic waste streams as feedstock for insect production. They also prioritize research and development to continuously improve their farming techniques and product offerings.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments encompass livestock farming, aquaculture, and pet nutrition industries seeking sustainable and high-quality protein sources for animal feed.
  • AgriProtein:
    • Technology Focus: AgriProtein specializes in insect-based protein production using black soldier flies. Their technology involves large-scale insect rearing facilities, automated processes for feed conversion, and bioconversion of organic waste into protein-rich larvae.
    • Uniqueness: AgriProtein is unique for its focus on upcycling organic waste into valuable protein resources through insect farming. Their innovative approach addresses both environmental and food security challenges by transforming waste into nutritious feed ingredients.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include animal feed manufacturers, livestock producers, and aquaculture farms seeking sustainable alternatives to conventional protein sources like soy and fishmeal.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Wageningen University & Research are innovating in the field of insect farming for animal feed by focusing on genetic modification techniques to enhance the nutritional value of insects. They are genetically engineering insects to produce higher levels of essential nutrients, such as protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for livestock health.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Wageningen’s research stands out due to its comprehensive approach, which combines expertise in entomology, genetics, and animal nutrition. By leveraging genetic modification technologies, they aim to develop insect-based feed products that can effectively replace traditional feed ingredients while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.
    • End-use Applications: The insect-based feed developed at Wageningen has applications in poultry, aquaculture, and livestock farming. By incorporating insect protein into animal diets, farmers can improve the efficiency of feed conversion, reduce methane emissions from enteric fermentation, and promote sustainable livestock production.
  • Ghent University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Ghent University researchers are exploring innovative methods for large-scale insect farming for animal feed production. They are developing automated systems and bioreactor technologies to optimize insect rearing conditions, maximize biomass yield, and minimize resource inputs such as water and feed.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Ghent University’s research is unique in its focus on automation and bioreactor-based insect farming systems. By industrializing the insect production process, they aim to overcome scalability challenges and make insect-based feed production economically viable for commercial livestock operations.
    • End-use Applications: The insect-based feed technologies developed at Ghent University have applications in the poultry, swine, and aquaculture industries. By providing a sustainable alternative to conventional feed ingredients, farmers can reduce their reliance on soybean and fishmeal imports, mitigate deforestation, and decrease the environmental footprint of livestock production.
  • University of Copenhagen:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Copenhagen are investigating the use of novel feed additives derived from insects to mitigate methane emissions from ruminant livestock. They are studying the impact of insect-based bioactive compounds on the microbial populations in the rumen and their potential to inhibit methane production.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The University of Copenhagen’s research is distinctive for its focus on developing targeted solutions for methane emissions reduction in ruminant livestock. By harnessing the bioactive properties of insect-derived compounds, they aim to develop feed additives that can selectively modulate rumen microbiota and improve feed efficiency.
    • End-use Applications: The insect-derived feed additives developed at the University of Copenhagen have applications in dairy and beef cattle farming. By supplementing livestock diets with these additives, farmers can reduce methane emissions per unit of milk or meat produced, thereby contributing to the sustainability of the livestock sector while maintaining animal health and productivity.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Insect farming for animal feed is already a commercial reality:

  • Aquaculture Feed: Insect meal is being incorporated into feed for fish and shrimp, providing a sustainable alternative to fishmeal, which is often sourced from overfished stocks.
  • Poultry and Pig Feed: Insect protein is being used as a protein source in poultry and pig feed, offering a more sustainable and locally sourced alternative to soy.
  • Pet Food: Insect-based ingredients are gaining traction in pet food, appealing to consumers seeking eco-friendly and hypoallergenic options for their pets.