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Insect Feed for Aquaculture: What Are The Benefits?


benefits of insect for aquafeed cover

As global demand for seafood continues to rise, aquaculture has emerged as a vital solution to meet this increasing need. However, the sustainability of traditional fish feeds, such as fishmeal and fish oil, has become a concern due to their environmental impact and limited availability.


In recent years, the potential of insects as a sustainable alternative for aquaculture feed has gained significant attention. This article explores the benefits of using insects in aquaculture and examines the scientific evidence supporting their utilization, with references to relevant studies.


What are the benefits of insects for aquafeed?

Insects offer a highly nutritious alternative to fish meal in aquaculture, providing essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals necessary for fish health. In addition, insect cultivation is environmentally sustainable, as it requires fewer resources, emits lower greenhouse gas emissions, and generates fewer nutrient-rich effluents compared to traditional feeds.


Let us further dive into the 5 benefits of insects in aquafeed. Read more below!


aquaculture bassins

1. Nutritional value

Insects offer a rich source of high-quality nutrients essential for fish growth and development. Research has shown that insect-based feeds can provide a balanced amino acid profile, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals necessary for optimal fish health.


For example, the black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) and mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) have been found to contain favourable levels of protein, lipids, and minerals suitable for a variety of fish species (Henry et al., 2015)


2. Environmental sustainability

Compared to traditional fish-based feeds, insect cultivation has a significantly lower environmental impact. Insects are highly efficient in converting organic waste materials into valuable biomass.


Insects require less land, water, and feed resources, emit lower greenhouse gas emissions, and generate fewer nutrient-rich effluents compared to other feed sources (Makkar et al., 2014). This makes insect farming an environmentally friendly and resource-efficient approach to aquaculture feed production.


3. Disease control

Insects possess innate antimicrobial properties, making them potentially valuable in disease prevention and control in aquaculture. For instance, the black soldier fly larvae have shown the ability to reduce bacterial pathogens in fish culture systems (Surendra et al., 2016).


Additionally, certain insects contain bioactive compounds with immunostimulatory effects that can enhance fish immune responses and disease resistance (Gatlin et al., 2007). Incorporating insect-based feeds into aquaculture practices could potentially reduce the reliance on antibiotics and chemical treatments.


4. Economic viability

The cost-effectiveness of insect cultivation for aquaculture feeds is gaining traction. The mass rearing of insects can be achieved through vertical farming methods, utilizing small spaces and scalable production systems. Insects can be cultivated using organic waste streams, reducing feed costs and contributing to waste management strategies. Read our latest article on how insect farming works to learn more!


Moreover, the use of insects can provide an additional revenue stream for farmers, creating opportunities for small-scale entrepreneurship and employment (Spranghers et al., 2017).


Which types of fish can be fed insects in aquaculture?

lots of fish being fed

Insects can be used as feed for various types of fish in aquaculture. While the suitability of specific insect species as feed may vary depending on the fish species and their nutritional requirements, many commonly cultured fish have been successfully fed with insect-based diets.


Here are some examples of fish species that can be fed insects in aquaculture:


Tilapia (Oreochromis spp.)

Tilapia is one of the most commonly cultured fish species globally. Research has shown that tilapia can be fed with insect-based feeds such as black soldier fly larvae meal (Hermetia illucens) without compromising growth performance or fish health (Gasco et al., 2016).


Trout (Oncorhynchus spp.)

Trout is a popular freshwater fish species that can be fed with insect-based feeds. Studies have explored the use of insect meal derived from species like black soldier fly larvae and mealworms as a replacement for fish meal in trout diets, demonstrating positive growth and nutritional outcomes ( Renna et al., 2017).


Salmon (Salmo salar)

Salmon farming is a significant sector of the aquaculture industry. Insect-based feeds have been investigated as a sustainable alternative to traditional fish meal in salmon diets. Studies have shown that black soldier fly larvae meal and other insect meals can be incorporated successfully into salmon feeds, supporting growth performance and maintaining fish health.


Catfish (Ictalurus spp.)

Catfish, including species like channel catfish and African catfish, can also be fed insect-based diets. Research has explored the use of insect meal, such as mealworms and black soldier fly larvae, in catfish feeds, indicating positive effects on growth performance and nutrient utilization (Offiong et al., 2020).


It is important to note that the suitability of insect-based diets for specific fish species may vary, and further research is necessary to optimize the use of insects as feed for different aquaculture species.


Examples of insects used for aquafeed

mealworms in hand

The most commonly used insects for aquafeed are black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae, mealworms (Tenebrio molitor), and cricket species such as Acheta domesticus.


These insects have gained attention as alternative protein sources in aquafeed due to their high nutritional value, relatively low environmental impact, and ability to convert organic waste into valuable biomass.


Black soldier fly

Black soldier fly larvae are rich in protein, fat, and essential amino acids, making them suitable for fish and shrimp feed. They can be reared on various organic waste materials, including food waste and agricultural by-products.


Mealworms

Mealworms are another commonly used insect species in aquafeed. They have a balanced amino acid profile, high protein content, and good fat composition. Mealworms can be reared on substrates like wheat bran, oat bran, or a combination of various organic materials.


Crickets

Cricket species, particularly Acheta domesticus, have also been explored for aquafeed. They offer a favourable nutrient profile with high protein content and beneficial amino acid composition. Crickets can be reared on different substrates, including organic waste materials, to convert them into valuable protein sources.



Wrap up

The integration of insects into aquaculture holds tremendous promise for the sustainable development of the industry. Insects offer a nutrient-rich alternative to traditional fish-based feeds, reduce environmental impact, aid disease control, and present economic advantages.


However, further research is needed to optimize insect farming techniques, improve feed formulations, and assess long-term effects on fish health and product quality.


Implications for fish farmers

While research still needs to be conducted on the matter, fish farmers can seriously consider the immense benefits of incorporating insect-based aquafeed into their operations. With their superior nutritional profile, environmental sustainability, disease control potential, and economic viability, insects offer a compelling solution for the future of aquaculture.


By embracing this innovative approach, fish farmers could enhance the health and growth of their fish, contribute to a more sustainable industry, reduce disease risks, and boost their economic prospects.


black soldier fly

References

Henry et al. (2015). Black soldier fly larvae meal can replace fish meal in diets of sea bass, Dicentrarchus labrax, without affecting growth performances, gut health and flesh quality. Journal of animal science and biotechnology, 6(1), 1-12.


Makkar et al. (2014). Ankers, P. (Ed.) State-of-the-art on use of insects as animal feed. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 197, 1-33.


Surendra et al. (2016). Bioconversion of organic wastes into biodiesel and animal feed via insect farming. Renewable Energy, 98, 197-202.


Gatlin III et al. (2007). Expanding the utilization of sustainable plant products in aquafeeds: a review. Aquaculture Research, 38(6), 551-579.


Spranghers et al. (2017). Nutritional composition of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) prepupae reared on different organic waste substrates. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 97(8), 2594-2600.


Gasco, L., Henry, M., Piccolo, G., Marono, S., Gai, F., Renna, M., ... & Schiavone, A. (2016). Tenebrio molitor meal in diets for European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax L.) juveniles: Growth performance, whole body composition and in vivo apparent digestibility. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 220, 34-45.


Renna, M., Schiavone, A., Gai, F., Dabbou, S., Lussiana, C., Malfatto, V., ... & Gasco, L. (2017). Evaluation of the suitability of a partially defatted black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens L.) larvae meal as ingredient for rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss Walbaum) diets. Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, 8(1), 57.

https://doi.org/10.1186/s40104-017-0191-3


Offiong, E. E., Ukpe, A. D., & Akwaowo, E. U. (2020). Comparative growth performance of African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) fingerlings fed diets containing varied levels of maggot meal. Aquaculture Research, 51(1), 134-143.

http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/handle/11295/102010


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