Challenges, opportunities and the way forward

Insect farming, though lesser known and talked about, is a booming industry in India and globally that involves the breeding, rearing and harvesting of various types of insects for consumption and other use cases. The practice of insect farming dates back centuries, when the ancient Greeks and Romans raised beetle larvae with flour and a diet of alcohol to create a delicacy cherished by the aristocrats of the time ! From yesterday to today, transcending civilizations and cultures, the breeding of insects has evolved a lot.

Some of the insects we have cultivated in abundance over the years include: silkworms, bees, grasshoppers, houseflies, wasps, locusts, mealworms, earthworms, etc. Perhaps the most important application of insect farming today is the production of feed for livestock, including poultry and pet food. While another key application of insect farming would include farming edible insects like crickets etc. for human consumption.

In this article, we will examine the potential and existing challenges of insect farming in India, while thoroughly exploring its near-term opportunities, potential and scope.

Discuss the obstacles and challenges of insect farming

Insects, although they are an excellent source of protein and micronutrients from a nutritional point of view, but to date they are rarely used for human consumption. Overall, overall public opinion in our country remains largely opposed to the concept of eating bugs or insects. Although in the North Eastern Region (NER) of India, “entomophagy” – which refers to the practice of eating insects – has been practiced for many years on a large scale by local tribal communities of the Region and has been contributing significantly to their livelihoods. However, in many other states in India, low end-consumer acceptance and/or awareness remains a major barrier to adoption of edible insect diets; quite often it is associated with a feeling of disgust as well as a precarious and sometimes primitive way of life.

Other key issues associated with the insect farming space in India include concerns associated with feeding insects to livestock such as potential allergic reactions and susceptibility to infectious diseases. At the same time, the regulatory frameworks/laws in India associated with insect farming are not entirely well rounded and well defined; this in turn prevents many startups/companies in the field of insect farming from scaling up production (of insect products) to industrial levels and tapping into global markets as well.

Many opportunities in insect farming too!

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has repeatedly promoted insects as part of healthy and environmentally friendly food and feed, and has also featured it at the same time as an excellent source to meet the growing demand for sustainable protein in India and globally. In the insect farming space, one of its sub-sectors that is gaining popularity in recent years is Black Soldier Fly larvae farming. Black Soldier Fly (BSFL) larvae, which feed voraciously on organic waste, efficiently convert the waste into valuable proteins, even in artificial environments. BSF larvae contain extremely high proportions of protein and fat, thus producing a premium food source that can replace soymeal and fishmeal that are conventionally used in poultry and aquaculture. This indicates that the food waste stream can become a profitable and revenue-generating input for the animal feed sector, thus giving impetus to the circular economy and improving ecological awareness while saving us from the dangers of overfishing.

Additionally, BSF larvae and many other forms of insect farming have a lower carbon footprint, generate fewer GHG emissions, and require a lower fraction of water, land, and food inputs compared to to traditional farming methods. Given that in recent years food security concerns have increased globally, leading to food shortage and undernutrition due to adverse climatic conditions and rising animal protein prices, l Insect farming can be seen as a potential solution to addressing food security challenges, especially for developed nations. More so, as beyond the aquaculture space, even chicken, livestock, and various types of pets could also benefit from insect-derived feeds, with recent research indicating that insects have a higher taste and that insect-based larval enzymes can significantly improve feed conversion. ratios among livestock! Additionally, as an increasing number of unprecedented use cases for insect farming or insect farming are being explored, such as insect droppings as fertilizer and by deriving raw materials or products finished for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, among others, these will certainly unlock the doors to many other new opportunities and prospects for commercial use.

What is the way forward for India’s insect farming industry?

According to a report by Meticulous Research, the global insect protein industry is estimated to reach US$7.9 billion by 2030, while growing at a CAGR of over 27%. Also in India, although today there is a lack of statistics and/or industry estimates, but even so, it can be said with confidence that the size and scope of insect farming (including edible insects) in India are growing at a rapid pace, and will continue to grow in the years to come. Keeping the same in mind, going forward, it is imperative that government, private sector and other industry players enable them to manage input costs and other variables and invest in state-of-the-art technologies that maximize insect yield and quality. derivatives and based commercial products.

In short, the farming of insects for food and feed or the IFFF space and its allied startups/corporations collectively have enormous potential to contribute to the economic rise of our country in the times to come; but at the same time there is an urgent need to optimize processes in the insect farming ecosystem by taking advantage of modern technologies and innovative approaches towards the industry and practice of insect farming. insects in general.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.