Title: Advancing sustainable agriculture through insect farming
Insect farming, particularly of Hermetia illucens, the Black Soldier Fly (BSF), is a growing sector of American and global agriculture. BSF larvae efficiently convert organic waste into valued products including animal protein, oils, chitin, and organic fertilizer. BSF larvae likely have a minimal environmental footprint and have been approved in the US as a source of protein and fat in poultry, swine, and salmonid feed. BSF farming may thus present an opportunity for farmers in the North Central Region to create local feed supply chains, diversify their income sources, and increase the circularity and sustainability of their business activities. However, while there is good evidence for the nutritional performance of BSF-based feeds, little is known about the conditions necessary for sustainable BSF farming. The proposed project aims to assist small-scale poultry farmers in the North Central Region in deciding whether to produce BSF larvae. In Objective 1, we will establish a prototype BSF farm at UW-Madison. In Objective 2, we will use an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate the nutritional quality, environmental sustainability, and economic viability of BSF products using locally-sourced agricultural and consumer waste streams. In Objective 3, we will build educational knowledge and supporting networks for BSF farming through in-person and virtual workshops, multi-modal training materials, and mentorship from established farmers. In Objective 4, we will facilitate focus group discussions to understand poultry farmers’ perceptions regarding barriers and conduits to BSF farming. Overall, this project will improve awareness and knowledge of BSF farming, facilitating decisions about whether to adopt this practice in the North Central Region. Uptake of BSF farming could improve agricultural sustainability by recycling waste into valued products, stimulate additional economic activity in rural communities, and reduce reliance on soy- and fish-based feeds that can have high environmental and economic costs. Our research findings, along with our outreach program, will provide valuable resources to inform extension programming and the ongoing efforts to develop sustainable feed chains in the North Central region, and potentially serve as a model for national and global sustainability efforts.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Researchers will learn about nutritional, economic, and environmental outcomes of BSF production using locally-sourced waste streams.
- Poultry farmers will build awareness and knowledge of BSF larvae as a feed ingredient and waste reduction tool.
- Researchers will learn about perceived barriers and conduits to BSF production in the North Central Region.
- Researchers will establish a prototype BSF farm for research and extension activities in the North Central Region.
- Poultry farmers will make informed decisions about whether to adopt BSF production, with potential for improving agricultural sustainability in the North Central Region.