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Insects as Food and Feed Conference 2023

Poster Abstracts

This page is dedicated to the display of the Insects as Food & Feed SIG Conference 2023 poster abstracts, each submitted by proud delegates who have been taking part in brilliant research in entomology.

This Special Interest Group (SIG) is slightly different from other SIG’s as it aims to offer a focus for an emerging industry rather that an area of study. The annual meeting will report on current research and industry innovations plus offering open discussions with informed panels and opportunities for informal talks and  networking. Anyone with an interest in the area is welcome to attend.

Note: If you were chosen to have your poster displayed for the Insects as Food & Feed SIG Conference 2023 but do not see it here, please let us know at and include your poster PDF file in the email.

Chiya Nishimura, HORIBA Ltd. Japan “Micro-XRF imaging reveals the distribution of inorganic elements inside edible crickets”

Victoria Hill, University of Nottingham, UK “Changes in gene expression associated with altering protein and fat deposition in yellow mealworms treated with exogenous pyriproxifen”

Daniel Amor, University of Nottingham, UK “Processing of edible insects to produce novel foaming agents”

Peter Richards-Rios, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), UK “Exploring the Use of Histopathology to Assess Health and Quality of Farmed Insects”

Desmond Cave, Beta Bugs, UK “Commercialisation of Black Soldier Fly egg production”

Rebecca (Becky) and James Morrell and Metcalfe, Durham University, UK “Black Soldier Fly Frass as a Biofertiliser for Chinese Cabbage Growth: Impact on Soil Microbiome and Plant Performance”

Muhammad Mubeen Tayyab University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, UK “Automated Insect Farming with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine Learning for Animal Feed Production”

Nick Rousseau UK Edible Insect Association and University of Sheffield, UK “Towards effective and sustainable Regulation of edible insects in the UK”

Download each file to view larger images.

Micro-XRF imaging reveals the distribution of inorganic elements inside edible crickets

Poster abstract by Chiya Nishimura, HORIBA Ltd. Japan

Other authors: Yuka Yanai (HORIBA, Ltd.), Shunsuke Murata (HORIBA, Ltd.), Sofia GAIASCHI (HORIBA FRANCE SAS)

Contact: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin

Elemental analysis is significant for a better understanding of edible insects from nutritional and toxicological perspectives. ICP-OES and XRF are widely used as elemental analysis tools to determine total contents of inorganic elements in edible insects. However, there is no report to discuss the distribution of the elements inside edible insects even though they are often eaten as they are without ground into powder. In this poster, we introduce micro-XRF as an elemental imaging tool to visualize the distribution of inorganic elements in an insect body.

We purchased a pack of edible crickets from an entomophagy shop. The crickets were fed and processed (roasted without any flavoring) by a manufacturer in Japan, and the individual cricket size was approximately 30 mm. We chose two of them for the imaging to check the representativeness of our result. We carried out imaging analysis using a HORIBA micro-XRF called XGT-9000 X-ray Analytical Microscope, which has a transmission X-rays detector as well as a fluorescent X-rays detector.

First, we carried out imaging on the two crickets, and the imaging results shows clear enrichment of zinc in a jaw of both crickets, although the other elements didn’t have any specific enrichment in the crickets. Next, we carried out imaging on the limited area around the jaw. The result of transmission X-ray imaging showed that there was some space in the jaw, and the result of fluorescent X-ray imaging showed that zinc enrichment happened in the space we found in the transmission X-ray image.

Thus, our result shows the importance of micro-XRF imaging to know if an element has any distribution in an edible insect or just exists homogeneously inside, and it also shows that micro-XRF can provide a further understanding of the inorganic elements in an edible insect without sample pretreatment and without sample destruction.
Changes in gene expression associated with altering protein and fat deposition in yellow mealworms treated with exogenous pyriproxifen.

Poster abstract by Victoria Hill, University of Nottingham, UK

Other authors: Professor Tim Parr, Professor John Brameld, Professor Andrew Salter (all University of Nottingham)

Contact: Twitter: @VictoriaLEHill | LinkedIn

Insects, such as the larvae of Tenebrio molitor (TM, yellow mealworms), are a potential alternative protein source for animal feed and human food. However, like many larval stage insects, they contain comparatively high fat contents (25-36%). If this was reduced, it could diminish the need for processing to generate a high protein feed or food ingredient. We have previously shown that treatment with exogenous pyriproxifen (a juvenile hormone analogue) decreases fat and increases protein content of TM. The object of this study was to identify changes in gene expression associated with these changes in body composition.

MW were fed wheat bran (WB) containing 3 ml acetone vehicle control (Vcont) or pyriproxifen, at 2 mg /kg WB (JH-L) or 15 mg /kg WB (JH-H) with 4 replicate groups per treatment, each with 300 MW per group. MW were housed in an incubator in the dark at 25°C and 60% humidity, and fed ad libitum feed and water. Dead and pupated MW were removed throughout. After 28 days, MW were culled and proximate nutrient analysis conducted. A de novo genome for TM was derived from gDNA extracted from TM eggs and sequenced by Genomics platform: Deep Seq (University of Nottingham). Total RNA was extracted from larvae using an RNeasy Mini Kit (Qiagen).

Transcriptomic analysis was conducted by Eurofins Genomics (Germany) Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) service (INVIEW Transcriptome Discover). The tools SALMON and STAR were used to map the transcriptome with the genome. Bioinformatics analysis identified differentially expressed genes. Data were analysed by one or two-way ANOVA using Genstat (20th Edition).

After 28 days of treatment, both JH-L and JH-H treated MW significantly decreased fat content (P<0.001), with JH-H decreasing by 68% compared to Vcont. Crude protein (CP) was significantly increased (P<0.001) in both JH-L and JH-H, the latter being increased by 46% compared to Vcont (P<0.001). RNAseq analysis of MW treated the JH-PH for 28 days identified 508 genes were differentially expressed (P<0.05) relative to Vcont. Of these genes with significant differential expression, 236 were upregulated and 273 genes were downregulated in the JH-H group compared to the Vcont.

Changes in lipid and protein content of MW were thus accompanied by changes in expression of a large number of genes compared to Vcont. Work is ongoing to identify which of the genes are most likely to be responsible for the changes in protein and fat metabolism. This information will provide an insight into potential gene targets that could be used for selective breeding programmes to improve the efficiency of insect protein production to serve the animal feed industry.
Processing of edible insects to produce novel foaming agents

Poster abstract by Daniel Amor, University of Nottingham, UK

Other authors: Dr Jo Gould, University of Nottingham

Contact: Twitter: @DanRAmor

Comprising 35-61% protein, insect species are richer in protein than many pulses. High fecundity, a poikilothermic nature, higher feed-conversion rate, and lower land, water, and energy requirement greatly reduces the environmental impact of insect production compared to animal-derived protein. One obstacle to large-scale adoption of entomophagy, particularly in developed countries, is a degree of disgust and distaste towards eating visible insects. To overcome this, processing insects into powders and protein extracts allows invisible incorporation into food products, which has demonstrated greater consumer acceptance.

In our contribution, we will build on the utilisation of invisible insects not only for nutritional contributions, but functional properties in food. One functional property typically associated with protein ingredients is foaming; the ability to stabilise air bubbles in a continuous liquid phase through migration to the air-water interface, unfolding, association, and further unfolding. This is fundamental to the creation of aerated food products such as cakes, mousses, and meringues.

We will present our evaluation of two insect species, previously identified among ideal candidates for human consumption (Tenebrio molitor and Gryllus bimaculatus), as sources of novel foaming agents. Crude insect powders were not capable of producing a foam, which we hypothesised was due to the lipid component of the insects (17-27%). After defatting, both insect powders produced and stabilised foams. Protein fractionation, utilising the Osborne method, was conducted to separate the protein component based on solubility. Osborne fractional composition was similar between the two insect species. All protein fractions produced and stabilised foams, which were appraised by calculating foam capacity and foam stability. Foam capacity is a measure of the total interfacial area generated during whipping. Foam stability measures the reduction in foam volume over time, relating to the duration a foam can retain initial volume.

For both insect species the salt-soluble globulin fraction exhibited the greatest potential as a foaming agent, with the highest foam stability and second highest foam capacity. In both cases this was significantly greater than the control egg white protein foam and defatted insect powders. The mercaptoethanol-soluble fraction showed significantly greater foam capacity than the globulin fraction, but lower foam stability, for both species. Other fractions were not significantly different or were significantly poorer foaming agents than the control.

Differences in foaming properties were explained by characterising protein structure. Foam capacity was negatively correlated with fraction purity, which does not agree with literature and therefore differences in foam capacity likely related to structural differences between proteins. Analysis of secondary structure was conducted using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and showed a significant positive correlation between the proportion of random coil and foam capacity. We hypothesise that a greater proportion of random coil structure affords greater flexibility, facilitating easier arrangement at the air-water interface. Foam stability did not correlate with any protein structures. Literature suggests that foam stability is dependent on the surface hydrophobicity of proteins; further work is needed to ascertain this for Osborne fractions of these species.

Conclusively, our study shows that, with suitable refinement, insect proteins may suitably replace animal-derived foaming agents.
Exploring the Use of Histopathology to Assess Health and Quality of Farmed Insects

Poster abstract by Peter Richards-Rios, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), UK

Insects are a valuable source of protein and are being explored as a sustainable food and feed source. However, intensification of insect farming and increased adoption is likely to lead to health issues and disease outbreaks as has been the case for other species. The expression of disease is likely to be a complex process in which single or multiple infectious agents combined with genetic or environmental predispositions result in mortality or production loss. Therefore, it is essential to monitor the health and quality of farmed insects to ensure a safe and healthy production system. This poster aims to introduce the concepts of histology and histopathology and explore the potential applications in farmed insects.

Histopathology is a technique that involves the examination of tissues to diagnose and study the structural changes associated with diseases. This technique has been widely used in veterinary and human medicine and can be adapted for use in insects. In standard veterinary diagnostics, histopathology is used to identify morphological changes in tissues from which a pathologic process can be inferred. It can also help to clarify the aetiologies and processes of diseases, which can aid in developing control strategies. This is particularly important in cases where multiple potential aetiologies are detected by culture or molecular techniques. Histopathology can help to confirm the diagnostic significance of these isolates by visualising typical lesions or active participation of the organism in the disease process. Perfecting histologic processing of insects in a routine laboratory setting alongside examination of normal tissues from common species will be an important first step in developing a reliable and insightful diagnostic service for farmed insects.

Histology can also be used to investigate the relative body composition of farmed insects. Different proportions of skeletal muscle to metabolic cell types, such as fat bodies or oenocytes, could influence the nutritional value and palatability of farmed insects. This relative cellular body composition could be influenced by various factors, including diet, rearing conditions, and disease. Histology could be used to identify and quantify differences in the relative body composition of insects, which can aid in the selection of the best insect species, genetic lineages or husbandry techniques for production.

In conclusion, histopathology is a valuable tool that could be used to assess the health and quality of farmed insects. It can be used to diagnose diseases, clarify disease aetiologies and processes and investigate the relative body composition of insects. The use of histopathology in insect research and production can help ensure a safe and healthy food and feed source and promote sustainable insect farming practices.

Commercialisation of Black Soldier Fly egg production

Poster abstract by Desmond Cave, BetaBugs

The poster will present the process of scaling up Black Soldier Fly (BSF) production, from less than 10g per day (where we started) up to 20kg per day (where we want to be). The larger facilities in Europe and UK are needing between 2kg and 4kg of BSF eggs per day and this demand will only increase as more facilities come online.

To produce 10g eggs you need approximately 650 female BSF and 650 males, these are easily kept in a small cage and can be handled and moved around simply and easily. To produce 20kg of eggs a day you need 1,4000,000 female flies. Obviously, you also need an equivalent amount of make flies as well making a total of 2,800,000 flies. We will provide some detail on the way you keep this many larvae and flies and the problems encountered.

Not only do you need a lot of flies to produce this number of eggs, but the physical collection of these eggs also takes a lot of care and time. Every time you handle the eggs the viability decreases so you need to keep this to a minimum. The egg collection equipment (eggies) is made in house and the equipment used for removing the eggs from the eggies has been constantly updated. Once collected the eggs are portioned out into smaller aliquots ready for sending to the customer. Every customer’s requirements is different and the amount of eggs they require has to be individually weighed into another receptacle. We will describe the collection process and customer requirements.

Transportation of the eggs to the customer is another problem we have had to overcome. They must be kept above about 20C all through the journey. Putting them in an aeroplane hold which goes down to -50C means you have to insulate and keep warm. We will detail the process and show the temperature profile of containers of shipped eggs.

Regulations and red tape are different for every country and we will provide a couple of examples of what was required for different countries.

Black Soldier Fly Frass as a Biofertiliser for Chinese Cabbage Growth: Impact on Soil Microbiome and Plant Performance

Poster abstract by Rebecca (Becky) and James Morrell and Metcalfe, Durham University, UK

Other authors: Elaine Fitches (Durham University), Ari Sadanandom (Durham University), Arthy Surendran (Warwick University), Angela Hambidge (Warwick University), Rob Lillywhite (Warwick University)

The use of insects as a source of food and feed is gaining increasing attention due to their high nutritional value and potential environmental benefits. The leftover residues of insect farming is called frass, which is composed of insect excrement, shed exoskeletons and un-digested decomposing substrate. Frass addition to soils has been demonstrated to be beneficial to the growth of plants, this is due to the high levels of both micro and macro nutrients in forms which can be assimilated by plants. In addition to nutrients frass is known to contain high levels of microbes, due to the high nutrient and moisture content of frass which enhances microbial growth. However the effect of the frass microbiome on plant growth has yet to be elucidated. In this study, we investigated the use of Black Soldier Fly (BSF) frass as a biofertiliser for Chinese cabbage growth and the impact of the frass microbiome on plant growth.

The frass has NPK values of 2:1:3, similar to other organic materials, it also contains all the other macro and micronutrients resulting in a balanced material. Metagenomic sequencing has revealed that at a phyla level the frass is rich in actinobacteria, which decompose organic material and cycle carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and firmicutes, which has been linked to degradation of chitin. At a genus level frass contains potentially beneficial microbes, including genus that contain species known to promote plant growth and suppress phytopathogens.

Chinese cabbage pot trials have been conducted using 2 different soil types amended with sterilised or unsterile BSF frass. Addition of either sterile or unsterile frass resulted in greater plant biomass, compared to soil alone, likely due to the presence of micro and macronutrients in the frass. Our results showed unsterile frass resulted in significantly greater plant biomass than plants grown on sterile frass suggesting that the microbiome in the frass enhanced plant growth, in addition to the nutrients the frass provided. Future work will examine the influence of BSF frass inclusion on the soil microbiome community structure and function, in addition to the microbial community present in the rhizosphere and roots of Chinese cabbage plants.

Overall, our findings suggest that BSF frass has the potential to be an effective biofertiliser containing macro-and micro-nutrients and a microbiome that supports enhanced plant growth. Future research will explore the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of BSF frass microbiome on plant growth and the potential of this approach for sustainable agriculture.

Automated Insect Farming with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine Learning for Animal Feed Production

Poster abstract by Muhammad Mubeen Tayyab, University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, UK

Other authors: Mark F. Hansen (University of the West of England, Bristol) and Melvyn L. Smith (University of the West of England, Bristol)

Food security is a primary global concern due to ever growing population especially in era of climate change. Therefore, finding sustainable sources of food are inevitable. Since animal protein is one of major sources of food for humans, its sustainable production requires sustainable feed sources. As traditional feed resources such as soybean and fishmeal have been sources of deforestation, loss of biodiversity, etc. so it becomes imperative to find environmentally friendly and sustainable alternatives. Therefore, in 2013, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published a report about prospects of using insects as replacement for soybean and fishmeal. Since insect farming is in its infancy and to replace traditional feed resources, insect farming needs automation to make it profitable and tackle issues arising due to mass production.

The aim of the proposed research is to improve insect farming by automating data collection and analysis using the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine Vision algorithms. IoT-based device (Insecto) is installed at the mealworm farming facility to capture high resolution images and video. Additionally, environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, CO2 etc. are also being collected by the device. Image data will be utilised in counting and sizing of mealworms at various stages of the life cycle like larvae, pupae, and adult beetles. Moreover, the data will also be used for generating synthetic images that will be used for detecting anomalies. Thus, timely identifying any disease/disorders. Such automation will not only help in remote monitoring but reducing manual labour, costs and improving scalability. Thus, ensuring consistency in quality and quantity of insect production.

For detection and counting adult beetles, the “You Only Look Once” (YOLO) model has been trained on synthetic dataset. For 50 to 200 adult beetles in a single tray, the model had high accuracy detection of 94% mAP (mean average precision). However, for images with 500 to 1000 adult beetles in single tray, the model detection accuracy reduced to 74% mAP. Since the model detection performance degrades with increasing numbers of adult beetles in single tray. Therefore, for improving accuracy of the YOLO model, image slicing technique is being investigated. The idea is to take advantage of model’s high accuracy for lower densities of insects in single image and consequently the input image will be divided into small patches to help optimise object detection. For future work, other object detection models like Mask RCNN will be explored for performance comparison.

Towards effective and sustainable Regulation of edible insects in the UK

Poster abstract by Nick Rousseau, UK Edible Insect Association and University of Sheffield, UK

Other authors: Anna Cox, Ben Pope, Prof Peter Jackson, Dr Mike Foden – University of Sheffield

The UK has adopted the European Novel Food Regulations including the designation of edible insects as Novel Foods and this places very substantial barriers to trading of edible insects in GB. But is this warranted?

The UK Edible Insect Association and University of Sheffield are carrying out a review of the available evidence regarding the safety of consumers eating insects. This is on-going andAnna Cox, Ben Pope, Prof Peter Jackson, Dr Mike Fode reveals:

• extensive widespread consumption of harvested insects from the wild across many species and countries but with the risk of unknown contaminants entering the food. eg pesticides.
• Considerable evidence of the safety and risk factors associated with a small number of extensively farmed insects – Crickets and mealworms in particular – leading to comprehensive guidance for insect farmers.
• Practically no reports of cases of consumers coming to harm from eating insects or products containing insects.
• A wide variety of other insects that could potentially be “farmed” in various ways but for which the research into safety and risks to consumers is much less established.

The evidence suggests that certain insect species should be treated as exposing consumers to the same low level of risks as any other consumed form of meat, with proportionate and well-promoted risk management and effective and safe farming and handling practices developed to protect consumers. There is no real justification for treating these as special cases with a disproportionately higher level of risk than chicken, pork, shellfish, etc. The main concern is to ensure that all those setting up businesses with these livestock and ingredients are fully aware of the risks and correct management.

Other, less well researched, insect species should still be subject to more intensive scrutiny.

See also