As a cheap and easy source of protein for humans, it might be hard to beat the mighty mealworm.
— The capacity of insects like mealworms to convert feed to body mass exceeds that of traditional livestock such as beef by orders of magnitude.
— Mealworms are 100 percent edible, whereas only about 40 percent of a cow or 55 percent of a chicken can be consumed.
— Microlivestock such as mealworms take up little space and require little water.
— Mealworms can be reared on less feed and using organic byproducts such as corn leaves and stalks.
— Because they are exothermic, obtaining warmth from the local environment, mealworms do not use energy to maintain a constant body temperature the way conventional livestock do, and cultivated insects produce less greenhouse gases.
“Mealworms are so easy to farm. You can do it in a plastic bucket,” says Valerie Stull, a University of Wisconsin-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies graduate student who does just that in her home kitchen to provide an extra dash of protein to cookies, banana bread or a stir-fry.
But Stull and her collaborator — fellow UW graduate student Rachel Bergmans, who likes her mealworms powdered as a protein supplement for smoothies — are just practicing what they are beginning to preach: insects, and mealworms in particular, are an overlooked, healthful, economically viable and sustainable source of nutrition for people.
“We want everyone to see the benefits of insect consumption, not just from a nutritional standpoint, but a climate standpoint,” says Bergmans, who is pursuing her doctorate in the Department of Population Health Sciences in the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. “Farming insects can be a side stream for existing agricultural activities.”
Stull and Bergmans are working to introduce highly productive kits for farming mealworms to regions such as sub-Saharan Africa where eating insects is already culturally palatable. With the help of $25,000 in prize money from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation’s annual Agricultural Innovation Prize, Bergmans and Stull have begun to establish a presence in Zambia, where they plan to distribute their kits along with microfinancing opportunities for insect farming to rural women’s cooperatives. The pair’s project was also selected this week as the winner of UW-Madison’s Climate Quest competition, which will support a pilot project beginning this fall.
“What we’re trying to do is introduce the farming of insects through these kits and culturally appropriate training,” Bergmans explains. “We want to see if farming mealworms can be done at the local level in Zambia in a sustainable way. Our interest is in partnering with these communities.”
Stull and Bergmans are working with the Oakland, California-based company Tiny Farms to develop their kit and optimize microlivestock habitat, rearing and feed formulation. Although still in development, a kit might include a rearing enclosure, a solar dryer, and a rocket stove to facilitate quick-turnaround processing.
The ultimate design of the kit, says Stull, will ideally use local materials and resources. Corn stover, the often unutilized stalks and leaves of maize, is an abundant resource in Zambia that could be turned to mealworm food. Stull is conducting a feeding study in UW-Madison’s Department of Entomology to better assess that possibility. The two graduate students are also investigating production optimization and have formed a company, MIGHTi or Mission to Improve Global Health Through Insects.
“We see potential down the road for the insect farming to become an extra source of income for families,” Bergmans says, noting that farmed insects can not only be a source of protein for human diets, they can also feed livestock such as goats, chickens and farm-raised fish.
On their forays to Zambia, Stull and Bergmans have begun to conduct informal market research to better assess their chances of success: “We get really interesting and mixed reactions,” says Stull. “People have legitimate questions: Is there a market? What does it taste like? Will the mealworms eat my crops?”
Taste tests may be the next phase of market research, say Stull and Bergmans. They are, in fact, planning a spring tasting event on the UW-Madison campus to highlight the benefits of entomophagy (eating insects) and raise funds for scholarships in the Department of Entomology.
Valerie Stull, 303-993-9549, firstname.lastname@example.org; Rachel Bergmans, 616-318-0546, email@example.com
Valerie Stull | newswise
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy