Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Could Squirmy Livestock Dent Africa’s Protein Deficit?

02.03.2015

As a cheap and easy source of protein for humans, it might be hard to beat the mighty mealworm.

Consider:


Jeff Miller/UW-Madison

Mealworms are pictured feeding on a diet of oats and a carrot.

— 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.

Contact Information
Valerie Stull, 303-993-9549, vstull@wisc.edu; Rachel Bergmans, 616-318-0546, bergmans@wisc.edu

Valerie Stull | newswise
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>