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Insect Conference Attracts International Crowd

Frank Davis, founder and coordinator of the Insect Rearing Workshop at Mississippi State University, leads a tour of the USDA Agricultural Research Service lab Nov. 5, 2013.  The 16th annual Insect Rearing Workshop featured sessions on raising insects for protein. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kat Lawrence)

Frank Davis, founder and coordinator of the Insect Rearing Workshop at Mississippi State University, leads a tour of the USDA Agricultural Research Service lab Nov. 5, 2013. The 16th annual Insect Rearing Workshop featured sessions on raising insects for protein. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kat Lawrence)

By Kaitlyn Byrne/MSU Ag Communications

MISSISSIPPI STATE – Insect-rearing enthusiasts from all over the world gathered at Mississippi State University to learn from specialists in the field at the 16th annual Insect Rearing Workshop. This year’s workshop focused on raising insects for protein to help reduce world hunger.

Frank Davis, founder and coordinator of the Insect Rearing Workshop, said 11 countries were represented at the workshop Nov. 4 through Nov. 8. And though more attendees had doctorates than in previous years, people were encouraged to attend regardless of education.

“This was an exceptional event in which everyone was very interested in asking questions and creating conversations among teachers and students,” Davis said. “We have more people interested in insect-rearing than ever before.”

Davis said this year’s workshop emphasized rearing insects, particularly the black soldier fly, for protein to feed to catfish, poultry and even humans.

“We’re looking at rearing literally tons of insects per week for protein, especially for rural areas where protein is deficient,” Davis said. “We are in the process of planning an additional workshop for next year that will focus solely on farming insects for this purpose.”

Davis said MSU and the University of Alicante in Spain have partnered up for an insect farming project in Kenya to increase the protein supply in poverty-stricken areas. Davis said he hopes this project will alleviate hunger problems the people face.

Jack Cheng, a first-time workshop attendee from Hong Kong and director of Aubree Limited, said he found the discussions on rearing insects for protein useful. His research focus is on using black soldier fly larvae to treat food waste and produce high-quality protein feed for aquaculture and animal husbandry.

“The insect-rearing training is very inspiring, especially on insectary design and quality control,” he said. “One of the key issues with rearing black solider flies is that the technology has to be scaled up to be profitable. We are striving to bring it to a mass scale, handling 300 tons of food waste a day.”

Cheng said black soldier fly larvae contain 42 percent protein and can be a cheap alternative for feed formulation. He said the larvae can also be used to treat heavy metal in waste water.

“At Aubree Limited, we are aiming to curb food waste around the globe,” he said. “This is my passion. Though my research is not focused on rearing insects for human consumption, it easily could translate over to that.”