A total of 720 chicks are under observation, in terms of feed, at the Animal Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-ARI) at Fafraha in the Greater Accra Region for the next eight weeks.
Out of the number, the first set of 180 birds are fed on vegetable diet of only soya bean plus synthetic amino acids for a balance, the second set is on soya bean and fish meal (commonly used by Ghanaian farmers), the fish component in the third set is being replaced with housefly larvae and that is the last set which is being replaced with the black soldier fly larvae.
A research into the feasibility of producing insect larvae as an alternative source of protein to feed livestock has revealed that the larvae meal is the safest and cost-effective source of feed to sustain the country’s livestock production.
In an interview, the lead researcher, Mr Siegfried Affedzie-Obresi, said the idea was to compare them to see which one gave the best growth under the cheapest source of protein, and that every week, they were weighed to ascertain if they were within acceptable weight gain.
The project dubbed, “Insect Feed for West Africa,” was undertaken by the CSIR-ARI under the auspices of the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) and the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA).
Mr Obresi said the intention of IFWA was to develop the technology and transfer to local farmers because they generated a lot of household waste which went to add to the municipal waste.
“So, if they can use the insect in animal production to produce meat at cheaper prices and create more sustainable green environment it is good,” he stated.
However, he said, realising the potential for commercial opportunities under the project, the CSIR-ARI opened it up by setting up an insectary where they were breeding the black soldier fly larvae.
“By our intervention, we have provided the environment for them to produce the eggs then we will harvest the eggs, inoculate the eggs to produce the larvae and harvest the larvae.”
“The reason is that the housefly breeding is a bit difficult as you will need to feed them, but the black soldier fly has been found to be a free-living organism which does not even feed and only requires water and is not also associated with waste,” he said.
A team of agriculture officers and farmers from the Greater Accra Region visited the insectary at the ARI, where the researchers are raising the soldier fly and housefly larvae for processing into feed and the brooder house, where the birds were being fed with the different components.
The aim was to give them first-hand information on the project and to involve them at every stage as the birds were being fed with different protein sources. There would be subsequent visits until the eight weeks had elapsed.
After harvesting the larvae, they go through saw dust, empty the guts, purge themselves to become cleaner and are sent to a solar or an oven dryer.
“The temperature should not go beyond 60 degrees or else it will denature the protein. So, we regulate and get it dried and it is milled with the feed. In fact, we have formulated the feed and that is what we are trying on the birds,” Mr Obresi emphasised.
The Nutritionist on the IFWA project, Mr Adu Aboagye, said they were being given a starter diet of between 22-23 per cent and were being fed 24/7- 24 hours daily.
“Ideally, we should give them one-hour darkness in case there is power outage they don’t kill themselves. Now the feed is well-balanced and if your feed meets the nutrient requirement of the bird at an age they don’t scramble for food,” he said.
The West Africa Regional Coordinator of CABI, Dr Victor Attuquaye Clottey, said worldwide, insect larvae was being raised as an alternative source of protein and so, it was time for Ghana to project it, looking at how much poultry product was imported.
He noted that a large percentage of feed was from fish meal and soya bean cake and that for even human consumption, the future lay in insect larvae which had high percentage of protein.
“A lot of research has been done. The aim is that we learn from this and replicate it until people find business out of it to run it,” he said.