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.
Presently, the cost of feeding forms about 80 per cent of the total cost of livestock production in Ghana and so, it has become imperative to find alternative sources of feed.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations forecasts a substantial increase in the demand for meat, especially in developing countries, driven by a rapidly growing population; income growth; urbanisation and changes in lifestyles and food preferences.
It stated that the need to find alternative and sustainable proteins was an issue of importance that needed a short-term viable solution which made insects an increasingly attractive feed option.
Other studies show that about 100 grammes of caterpillar provided 75 per cent of the daily amount of protein required by humans, and therefore, if fish meal was replaced with insect protein, there was not going to be much difference in the nutrient content because insects also had nutrients such as iron, vitamins A and B and essential amino acids.
The project dubbed, “Insect Feed for West Africa,” was undertaken by the Animal Research Institute of Ghana (ARI), under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and was under the auspices of the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI)-Sterling University.
A lead researcher, Mr Siegfried Affedzie-Obresi, in an interview during a visit by the Ghana National Learning Alliance (GH-NLA) on sustainable agriculture to the research and production at the ARI, at Frafraha, in Accra, said a major objective was to reduce the high cost of producing meat due to protein sources.
He explained that fish stocks were depleting even for human consumption, coupled with inadequate production of soya bean due to factors such as lack of land which have all resulted in high cost of production.
However, he said the insects are found to use very little resource to produce protein and that was good comparable to fish and soya bean.
“Even human beings eat some of these insects; in Ghana we eat the ‘akokono’, and others which sometimes are delicacies. So, the project thinks that we can cultivate these insects and use them as replacement for fish and soya bean to produce the meat, chicken, pork and the likes for human consumption,” he suggested.
Types of insects
The entomologist settled on the housefly and the black soldier fly based on how fast they can be raised and how economical.
However, the housefly larvae was not promoted very well because there is some kind of bad connotation around it, whereas the black soldier fly, the scientists say, is a very safe fly - does not feed, does not cause any disease-and in fact, even in the house, it does not sting.
“The larvae are quite big and they can store enough energy and the protein is food comparable to fish. So, we think that it is a good substitute for fish and we need to set off to do the other experiments,” Mr Obresi said.
Colonies are established to use in producing the larvae and turn them to meal.
Already, the insect larvae meal has been used to produce broilers. Within six weeks, it is able to grow beyond two kilos.
According to Mr Obresi, the yield from the larvae meat was better than that of the fish in terms of weight and in terms of cost which saw a cost-savings of about 10 to 15 per cent in using the larvae meal to replace fish.
“So the formation was that we kept some kind of soya bean and removed the fish meal from it. We tried it against the soya bean and the cost of the larvae meal was just about that of the soya bean”.
He added that, “Those who use soya bean should also shift but with some at amount of the larvae meal. But for the fish meal, the larvae meal can replace it in the diet completely.”
Up scaling production
The major challenge, Mr Obresi said, was to encourage people to go in and produce it on a larger scale, saying, “In terms of producing the larvae, all that one needs is a cage to house the adults, and you just use waste (household waste, market waste, wheat bran,etc).”
He said the residue after harvesting the larvae is a very good compost which have been tried at the Ashaiman Irrigation Development project to produce onions and it was just higher than normal.
He added that the compost is also good and can replace organic fertilisers.
“We have done some sensitisation and I think that we need to open it up. I will call on the media to help get the information out there,” he appealed.
Adopting indigenous tech
The Director of the ARI, Prof. Emmanuel K. Adu, said it was important for every country, including Ghana to develop on the back of indigenous technology.
He said the country should do away with the culture of always looking beyond the border for solutions to problems because there is sometimes a mismatch.
“It doesn’t help. Technology that has gone through our system is developed for the system and works for the system. When people adopt locally generated technology, it solves local problems best,” he said.
Prof. Adu encouraged stakeholders in the livestock sector to adopt this latest cost-effective alternative source of feeding livestock technology.
“We are looking forward to industry taking this technology and that will be our biggest joy. To see that after all the sweat and all the efforts this tech is being utilised and its impacting the animal industry –livestock,” he stated.