Many farms in Illinois grow feed for animals, but a new venture by ADM and InnovaFeed will do it in an unusual way—with insects. The companies say protein and oils from larvae of the black soldier fly will be used in sustainable feed for farmed fish, poultry, and pigs.
Insect farming is a young industry looking to capitalize on the world’s increasing hunger for seafood, meat, dairy, and eggs. Growing protein-rich feed for livestock takes up a lot of land and water. Insect-farming start-ups say they can produce valuable feed ingredients with very little of either; the insects are raised on food and agriculture waste and require no additional water.
InnovaFeed currently operates two facilities in its home country of France. The larger one, in Nesle, is co-located with a starch facility operated by Tereos. Other leading producers include Ynsect, also based France, and South Africa’s AgriProtein.
The US plant will be owned by InnovaFeed and located at ADM’s giant corn-processing complex in Decatur, Illinois. It will produce 60,000 metric tons (t) per year of protein, 20,000 t of oil, and 400,000 t of fertilizer, making it the world’s largest such facility, the companies say. Construction on the plant, which will employ 280 workers, will begin next year.
The insects will dine on corn processing waste and will stay warm thanks to waste heat and steam from the ADM facility, the companies note.
The project “further expands our participation in the growing market for animal food and feed that comes from responsible, sustainable sources,” Christopher M. Cuddy, ADM senior vice president, says in a statement.
Insects raised for feed look to be a good deal for a circular economy, according to a review paper by Fabio A. Madau, professor of agriculture at the University of Sassari, and colleagues (Sustainability 2020, DOI: 10.3390/su12135418).
The facilities feature limited costs per unit of protein produced, require simple technology, are easy to operate, and generate fast returns on investment, Madau notes. In addition to reducing land and water use, insect-rearing can help fish and livestock farmers cut CO2 emissions and reliance on protein meal from unsustainable fisheries.
Insect feed operations do face hurdles to compete with traditional protein sources, mainly soy and fish meal. Reaching sufficient scale requires upfront investment and access to cheap food for the insects. But once production is established, Madau says, insects “are more efficient in converting energy used in proteins, especially if farming is aimed at recycling some resources.”