With the popularity of insect proteins continuing to surge around the world, the prospect of increased insect farming is starting to cause a buzz in the agricultural world.
Although there is a current market of just 10,000 metric tonnes globally for insect protein, that is expected to skyrocket to half a million metric tonnes by 2030, according to a recently released report by Rabobank.
While much of the focus concerning the protein up to now has been around human consumption, according to the report the increased demand could actually come from the benefits of using insect protein as animal feed.
The report - No Longer Crawling: Insect Protein to Come of Age in the 2020s - outlines the nutritional, functional, and environmental benefits of insect-based nutrition in the animal feed market.
Currently, the biggest market for the product is pet food - mainly for cats and dogs - followed by fish food, though there is also potential to use insect proteins for poultry feed.
The report's author, Netherlands-based Rabobank analyst Beyhan de Jong, says the small environmental footprint of insect farming - which requires less water, land, and production time compared to other species - also makes it an attractive option.
According to the report, local, underutilised resources - such as food waste and residue - can be used as a feed base to farm insects, turning low-value agri-food material into high-value proteins and oils.
Despite the potential, the report identifies several challenges stopping the industry from taking off.
One of these was the high costs involved, which leads to higher prices and in turn limited demand for insect protein. Another was inconsistent global legislation around feedstocks and end market for insect farming, while a lack of scale was also highlighted.
However, with the budding industry receiving more investment since 2018, the report says "scale is coming to the six-legged livestock sector".
Farming costs were also predicted to drop in the coming years in line with advances in technology and legislation changes affecting the industry.
"By 2030, we estimate a global market potential of up to 500,000 metric tonnes for insect protein," the report says.