Australia invests in insect research centre

02 November 2022
Segenet Kelemu and Andrew Campbell

A world-leading insect research centre in Kenya will receive ongoing annual funding from the Australian Government following a new agreement signed today in Brisbane.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) will provide annual core funding contributions of A$500,000 to the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) as part of efforts to explore how insects can contribute to sustainable agrifood systems and recognition that entomology capacity is vital for biosecurity.

Signed today at the TropAg conference, the agreement builds on a long-running partnership between ACIAR and icipe that has seen insect-for-feed research improve African livelihoods and help sprout a new industry.

ACIAR CEO Professor Andrew Campbell said that insects show great potential in helping transform global food production, with icipe to play a leading role in unlocking the sector's potential.

‘Insects will become increasingly vital to how the world sustainably feeds itself,’ Prof Campbell said.

‘ACIAR has been funding icipe on a project-level basis since 2014, and we’ve seen firsthand how insects like the black soldier fly can help farmers turn food waste into high-protein animal feed and fertiliser with minimal impact to the environment. 

‘The research has demonstrated that utilising insects for food, feed and other uses can truly be a transformative force in reshaping food systems to becoming more sustainable.’

Icipe has established itself as a world leader in insect physiology and ecology research, and we're proud to be strengthening our commitment to icipe by providing ongoing support reflective of Australia's commitment to sustainable development,’ Prof Campbell added. 

The Nairobi-based centre becomes the sixth research organisation to receive core funding from ACIAR, joining the likes of the CGIAR, the Pacific Community (SPC); the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg); the Centre for Agricultural Biosciences International (CABI); and the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI).

Segenet Kelemu and Andrew Campbell
Director-General of icipe Dr Segenet Kelemu (left) with ACIAR CEO Prof Andrew Campbell (right) following the signing of the new funding agreement in Brisbane.

The Australian Government, through ACIAR, provides ongoing funding to international agricultural research for development institutions to support the production and maintenance of global and regional public goods. This type of consistent investment underpins long-term strategic research initiatives while safeguarding organisational capacity and ongoing operations.  

Director-General and CEO of icipe Dr Segenet Kelemu, welcomed the investment from ACIAR and commended the Australian Government for its long-term commitment to enhancing food systems and strengthening ties between Australia and Africa.

Icipe operates in partnership with more than 60 universities and 300 partners, with a huge number of initiatives across Africa and around the globe that take a holistic approach to human, animal, plant and environmental health,’ said Dr Kelemu.

 ‘We’re an organisation that can lead international efforts to embrace and maximise the potential of insect technology. ACIAR has a strong partner in icipe that will positively impact the African continent and beyond.’

ACIAR joins a select list of organisations that provide core funding to icipe, including the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency; the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation; the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia; and the Government of the Republic of Kenya.

‘Significantly, core funds support the exploratory phases of novel research areas, helping to generate the evidence base needed to attract project investments,’ Dr Kelemu added. 

‘The funds also serve as a bridge for researchers and projects between funding phases. Indeed, without core funds, it would be difficult for research and development institutions to undertake their main business effectively.’ 

ACIAR first invested in icipe in 2014 in a co-funding arrangement with Canada's International Development Research Centre as part of a broader effort to develop and scale-up sustainable, climate-resilient and gender-responsive innovations for smallholder producers.

ACIAR and icipe are currently partnering with AgriFutures Australia in a knowledge-sharing initiative to accelerate insect farming as an emerging industry in Africa and Australia. AgriFutures Australia has identified insect farming in Australia as having high potential to reach a value of A$10 million per annum by 2025.

Learn more about the new core funding agreement via the ACIAR website.