Insect industry abuzz with new knowledge sharing Hub

31 March 2022
Black soldier fly on white netting

AgriFutures Australia, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), have launched a new knowledge-sharing initiative to accelerate insect farming as an emerging industry in Africa and Australia.

The Emerging Insect Technology Hub (EIT-Hub) will centralise engagement and knowledge sharing around insects as food, animal feed and fertiliser, bringing together industry stakeholders, scientists and investors to discuss issues linked to emerging insect technologies.

The EIT-Hub has been developed by AgriFutures Australia, an Australian Commonwealth statutory Research and Development Corporation, ACIAR, the Australian Government’s specialist agricultural research-for-development agency, and icipe, an international scientific research institute based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Founding members of the EIT-Hub include Dr Chrysantus M. Tanga from icipe, Dr Anna Okello from ACIAR, and Dr Olivia Reynolds from AgriFutures Australia. Mr Duncan Rowland from the Insect Protein Association of Australia is the inaugural Chair of the EIT-Hub.

ACIAR Research Program Manager for Livestock Systems, Dr Anna Okello, says ACIAR research projects led by icipe since 2015 will provide a foundation of knowledge from which sectors in Africa and Australia can build.

'The research in Eastern Africa has been conclusive; rearing insects for animal feed provides a nutritious, high-quality feed for fish, pigs and poultry that has various environmental benefits and is also scalable across different settings.

'We've seen first-hand how the industry has advanced in Eastern Africa—growing from farm-level production through to small and medium enterprises that have generated employment for women and youths.

Talash Huijbers of Insectipro with a cricket.
Talash Huijbers of InsectiPro with a cricket at her businesses headquarters in Kenya. Ms Huijbers spoke at the launch of the EIT-Hub and has been involved in ACIAR-funded research led by icipe rearing insects for animal feed.

'While the contexts between Africa and Australia vary, any new or emerging industry, regardless of setting, faces a steep learning curve—governance, legislation, quality assurance, sharing of research findings—that needs navigating. It’s these common interests that will be the focus of the new EIT-Hub.’

The new EIT-Hub initiative is a public good that will underpin the growth of a new sector with tremendous potential to benefit sustainable development globally. The hub will be a catalyst for scientists and industry to share knowledge and research to accelerate progress and uptake of insect technologies.

‘Over the past one decade, icipe has established itself as a global leader in the insects for food, feed and other uses, research agenda. Through our championship, there is a rising movement in Eastern Africa, which is demonstrating the reality of insects as a transformative force in reshaping our food system into a more sustainable and vibrant circular economy,’ says Dr Segenet Kelemu, Director General & CEO, icipe.

AgriFutures Australia Senior Manager, Emerging Industries, Dr Olivia Reynolds is enthusiastic about the collaboration and knowledge sharing opportunities between Africa and Australia that will come from the EIT-Hub.

‘The EIT-Hub will provide a forum to bring together industry stakeholders, scientists and investors for a collaborative discussion and support on issues linked to emerging insect technologies. Rather than duplicating these efforts in Australia and Africa, the EIT-Hub will bring together stakeholders to maximise sharing opportunities. This is an exciting prospect for the industry. ’

An initial focus of the EIT-Hub will be the creation of a gold standard manual for the production and processing of black soldier flies. Led by icipe, the digital publication will be open access and fill a knowledge gap around best practices, providing a vital resource for industry participants worldwide.  

Learn more about the launch of the EIT-Hub via the icipe website.