Rearing black soldier fly in Iceland

In recent years, the prospect of rearing insects for feed and food has gained more interest. Iceland has no tradition of using insects neither as feed nor food. However, several trends contribute to the prospect of mass rearing being increasingly more attractive.

Aquaculture has steadily increased in recent years in Iceland, in particular of salmonids. The current procedures of producing feed are environmentally taxing with transportation costs being high especially in the remote parts of Iceland where fish farming is most intense. World market prices for fish feed’s biggest components has risen steadily in the past few years.  At the same time, although great improvements have been realized recently, there are several underused waste streams. These include fish offal, manure and biological waste from food processing and households.

Iceland has relatively high wages, making automatisation in the whole rearing process important. The high wages contribute to the venture only being cost effective if conducted on an industrial scale.

The black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) has been shown to possess a range of positive properties, such as high growth rate, pathogen reduction in substrate, self-harvesting nature, capability of ingesting a wide range of substrate, palatability for fish, high protein and lipid content, and a short life cycle. For Icelandic conditions, the black soldier fly would have to be reared indoors in high temperature. If flies escape, they would not pose any infecting risks because they neither feed, bite or sting. Furthermore, in the frigid outdoors, its chance of survival is little.

Given that Iceland follows European feed legislation, the legislative framework of using animal by-products for rearing insects is quite restrictive, both in terms of what insects can be fed and how they can be integrated into feed for other animals. The legislative framework for fish feed is less strict than that for feeding land animals. Reform will have to be made for insect products to safely but economically enter the diet for both animals and humans.

Our preliminary results indicate that combined, these factors make Iceland an exciting option for mass rearing of black soldier fly. Experiments with local waste streams will start in 2014 with the goal of further assessing the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the endeavour.