Agro-industry: New food frontiers, edible insects bred with organic waste


The ENEA Trisaia Research Center (Matera) is experimenting with how to obtain new flours with high nutraceutical value from insects. A team of researchers, specialized in frontier research on the circular economy, has managed to "breed" an insect known as "flour moth" - the Tenebrio molitor"- with food and cereal waste, in order to obtain protein flours useful for animal feed production and new products for human consumption (novelfood).

"Breeding insects with by-products of the agri-food industry fully responds to the principles of the circular economy: therefore starting from bran - the main food of Tenebrio molitor - we have managed to obtain new products with greater added value", ENEA entomologist  Ferdinando Baldacchino pointed out.

The prospects for this "novelfood" are therefore positive,  thanks to flours for human  nutrion rich in vitamins and minerals and the possibility of modulating the characteristics of the final product according to the "diet" administered to the insects, further improving their amino acid composition, the fatty acid ratio, the omega 3 content and the bioavailability of vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc and calcium.

Also traditionally used as food for reptiles and amphibians, Tenebrio molitor is a beetle from which it is also possible to obtain feed for fish farming, replacing fish and soybean flour and lesser known products such as the fat component and chitin, one of the most abundant biopolymers found in nature.

The suitability of by-products and the diets formulated is assessed through efficiency parameters, such as growth time and weight increase of the larvae, as well as the influence on the reproductive performance of adults. "These elements have a strong impact on the sustainability, also economic, of an insect farm and therefore on final product costs", Baldacchino concluded.


For more information please contact:

Ferdinando Baldacchino, ENEA - Bioproducts and Bioprocesses Laboratory –ENEA Trisaia Research Center,


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