A new research project at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology aims to upscale crickets farming in Kenya to foster food and nutrition security. The mass production of the insects that are commonly available is also primed to produce animal feeds.
The cricket farm at JKUAT will equally serve as a centre for resource and training for farmers and investors as well as enlightening Kenyans who are not aware about the value of edible insects as resource that is available around us.
Dr. John Kinyuru, a Lecturer in Food Science Department, Faculty of Agriculture, who is spearheading the initiative, says, “The edible insects’ research centre seeks to optimize conditions for medium and large scale cricket farming; develop animal feed using mature crickets, build capacity and develop dissemination manual on cricket farming and utilization.”
Joyce Muniu, a food science graduate student undertaking an acceptability study on cricket as a delicacy at the centre, has come up with a number of recipes and cricket based human food products in an effort to demystify the insects as suitable for human consumption. Some of the products are: stir fry, mini pizzas, cookies, muffins, granola bars, and pancakes.
According to Dr. Kinyuru, the increased demand for animal protein coupled with high costs of fish meal and soybean, climatic changes resulting to low yield of food crops, among other environmental factors have also informed the search for alternative sources of protein for animal feed. The nutrition profile of insects specifically proteins exceed that of conventional sources such as omena and other plant proteins.
He contends that insects farming will lead to less pollution and less space and time utilization compared to animal sources. Insects too, are easy to farm since they occupy a small space compared to other protein rich feedstocks.
Insect farming is easy because they are not labour intensive; needs low technological and capital requirements, thus appropriate for many African countries. Although the centre currently produces crickets, plans are underway to include grasshoppers and black soldier flies.
Efforts at the research center were recently highlighted by Citizen Television’s English and Kiswahili bulletins and Inooro Television both of Royal Media Services and the University’s latest Agritech News Magazine