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Desirable project : an insect biorefinery to meet the demand for proteins

Satisfying the growing global demand for proteins, attenuating the consequences of animal husbandry for the environment, and, finally, responding to societal demands in terms of product quality : these are the major issues met by international bodies and organisations, industry and agrofood researchers. The consumption of insects, although not the only possibility, is increasingly emerging as a realistic alternative to conventional sources of proteins.
The Desirable project is a multidomain project aiming to design an insect biorefinery to contribute to more sustainable agricultural and food systems, funded by the ANR. Its objective is to prepare the ground technically for the emergence of a new sector producing animal proteins from insects for human and animal consumption, by developing good practices for insect rearing and transformation whilst evaluating the sustainability of these elements and of the global sector integrating their interfaces. This sector can be broken down into two major sectors corresponding to two species mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) and soldier flies (Hermetia illucens)), the larvae of which are a natural component of the diet of fish and chickens. These larvae have already been extensively studied. They are suitable for mass production and have the advantage of feeding on organic wastes.
Nine public laboratories involving AgroParisTech, Inra, CNRS and the CEA, working in collaboration with two private companies (Ynsect and IPV Food), have performed experiments at the laboratory and pilot scales for each of the biorefinery components : insect rearing, transformation and product use. A complete lifecycle analysis will provide an overall view of the system.
The multidisciplinary approach for developing the insect sector implemented in Desirable project is proving very rich in both methodological and operational terms. The results obtained in this project are advancing our knowledge and know-how, making it possible to envisage the creation of this new sector and possibilities for valorising insects. This knowledge is being used to determine the potential and limits of insects’ use in this context.

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