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New US R&D center to strengthen insect farming

Thursday, August 19, 2021

A newly awarded $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation has established the Center for Environmental Sustainability through Insect Farming. The Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has been assigned as the lead site for the center, which will be a collaborative effort with Mississippi State University (MSU) and Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI). Joining the universities will be 34 U.S. and global industrial partners including Mars Inc., Tyson Foods and insect farming pioneers such as Aspire Food Groups, Protix and Beta Hatch Inc.

Jeff Tomberlin of the Department of Entomology and Del Gatlin of the Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology will lead the center on the Texas A&M campus. Tomberlin said the center’s focus is to find solutions for a critical human problem – sustainable food production. The research will explore new avenues to produce food either for direct human consumption or as feed for livestock, poultry and aquaculture. 

Researchers will engage in interdisciplinary expertise in microbiology, engineering, chemistry, food nutrition, physiology and biology with cutting-edge technologies in labs and in the field to fill scientific and industrial gaps related to insect farming. AgriLife Research scientists will examine optimization in the production and development of food as well as feed products for poultry, swine, aquaculture and pets. IUPUI and MSU will target genetics and quality assurances related to microbiology, respectively.

“It’s exciting that Texas A&M will act as the hub for this potentially revolutionary evolution in food and feed production,” Tomberlin said. “All the tenets for creating a circular economy that adds efficiency to agriculture, reduces pollution and waste and improves producer and consumer choice are at the core of this center’s mission. We look forward to the opportunity for Texas A&M AgriLife to lead this effort directed at solving global challenges.”

 

Photo caption: Del Gatlin and Jeff Tomberlin will lead the Center for Environmental Sustainability through Insect Farming at Texas A&M. Photo credits: Laura McKenzie, Texas A&M AgriLife Communications.

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