Scientists at IUPUI and the Indiana University School of Medicine are  part of a group of researchers studying the use of insects as a viable food source for animals and people. The Center for Environmental Sustainability Through Insect Farming was established with a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The project is a collaboration between the School of Science at IUPUI, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Mississippi State University.

“This center will address a pressing need for alternative protein sources that are environmentally sustainable,” said Christine Picard, an associate professor at the School of Science at IUPUI. “Our mission is to address the key research needs of industry using our expertise, and to work collaboratively toward shared goals of growth of this unique industry.”

IUPUI says the center will also partner with more than 30 companies in the U.S. and worldwide, including food suppliers such as Mars and Tyson Foods, as well as Aspire Food Group, Protix and Beta Hatch Inc.

“These insects represent a circular economy,” Picard said. “Their use in agriculture will limit our impacts on the environment — with less land or water needed for production and reduced greenhouse gas emissions — as well as potentially reduce, or even eliminate, the demand for fishmeal and other agricultural products used in aquaculture and protein production. The results will help protect our oceans, and improve our land and air quality.”

The leaders of the center say that insect farming can provide “a practical, economical and sustainable path for producing high-value protein and reducing agricultural waste — addressing issues related to climate change, environmental sustainability, socio-economic development and agriculture.”

IUPUI says each university participant in the center will help address issues that currently pose challenges to the expansion and evolution of insects as food and feed. The members will also conduct laboratory- and field-based experiments in chemistry, engineering, and food nutrition, among others.

IUPUI says it will focus on genetic aspects of insects as food and feed, building upon Picard’s earlier research.

Through the research, the center hopes to advance new knowledge and technologies to fill scientific and industrial gaps related to the use of insects for food and feed.