Planning IUCRC Texas A&M University: Center for Environmental Sustainability through Insect Farming (CEStIns)
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Food demand from the growing human population is expected to increase 100% over the next 40 years; however, predicted growth in agriculture production will fail to meet demand by ~40%. The inability to meet future food demands places more pressure on the one billion individuals currently underfed and living in substandard conditions throughout the world. These limitations will manifest into amplified social pressures such as, but not limited to, increased rates of disease, demand for land and water resources, and a lack of agricultural entrepreneurship, which only further weakens the global economy. A sustainable method (i.e., practical and economical) for remediating agricultural waste, while producing high value protein is essential to the long-term health of ecosystems and agriculture. One solution is the utilization of insect farming to convert organic wastes, which will potentially produce alternate resources of monetary value for the farmer. Insect farming can produce enormous amounts of protein and lipids that can be used in a variety of commodity settings (e.g., feed production, compost, biofuels, human food in some cases). And this production of alternative protein sources is less environmentally straining than most currently used methods in terms of reduced land and water usage and reduced emissions. The Center for Environmental Sustainability through Insect Farming (CESTIns) will be comprised of three sites (Texas A&M AgriLife Research [TAMU], Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis [IUPUI], and Mississippi State University [MSU]), with each site specializing in a specific area of research. The purpose of the TAMU site is to, 1) investigate basic parameters of insect biology to optimize industrialized production, 2) work with engineering to develop equipment needed for insect mass production, and 3) conduct feed trials for using insect protein as feed for livestock as well as people. TAMU will work with the other sites to integrate research thrusts across the three sites with IUPUI and MSU focusing on genetics and microbiology/quality assurance, respectively. Further, all three sites will work with strains produced by Industry as well as strains developed internally as a means to optimize mass production. Laboratory and field-based experiments will also engage interdisciplinary expertise in microbiology, engineering, chemistry, food nutrition, physiology, and vertebrate biology with cutting edge technologies. This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.