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Russian Researchers Develop Tech that Transforms Locusts to Animal Feed

Researchers have created mobile machines that collect insects and grind them into animal fodder. The resulting "locust meal" is said to offer four times the nutritional value of fishmeal fodder. 

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Russian scientists at the Chelyabinsk State Agriculture Engineering Academy might have found the solution to the problem of keeping its livestock fed, with the invention of new technology that harvests locusts and grinds them into nutritious fodder. 

The technology was profiled by Russia & India Report, which notes that present systems for harvesting insects are ineffecient as they can only collect adult insects, which means much of the nutritional value is lost. The Russian researchers say it's much better to process wingless insects into fodder, and claim their tests have shown very positive results. 

Locusts for lunch? 

The scientists claim that locusts are a far more nutritious food source for animals since their dry weight is composed of about 75 percent protein, compared to just 21 percent for fishmeal, which is currently viewed as the most nutritious animal fodder. 

“Winged locusts contain less nutrients, so when they are processed, the results are underwhelming. We catch them as they are moving through the fields, at the stage when they quickly consume vegetation and grow. The machine we invented collects about 70 percent of a swarm, crushing the rest. After a single pass, no insects are left,” said provost of Chelyabinsk Academy Peter Svechnikov.

The Chelyabinsk Academy team began its research in the Southern Urals more than decade ago, after one of the researchers became interested in finding a solution to the damage caused by locust swarms and the huge expenses involved in containing them. The resulting technology - mobile machines that harvest the insects direct from locust-infested areas - costs about $10,000 per machine, though they can cost another $30,000 to $40,000 to implement. Nevertheless, the researchers insist that buyers would be able to recoup the cost of the machines in as little as a week, due to the market price of fodder being five times that of the production cost of locust meal. 

The technology has caused some excitement in the argicultural community. Georgy Gaidadin, CEO of the Russian fodder production company Bioenergiya, told Russia & India Report he was looking forward to seeing it in action. “At the moment, fishmeal is considered to be the most nutritious fodder supplement," Gaidadin said. "But the world is running out of fish, so locust meal may well become a excellent alternative source of easily digestible protein for different species of domestic animals and birds." 

But not everyone was convinced of locust meal's potential. Ilya Bondarev, Chairman of the Urals Livestock Breeders' Union, told Russia & India Report that Russia didn't have enough locusts to support the technology's implementation. “Think of how high the consumption of animal feed is, and compare that to the number of locusts that is needed," Bondarev said. “Besides, locusts are sprayed with pesticides. How exactly are we supposed to use contaminated insects in fodder.”

That might be the case in Russia, but there are plenty of other areas in the world - such as Africa - where locust swarms are a common occurrence, where the technology might be more feasible.

Image credit: FAO Emergencies via

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