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Exploring the Potential of Black Soldier Fly Larvae Fat: A Sustainable Alternative in the Lipid Industry


From animal feed to biodiesel production, BSF oil offers versatility and eco-friendliness, poised to revolutionize the lipid industry. In this article, we delve into the key aspects of BSF oil and its potential applications.

 

In recent years, the global landscape of vegetable oil production has undergone significant expansion, driven by the rising demand for oils derived from plants. These oils, extracted from various sources, have found multifaceted applications across industries, ranging from culinary to cosmetic and even energy sectors, serving as crucial ingredients in a wide range of products, including animal feed additives, biofuels, and personal care items.





The most consumed vegetable oils in the world during 2023-2024 were palm oil (77.99 million tons/year), soybean oil (60.72 million tons/year), rapeseed oil (32.82 million tons/year), sunflower oil (20.27 million tons/year), palm kernel oil (8.89 million tons/year), peanut (6.29 million tons/year), cottonseed oil (4.96 million tons/year), coconut (3.69 million tons/year), and olive oil (2.36 million tons/year) respectively (source: www.statista.com).


However, the production of vegetable oils remains concentrated in select regions globally, with only a handful of countries dominating the market, moreover, the prices of these oils have exhibited considerable volatility in recent years, underscoring the need for alternative and sustainable sources of lipids. Although the production of plant oils carries risks like deforestation and loss of biodiversity and animal habitat, Black soldier fly (BSF) industrial farming avoids these issues. While BSFL may not inherently offer lower carbon footprints than plant alternatives for protein resources, their waste remediation capability significantly reduces emissions. Additionally, rearing BSFL requires much less land and water compared to plants.(1)


The BSF is a remarkable insect species with the potential to revolutionize the lipid industry that can be cultivated anywhere in the world. These larvae possess a voracious appetite for organic waste, efficiently converting it into valuable biomass rich in proteins and lipids. Generally, BSF larvae contain approximately 40% protein and 30% lipid on a dry matter basis. In the processing of protein flours, significant amounts of oils and fats are obtained as co-products.


The fatty acid profile of Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) oil closely resembles that of valuable commodities like coconut oil or palm kernel oil, particularly due to its high content of lauric acid. This similarity opens significant industrial applications for BSFL oil across various sectors, including chemical, fuel, lubricants, pharmaceuticals, food, medical, and personal care products or as animal feed ingredients. Moreover, BSFL oil has the potential to replace coconut and palm oils as a source of medium and long-chain fatty acids (FFAs), offering similar composition and properties. Additionally, BSFL oil presents advantages over plant oils, such as its waste-to-energy potential, smaller spatial requirements, and faster turnover rate compared to traditional plantations.


The projected growth of the BSF oil market indicates a robust Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.1% spanning from 2022 to 2029, with anticipated revenues reaching $72 million by 2029 (source: www.meticulousresearch.com). This expansion is primarily fueled by heightened demand within the animal feed sector and the burgeoning market presence in both emerging and established economies. However, despite the promising growth trend, specific psychological and ethical obstacles regarding the adoption of black soldier fly oil as a food source are likely to hinder market progress. Nonetheless, European Union regulations have not yet sanctioned the utilization of black soldier fly ingredients for human consumption.


Furthermore, challenges such as the existing gap between supply and demand for black soldier fly oil in biodiesel production, along with pricing competition from alternative ingredients in the cosmetic industry, present additional hurdles to market expansion. The key players operating in the black soldier fly oil market include Protix B.V. (Netherlands), Enterra Feed Corporation (Canada), InnovaFeed (France), EnviroFlight LLC (U.S.), Nutrition Technologies Group (Malaysia), Bioflytech (Spain), Entobel Holding PTE. Ltd. (Singapore), Entofood Sdn Bhd (Malaysia), SFly (France), Hexafly (Ireland), F4F (Chile), and Protenga Pte Ltd (Singapore).

 

The lipid fraction of BSF larvae is a mix of triglycerides, saturated, and unsaturated fatty acids2.The crude fat content appears to correlate closely with the proportion of "identified fatty acids" in the larvae, implying that the fraction labeled "crude fat" primarily comprises fatty acids3. The BSF fats mainly consist of medium-chain saturated fatty acids,the predominant fatty acids include linoleic, oleic, lauric, and palmitic acid,while lauric acid is the dominant component.The composition and quantity of the rearing substrate significantly influence the composition and development of BSF larvae, allowing for tailoring the larval composition of certain nutrients depending on desired applications (4)


The main fatty acids identified  in BSF larvae are (3,5–7):


Ø  Saturated fatty acids


  • Lauric Acid (C12:0) is known for its antimicrobial properties and has various potential applications in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and food products and has been reported to exhibit antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anticancer properties.

  • Palmitic Acid (C16:0) is long chain fatty acid commonly found in large quantities within palm and corn oils.

  • Stearic acid (C18:0)

  • Myristic acid (C14:0)

  • Other acids found in lower amounts: Capric acid (C10:0), Heptadecanoic acid (C17:0), Arachidic acid (C20:0), Pentadecanoic acid (C15:0), Tridecanoic acid (C13:0), Undecanoic acid (C11:0), Caprylic acid (C8:0)

 

Ø  Mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA)

  • Oleic Acid (C18:1) It is typically present in black soldier fly larvae in smaller quantities compared to saturated fatty acids but still contributes to the overall fatty acid profile.

  • Palmitoleic acid (C16:1)

  • Myristoleic Acid (C14:1) is typically found in smaller quantities in BSFL and may have implications for its functional properties and biological activities.

  • Other acids found in lower amounts: Eicosenoic acid (C20:1), Heptadecanoic acid (C17:1), Pentadecenoic acid (C15:1), Gondoic acid (C20:1n9), Nervonic acid (C24:1)

 

Ø  Poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)

  • Linoleic Acid (C18:2) it is typically found in BSFL fat in smaller amounts compared to other fatty acids but plays a role in the nutritional composition of BSFL.

  • Alpha-linolenic acid  (C18:3n3) (ALA)

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5) (EPA)

  • Decosahexaenoic acid (C22:6) (DHA)

  • Other acids: Linolenic acid (C18:3), Arachidonic acid (C20:4), Docosadienoic acid (C22:2), Eicosatrienoic acid (C20:3n3)


The lipid fraction of BSFL can reach values in the range of 15–58% 5,6, never the less there are several factors that can influence the content and the composition of the fatty acids, we grouped them in three main categories:


BSF larvae age and size

The results indicate that the fatty acid composition is influenced by the weight of the larvae. Throughout the insect's lifecycle, from pupa to adult, there is a decrease in fat quantity, with larvae exhibiting higher lipid and nitrogen-free extract levels but lower ash and protein levels compared to prepupae and pupae stages 8.Generally, larvae with greater weight tend to have a higher proportion of saturated fatty acids and a lower proportion of unsaturated fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) 3. Furthermore, the analysis of fatty acid profiles has revealed variations among different populations of BSF 9.

 

Feeding substrate

BSF fed with substrates such as apple, bread, banana peels, oranges, fruit and vegetable waste, vegan restaurant waste, or food waste exhibit higher lipid content 1,2,5. There appears to be a positive correlation between the fatty acid concentration in the feeding substrate and the concentration in BSF larvae 10. Additionally, apart from the larval developmental stage, the carbohydrate content of the diet seems to influence the crude fat content of the larvae3. Moreover, simple sugars are likely more accessible for fat conversion, potentially key in high fat production in BSF1.

In literature it is suggested that larvae could produce and retain Lauric acid, Myristic acid, and Palmitoleic acid in vivo, but Palmitic acid, Oleic acid, Linoleic acid and α-Linolenic acid could be partially incorporated from diets and retained in larvae bodies 11.However, while there are possibilities for modifying the fatty acid profile, it may be advisable to focus on the major fatty acid constituent, specifically saturated fatty acids (SFA) like lauric acid, rather than minor constituents such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) when evaluating future applications of BSF fat (3).

 

Processing methods

The methods employed for slaughtering, drying, and defatting of the BSF larvae, as well as the interactions between these processes, have notable effects on yields, lipid composition, moisture content, and thermal properties. One notable finding is that the content of major fatty acids, including lauric, palmitic, and myristic acids, is significantly influenced by the treatments applied to BSFL. However, despite these alterations in individual fatty acid concentrations, the total content of saturated fatty acids remains largely unaffected. As summary, the optimal method of processing of BSFL for preserving the integrity of the fat is the combination of slaughtering by blanching, drying by oven-drying, and mechanical pressing being preferred for defatting (6).


Research indicates that BSFL fat can replace soybean oil in the diet of certain animals without compromising the

growth performance. Additionally, the fatty acid composition of BSFL fat resembles that of palm oil and coconut fat, suggesting its potential use in industries where these fats are common. Furthermore, BSFL fat has been found suitable for producing high-quality biodiesel.

 

For further details on these findings and their implications, stay tuned for upcoming articles on our Blog. We will delve deeper into the nutritional benefits, sustainability aspects, and industrial applications of BSFL fat, providing valuable insights for various sectors including animal feed, industrial applications and fuel production.


Bibliography


1.         O’Doherty Eleanor. Application of Black Soldier Fly Larvae to Convert Municipal Organic Waste to Value-Added Chemicals. (University of Sheffield, 2023).

2.         Franco, A. et al. Lipids from Hermetia illucens, an Innovative and Sustainable Source. Sustainability 13, 10198 (2021).

3.         Ewald, N. et al. Fatty acid composition of black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) – Possibilities and limitations for modification through diet. Waste Manag. 102, 40–47 (2020).

4.         Eggink, K. M., Lund, I., Pedersen, P. B., Hansen, B. W. & Dalsgaard, J. Biowaste and by-products as rearing substrates for black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae: Effects on larval body composition and performance. PLOS ONE 17, e0275213 (2022).

5.         Suryati, T., Julaeha, E., Farabi, K., Ambarsari, H. & Hidayat, A. T. Lauric Acid from the Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens) and Its Potential Applications. Sustainability 15, 10383 (2023).

6.         Hurtado-Ribeira, R. et al. Evaluation of the interrelated effects of slaughtering, drying, and defatting methods on the composition and properties of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae fat. Curr. Res. Food Sci. 7, 100633 (2023).

7.         Loho, L. & Lo, D. Proximate and fatty acid analysis of Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Hermetia illucens). 1169, 012082 (2023).

8.         Liu, X. et al. Dynamic changes of nutrient composition throughout the entire life cycle of black soldier fly. PLOS ONE 12, e0182601 (2017).

9.         Matsakidou, A. et al. Compositional, volatile, and structural features of Hermetia illucens (black soldier fly) flours: The effect of population and life stages. Future Foods 9, 100320 (2024).

10.       Siddiqui, S. A. et al. Manipulation of the black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens; Diptera: Stratiomyidae) fatty acid profile through the substrate. J. Insects Food Feed (2022) doi:10.3920/JIFF2021.0162.

11.       Li, X. et al. Growth and Fatty Acid Composition of Black Soldier Fly Hermetia illucens (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) Larvae Are Influenced by Dietary Fat Sources and Levels. Anim. Open Access J. MDPI 12, 486 (2022).

 



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