Following the publishing of her Nuffield Farming report, Dr. Olivia Champion has concluded that more research and and innovation is needed to make insect farming a success.

The Devon scientist’s report, entitled ‘Can carbon neutral insects be farmed profitably?’, was sponsored by the Richard Lawes Foundation.

During her research, Champion travelled to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Canada.

Her aim was to understand the market readiness for insect ingredients as food and feed, identify the main costs and understand the regulatory landscape. 

“Edible insects offer an alternative protein source suitable for both humans and animals. Insects require less space, water, and emit fewer greenhouse gases,” she said.

“However, my research journey revealed that producing insects for food and feed is constrained by limitations in scale, high costs, and inconsistent quality.

“Improvements like automation, enhanced insect genetics, and optimized diets are crucial for advancing insect farming.”

Carbon-neutral insect farming

During her study, Champion found that carbon-neutral insect farming is possible when waste unsuitable for animal consumption becomes insect food.

“Many insect farms presently utilize soya-based materials, which contradicts the goal of reducing soya in animal feed.

“Utilizing livestock manure as insect food could be a strategic alternative, subject to careful risk assessment.

“Blending waste as a substrate for insects and integrating renewable energy can establish carbon-neutral insect farming as a viable option.”

With rising living costs and changing spending patterns, Champion said the demand for costly and unfamiliar insect-based foods and feeds might stay limited.

“But overcoming challenges through ongoing research and innovation could position insect farming as a pivotal player in constructing sustainable and nutritious food systems.”


Champion’s research objectives were to assess market readiness for insect ingredients for food and feed; identify the main costs associated with insect farming and identify mechanisms to drive down costs; and understand how the regulatory landscape intersects with farm success.

She concluded that the messages of her study were:

  • The cost and carbon footprint of insect farming is dependent on the farming system used, especially the substrate used to feed the insects;
  • Waste streams that cannot be fed to humans or animals should be explored as approved substrates for insect farming;
  • The cost price of insects/tonne is 5-10 times the cost price of soya. Price is the main barrier to market acceptance of insect ingredients for both food and feed.