Dr Kristy DiGiacomo

2017 veski sustainable agriculture fellow

Dr Kristy DiGiacomo from the University of Melbourne will focus on improving sustainability from paddock to plate while reducing the CO2 contributions from food waste through her research project, working with Hermetia Biosystems (HBS), to solve two key challenges facing the environment; pollution caused by the breakdown of food waste and the pollution caused by growing traditional crops to feed livestock.

Food upcycling: using human food waste as a nutrient source to produce a novel insect-derived protein source for production animals

Key to the project is the recent discovery by HBS that human non-meat food waste, for example vegetable waste from supermarkets, can be bioconverted into a valuable insect, a black soldier fly, instead of going to landfill. It can then be used to create food for livestock such as Australian lamb.  As well as being natural, low cost, and high quality, the insect protein is also highly sustainable. One hectare can produce approximately 300 times more volume of insect protein than traditional soybean or canola crops, which are often imported and draw significant water. 

Dr DiGiacomo will assess which food wastes are the best nutrient sources, test the amount of gas produced by the larvae, measure the quality of meat fed larvae, and assess the production and economic potential of using the larvae for feed in Victorian lamb production systems. Australia currently exports more than 200,000 tonnes of lamb meat annually valued at over $1.8 billion.  With feed costs accounting for up to 70 per cent of an intensive animal production enterprise, any reduction to the cost of animal feed will have a large impact on profitability for the producer and the economy more broadly.

Increasing production of export meat in a sustainable manner may also open new export markets, grow existing markets and improve profits for domestic animal producers. This project also directly supports a key goal of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations which says the livestock production system should not create undue pressure on ecosystems, biodiversity, land and forest resources and water quality. 

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