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Black soldier fly in animal nutrition: the key to a circular food system (fully funded PhD project)

Agriculture & Environment

Location:  Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB
Post Type:  Full Time
Contract Type: Fixed Term - 36 Months
Closing Date:  23.59 hours BST on Sunday 28 August 2022
Reference:  RD-PHD-R1-JM-22

Primary supervisor: Dr James McCaughern,, Department of Agriculture and Environment  

Second supervisors: Dr Joe Roberts and Dr Alexander Mackenzie

Project title: Black soldier fly in animal nutrition: the key to a circular food system

Background: A growing human population combined with rising living standards across the globe, will no doubt continue to increase the demand for animal-derived products [1]. Feed in itself, generally represents 60-70% of the total production costs within animal production systems, a proportion which is likely to increase due to resource competition and food scarcity [2]. Indeed, commonly utilised sources of protein within animal diets have already felt these effects, with ingredients like fish and soybean meal encountering historic price inflation [3], a process which has been more recently exaggerated by the Ukrainian conflict. Price is not the only sustainability issue with these traditional protein sources, with other concerns including overfishing and land use change [4,5]. Insects however, are proteinaceous, and may serve as a viable protein substitute within animal diets due to their fast growth rates and efficiencies of feed conversion [6]. Black soldier fly (BSF), Hermetia illucens L. (Diptera: Stratiomyidae), is considered a primary candidate for this purpose as its underlying biology facilitates sustainable recycling of both animal and vegetable waste [7], thereby turning biological ‘waste’ into high-quality animal feed [8].  

There are relatively few studies which examine the use of BSF as a feed ingredient, but there is some evidence to suggest that the partial replacement of soybean meal with BSF within poultry diets can maintain the commercial performance of growing and laying birds [9,10]. Despite the benefits of BSF, and the recent authorisation of its inclusion within the diets of some European farm animal species, legislative barriers still prohibit its dietary inclusion within the United Kingdom (UK). This legal position is however likely to change if reviewed, a scenario most likely to occur in the event of an industry lobby. The animal feed industry however, continues to reject BSF, primarily as a result of cost [11], but also due to a lack of product standardisation when it comes to larval production and processing [2]. The use of BSF however, is not limited to animal feed alone, where the insect has shown value in the processing of organic leachates within waste processing streams [12]. Therefore, although not currently economically viable as a direct-use animal feed within the UK, the use of BSF as a by-product from other waste management streams, may increase competitivity in relation to other protein sources, and subsequently encourage BSF adoption within the animal feed industry. There is subsequently a need to examine the sustainability potential of BSF as a nutrient source within UK farm animal diets.  

Project aim: To develop a black soldier fly production pipeline that will produce an economically competitive insect-based animal feed ingredient. 



Proposed methodology: BSF will be reared under standardised environmental conditions and maintained on a variety of food substrates (e.g. vegetable waste, and situations where the BSF are produced as a by-product ingredient from other waste management streams). The resultant BSF larvae will then be processed using techniques (e.g. temperature and pressure) commonly employed by the animal feed industry to determine the effects of processing upon the chemical composition of the resulting BSF feed ingredient products. All potential BSF-based feeds will undergo full proximate and mineral analysis to determine their feeding value in comparison to other traditionally utilised protein sources (e.g. soybean meal). Their nutritional use will then be modelled within a variety of farm animal production system to determine the effects upon production costs.  

References: 1. FAO (2009) FAO, Italy; 2. Barragan-Fonseca et al (2017) J Insects as Food Feed 3:105-120; 3. Van Huis et al (2013) FAO, Italy; 4. FAO (2014) FAO, Italy; 5. Weightman et al (2011) Glob Change Biol Bioenergy 2:158-170; 6. Van Huis (2013) Annu Rev Entomol 58:564-583; 7. Nguyen et al (2013) J Med Entomol 50:898-906; 8. Veldkamp et al (2012) WURLP, Netherlands; 9. Cullere et al. (2016) Animal 10:1923-1930; 10. Maurer et al. (2016) J Insects as Food Feed 2:83-90; 11. Fukuda et al (2022) Transl Anim Sci 6:1-6; 12. Popa and Green (2012) J Econ Entomol 105:374-378.     

The expected start date for the studentship is 27th September 2022, although a later start date will be considered for the best applicant. The studentship will cover the current Home tuition fee rate plus a yearly stipend set at the UKRI figure – currently £16,062. International applicants would need to  be able to fund the difference between Home and Overseas fees which is currently £10,330 per year with the first year’s fee’s being paid in full before Visa documentation can be issued. The student will be registered for a PhD at Harper Adams University and based at Harper Adams University, Edgmond, Shropshire, UK. During this project, the successful applicant is expected to develop sought-after technical skills in the fields of entomology and animal nutrition.


If you have any queries or for an informal discussion please email James McCaughern ( For further information about the University, please visit our website at

Person specification: 

Candidates will normally be expected to hold a bachelor's degree with a first or upper second class, or a high GPA in an appropriate subject area (e.g. agricultural science, biological science, ecology, entomology, animal science, nutrition or a related subject area). A relevant masters degree maybe an advantage. 


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Harper Adams University is one of the premier UK Higher Education institutions focused on the land-based and food supply chain sector. With around 2,800 undergraduate students, plus those completing postgraduate, research and CPD programmes, Harper Adams University is the UK's largest single provider of higher education for these subjects.  Programmes fall into eleven broad subject areas – but none operate in isolation. Community and collaboration are key at Harper Adams, meaning everyone, including staff, students and industry partners, benefits from a close network of knowledge and opportunity exchange. Situated in Shropshire, the campus and the surrounding area provide an excellent working and living environment for staff and students alike.

Harper Adams is consistently positioned highly in a range of national ratings, performance measures and league tables. The University has been the highest performing modern university in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for the last four years, climbing to 17th place in the overall league table. In the 2020 guide Harper Adams was named Modern University of the Year and runner-up University of the Year. In the 2019 Whatuni? Student Choice Awards, based on student reviews, Harper Adams won the Student Support category for the fifth time – the only university to have taken the title since the awards began - and won the category for best job prospects for a fourth year running. In the 2020 QS World Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry published in March 2020, Harper Adams was ranked first in the UK for academic reputation and second in the world for its reputation with employers.

Applied research is at the heart of the university’s activity, with the work of a thriving academic community underpinning both teaching and work with the industries allied to Harper. The 2014 Government Research Excellence Framework rated all of the university’s research as “of international quality”, and more than half was deemed “world leading” or “internationally excellent”.



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