Towards Circular Agriculture – Exploring Insect Waste Streams as a Crop and Soil Health Promoter

Torgerson, K.L.; Meijering, J.V.; Sok, J.; Dicke, M.; Oude Lansink, A.G.J.M.


Insects have tremendous potential for utilising the waste generated from other agricultural sectors to produce high value protein. The by-product of insect production, insect waste streams, can be recycled and repurposed for promoting the health of crops and soil as the chitin, present in the moulted skins, acts as a substrate for beneficial microbes that aid in plant protection. However, because insect waste streams are currently in the research and development phase, little information regarding its potential as a crop and soil health promoter is available. To address this information gap, this research explores experts’ knowledge of the characteristics and application of insect waste streams as a crop and soil health promoter. To conduct this research, a two-step expert elicitation approach was used consisting of semi-structured interviews followed by a Delphi study. Interviews were conducted with six experts. Topics arising from the interviews that produced conflicting expert opinions were tested in the Delphi study. Fourteen experts participated in the Delphi study in an attempt to reach an agreement on these topics. The results of this research indicate that insect waste streams could be produced as a granulate-type compost, seed coating, or impregnated into a biodegradable seedling cup. To use insect waste streams, farmers should apply it next to the roots of each plant during the time of planting. Experts were unable to reach an agreement on some topics (e.g. dosage recommendations and expected yield changes). A brief discussion of insect waste streams’ legal context is also provided. The results of this research contribute the first description of insect waste streams as a crop and soil health promoter. Such results serve as a tool to potentially aid in its uptake thus progressing towards circular agriculture.