Insect Doctors in the larger context
During the summer of 2022, I had the luck to attend two large international conferences: the Insects to Feed the World: IFW 2022 in Quebec, Canada and the European Federation of Animal Science: EAAP 2022 in Porto, Portugal.
The IFW 2022 was strictly focusing on insects, but within this domain, the entire food chain was addressed. The majority of the talks were on the black soldier fly BSF but other insect species such as, mealworms and crickets were represented. Setting up successful, industrial scale rearing comes with a lot complexities and challenges and for most of these there are no off-the-shelf solutions, it needs large investments and several companies focusing on insect production technology solution were represented. As this was a cross continental conference, it also gave an opportunity to get insight into the different regulatory frameworks in different countries. The differences in safety requirements are huge, which can give an edge on the market to certain companies on the substrate sourcing site, but where they can export and sell their products might also be limited due to the substrates
The EAAP 2022 was a conference on research results on all kinds of animals used for food and feed production. Two consortia, the Insect Feed and the Insect Doctors had dedicated sessions, where PhD candidates presented their work. It is great to see that there is already a Commission on Insects within the EAAP since 2019. Many similar topics were addressed as on the IFW 2022, but there were some new ones, which are filling in important gaps. The workshop led by Marcel Dicke and Teun Veldkamp on the topic of ethics in insect mass production was very interactive and evoke high participation from the audience. Even though modern insect mass production is already ongoing for decades, the question of insect welfare has come up rather recently. Very interesting arguments were put forward. One, which I think worth mentioning, was: Why are people suddenly concerned about the welfare of produced insects, while in the meantime billions of insects are killed by pesticides used in crop production every year?
Attending these events helped me a lot to put my work within the Insect Doctors program into the larger context. This break away from the daily life of insect pathology helped me to better understand the insect production chain as a whole. I would highly recommend to every scientist working on a specific, specialized field to attend conferences, workshops or courses where they can put their research into a larger context. This can greatly benefit their network and collaboration possibilities and allow them to produce more relevant, applicable knowledge.