Insect excrement may be utilized to produce sustainable fertilizer, as well as to assist plants to adapt to climate change.

Insect poop
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Insect dung, commonly known as “frass,” includes all of the elements you’d expect from decent manure, such as nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium, and a small amount of it goes a long way when compared to traditional fertilizers.

Frass can potentially be used to address climate change. According to a 2019 study published in the journal Applied Soil Ecology, frass produced by mealworms on low-fat, low-starch diets may help protect plants from climate change events.

The presence of chitin, a crucial component lacking in mammalian fertilizers, distinguishes this mixture of undigested pieces as a noteworthy fertilizer. Chitin is a naturally occurring polymer and structural component that is found in the cell walls of fungi as well as the exoskeletons of arthropods such as insects and spiders.

When a plant is exposed to chitin, its immune system recognizes the polymer as a sign of a potentially harmful fungus or bug. While chitin does not hurt the plant, it does cause an immunological response that improves plant health.

According to Hénault-Ethier, frass is being researched as a potential organic alternative for harmful pesticides. In the midst of the current push to cultivate insects as a new protein source, she believes their frass is just as useful if not more than the insects themselves.

Insect farmers are first and foremost frass producers,” said Hénault-Ethier, who is also an associate professor at Quebec’s Institut national de la research Scientifique (INRS).

While the laboratory evidence appears promising, frass cannot currently be sold as a pesticide because pesticides must be registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which involves rigorous safety testing and demonstration of a substance’s ability to manage pests.

Frass is also up against some regulatory challenges, as manure is categorized in Canada as a product derived from animals or birds. Nonetheless, the market is growing. Aspire Food Group, an insect agricultural firm, unveiled plans last year to establish a 150,000-square-foot cricket-rearing factory in London, Ontario.

Construction on the project is nearly completed, and the plant will begin production early next year. However, in Texas, where Aspire is based, the firm is already marketing its own cricket frass as a soil additive and plant protection.