I am currently a PhD student at the University of York, studying for a White Rose BBSRC DTP in Mechanistic Biology (iCASE). My research, supervised by Prof. Neil Bruce, Prof. Simon McQueen-Mason and in collaboration with Fera Science (Dr. Adrian Charlton), aims to transform agricultural crop residues into novel protein sources via insect bioconversion. Previously I worked as a Technologist within the Bioscience Innovation Team at the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC). During my time at the BDC I worked on a wide variety of research and development projects in the bioeconomy sector for both companies and universities, particularly around adding value to unavoidable wastes arising from the food and drink sector through novel ‘valorisation’ technologies. Prior to this I obtained a master’s degree in Industrial Biotechnology from the University of York, having previously graduated from the University of Hull with a bachelor’s degree in Biology.
Food security is an ever-increasing global challenge, particularly in Africa and Asia, where the United Nations predicts the greatest population growths to occur between now and 2050. As a result, there is an urgent need for technical innovation in the agri-food sector; hence various alternative protein sources are being pursued to fill the gap in demand for protein-rich livestock feed. My PhD project, in collaboration with Fera Science, aims to transform agricultural crop residues (e.g. wheat straw, oil palm empty fruit bunches – EFB) into novel, sustainable and cost-effective feed sources for black solider fly (BSF) larvae. BSF larvae have significant potential to be used as a sustainable source of feed for mono-gastric farm animals and fish, at industrial scale and/or smallholder farmer scale (e.g. in the Global South); whilst also offering the potential to reduce and valorise agricultural crop waste.
To enable agricultural crop residues to be used as BSF larvae feed, they must first be broken down to open up their recalcitrant secondary cell wall (containing lignocellulose) and expose their resident polysaccharides (e.g. cellulose). My PhD research aims to achieve this by optimising the microbial degradation of wheat straw and EFB as novel food sources for BSF larvae.