Quality control with rapid and simple to use analysers is well proven.
But when raw material varies and interesting new sources are waiting to be exploited, the need to calibrate near infrared solutions can limit the potential. For instance, the prospect of using insects as a protein source for animal feed is a popular concept, but is it possible to test it as efficiently as we do with soya?
Animal feed analysis adapting to new protein sources
Testing feed with infrared instruments requires data collection from both reference analysis and the sample types involved to build calibrations that reflect natural variations in samples, for example over different growing seasons and harvest conditions. When a new protein source is found this means significant calibration work to be done.
As an example, widespread testing of insects as a protein source using existing analysers will require a new start in terms of calibration development involving for instance, investment in collection of different insect types and labour-intensive reference testing to build the required pool of data.
In addition, new sample types can be challenging to measure, for instance, with smaller concentrations of parameters measured and the decomposition and natural drying of harvested insects before they are moved into the actual drying process.
Aqua feed leading the way
With work clearly still to be done to bring insect protein into mainstream feed production, the price, availability and not least, familiarity of soya is likely to keep it at number one as a protein source for some time to come. The exception could be for aquafeed for a number of reasons.
Legislation is coming into place. In July 2017, the use of insect proteins in aqua feed was authorised in Europe and according to the IPIFF, more than 5,000 tonnes of insects have subsequently been produced in the EU for fish production.
From a nutritional point of view, the anti-nutritional aspects of soya has complicated the use of soya as the ubiquitous protein source for aqua feed requiring the development of so-called protein isolate to provide an answer.
Insects can turn out to be the cheapest animal protein available. What’s more, as the rising global population creates a seemingly infinite demand for fish, insect protein can hopefully alleviate pressure on finite and already hard-pressed marine resources currently used for fishmeal.
Networked NIR for calibration management
Technology development can lay the ground for faster and easier calibration of animal feed analysis equipment.
The connectivity features of FOSS NIR solutions and supporting networking software make it simple and cost effective to manage analytical operations. For instance, an update to a calibration can be installed on a master instrument and then shared across all instruments in different locations at the click of a mouse button. Such an approach also allows a specialist to monitor and manage remote instruments while operators do not need any specific knowledge and training and can simply run their samples.