Firm plans to scale up insect farming with ‘Mealworm on a chip’
11 Jun 2023
French company Ÿnsect has announced the creation of the first genotyping chip for insect farming, applying methods that parallel those used for crops and livestock.
Previously insect food producers have based their selection on choosing the largest larvae –a method that can encourage inbreeding, with associated negative consequences says the company.
But working with Thermo Fisher, Ÿnsect says it has developed a genotyping chip for the Tenebrio molitor mealworm that ensures effective genetic diversity. The research selected traits linked to disease resistance, reproduction, food conversion and growth performance after analysing some 4,000 insects, said Thomas Lefebvre, Biotech R&D Innovations Director for Ÿnsect.
"The chip is made up of 679,205 markers (SNPs or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms), distributed throughout the genome and covering more than 99% of the gene regions,” he outlined.
“These SNPs, representing modifications of a DNA base at a precise position between individuals of the same species, were selected to represent the entire genetic diversity of the insect population at our farms.”
Pierre Garrabos, Senior Key Account Manager AgriBusiness West of France at the company’s collaborator Thermo Fisher Scientific, said the success depended upon the cooperation of geneticists and the bioinformatics team.
"Thermo Fisher's Axiom® technology allowed us to genotype the Tenebrio Molitor as we traditionally do for livestock and field crops. This is the first time that a chip of this type has been designed for an insect, and it truly marks the insect's entry into conventional breeding.
“The design of the chip, which consists of defining and optimising its content in terms of markers, is the key step in the design,” he commented.
The breakthrough marks a key stage in Ÿnsect’s ŸnFABRE project: the first industrial programme dedicated to applying beetle genetics for genomic selection applied to large-scale insect breeding focused on high-performance insect lines and improved understanding of insect biology.