Our new entomologist Gary Needham – drawn to insects from childhood
Gary’s work brings him into close quarters with insects!
Our new Insect Nucleus Manager Gary Needham isn’t just taking on a key role at Roslin Technologies as we embark on building our insect business — he is playing out his inner child’s dream of working with the creatures.
“Growing up I was always playing with bugs,’’ he says. “It was a childhood thing for me.”
After studying animal science at the University of Essex, Gary worked in a number of research roles in institutions including Imperial College and the University of Oxford. He joins us after a decade in industry, most recently at AgTech firm Syngenta, where he was employed breeding insects as part of research into protecting crops.
In this new role at Roslin Tech, Gary will be in charge of our insect facility, which is being built close to our headquarters on the outskirts of Edinburgh and which will house a genetic nucleus for invertebrates. Our mission is to develop the science of sustainable protein and a part of that endeavour involves the innovative development of alternative protein sources. This new facility is part of our drive into the insect protein industry, where there’s huge potential to close the global deficit in protein production by providing advanced breeding and research programmes to the sector.
As part of this initiative, we have recently taken a stake in Singapore-based insect farming firm Protenga, which farms black soldier flies to produce animal feed and fertiliser. Once our genetic nucleus is completed this autumn, Gary will be working closely with our science team to develop black soldier fly lines with particular attributes, such as high protein and fat content.
The most exciting element of working with insects, according to Gary, is just how natural a food source they are for animals and livestock. “Modern farming has tended to eschew insects in favour of plant-based protein for animal feed,” Gary continues. “In the Western world, insects have been forgotten, but for fish or poultry, eating things that fall into the water and grubs on the ground, it’s a most natural food source.”