Azkia Nurfikari

Azkia Nurfikari MSc

PhD Student


Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen

+31 (0) 317 47 34 00

The Netherlands



My PhD project aims to explore the potential of insect farming industry byproducts (exuviae and frass) to improve soil and crop health


I am one of 5 PhDs working in an NWO-funded project "Closing the loop: exploiting sustainable insect production to improve soil and crop health". We are investigating the residual streams of three insect species produced for food or feed with respect to (a) soil microbial community succession, (b) biocontrol of soil-borne pathogens, (c) induction of resistance in crops to aboveground insect pests, (d) enhancement of aboveground biological control of insect pests, (e) improvement in flower traits. The outcomes of this interdisciplinary approach will provide insight into the novel applications of insect residual streams in the circular economy.




  • 2016–2018
    Master in Cellular and Molecular Biotechnology, Wageningen University and Research (WUR), The Netherlands
  • 2010–2014
    Bachelor in Microbiology, Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Indonesia


Belangrijkste publicaties

  • Trends in Plant Science

    Insect frass and exuviae to promote plant growth and health

    K.Y. Barrágan-Fonseca, A. Nurfikari, E.M. van de Zande, M. Wantulla, J.J.A. van Loon, W. de Boer, M. Dicke
    Beneficial soil microorganisms can contribute to biocontrol of plant pests and diseases, induce systemic resistance (ISR) against attackers, and enhance crop yield. Using organic soil amendments has been suggested to stimulate the abundance and/or activity of beneficial indigenous microbes in the soil. Residual streams from insect farming (frass and exuviae) contain chitin and other compounds that may stimulate beneficial soil microbes that have ISR and biocontrol activity. Additionally, changes in plant phenotype that are induced by beneficial microorganisms may directly influence plant–pollinator interactions, thus affecting plant reproduction. We explore the potential of insect residual streams derived from the production of insects as food and feed to promote plant growth and health, as well as their potential benefits for sustainable agriculture.
  • Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems

    Chitin Determination in Residual Streams Derived from Insect Production by LC-ECD and LC-MS/MS methods

    Azkia Nurfikari, Wietse de Boer
    Chitin, a biopolymer present in fungi and arthropods, is a compound of interest for various applications, such as in the agricultural and medical fields. With the recently growing interest in the development of insect farming, the availability of chitin-containing residual streams, particularly the molting skins (exuviae), is expected to increase in the near future. For application purposes, accurate quantification of chitin in these insect sources is essential. Previous studies on chitin extraction and quantification often overlooked the purity of the extracted chitin, making the outcomes inconsistent and prone to overestimation. The present study aims to determine chitin content in the exuviae of three insect species mass-reared worldwide: black soldier fly (BSF), mealworm, and house cricket. Chitin was chemically extracted using acid and alkali treatments to remove minerals and proteins. The purity of extracted chitin was evaluated by hydrolyzing the chitin into glucosamine, followed by quantitative determination of the latter using two liquid chromatography methods: electrochemical detection (ECD) and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). Both methods proved accurate and precise, without the need for labor-intensive derivatization steps. Pearson's correlation and Bland-Altman plots showed that the glucosamine determination results obtained by the two methods were comparable, and there is no consistent bias of one approach vs. the other. The chitin content in extracted residues ranged between 7.9 and 18.5%, with the highest amount found in BSF puparium. In summary, the study demonstrated that (1) the residual streams of the insect farming industry have a great potential for utilization as an alternative chitin source, and (2) both LC-ECD and LC-MS/MS are reliable for the quantitative determination of glucosamine in insect chitin.

Projecten & samenwerkingen


  • Insectloop: Microbes involved in the decomposition of rest-streams of insect production

    Project 2018–2022
    This is a sub-project of a WUR-NIOO project entitled "Closing the loop: exploiting sustainable insect production to improve soil, crop and animal health", coordinated by Prof. Marcel Dicke. Insects can transform waste streams into high-value proteins for food and feed. Consequently, insects provide valuable contributions to a circular economy. The project aims to investigate the valorisation of the rest-stream of insect production, i.e. moulting skins and faeces (‘frass’) to enhance soil health and crop health (
    In the NIOO project, we study the decomposition rate of frass and moulting skins of three insects species (black soldier fly, mealworm, cricket) in arable soil as well as the composition of the fungal and bacterial decomposers. In addition, we study if the insect materials, which are rich in chitin, can be used to control soil-borne fungal plant diseases.
    Bioassay with insect materials