THE FUTURE OF FOOD?
We are in desperate need of “greener” food choices. Edible insects are obtained either by wild harvesting, semi-domestication or farming. Insect farming is perceived as an increasingly attractive answer to some of the world’s biggest questions regarding food security and production. Compared to cattle, they offer a much lower ecological footprint, yet have similar protein profiles.
Insects require considerably less land and water than conventional farm animals, yet emit a fraction of the greenhouse gases. They have shorter life spans and reproductive cycles; they can be farmed quickly, and in large numbers, over small areas. Some argue that insect farming is more humane, as a number of edible insects will naturally congregate.
Insects also require a fraction of the feed. As cold-blooded creatures, they have high feed-meat conversion rates. Crickets, for example, can convert roughly two kilograms of feed into a one kilogram weight increase, while a cow would require eight kilograms.
While they’re not much to look at, insects are, in fact, highly nutritious. Studies have found some edible species contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and minerals than conventional meats, along with comparable amounts of protein.
Insect harvesting and farming also offers opportunities for improved social welfare, especially in developing countries. Minimal technique and equipment is required, and such activities would both improve diets and create jobs. This growing industry presents options for entrepreneurship in transitional and developed countries worldwide.
One man who believes that insects could help feed the world is Laurent Chellapermal, President and CEO of Next-food, the largest international supplier of edible insects and owner of the biggest farm in Asia. Laurent was bitten by the entomophagy bug when living in Australia, studying aquaculture. “At first I wanted to use insects to make fish meal. Then, when studying crickets, I found out that they are widely eaten in some parts of the world. After more research I learned that they are one of the most sustainable food sources around, plus a very healthy alternative.”
So, he set up Next-food. Laurent believes the idea of eating insects will catch on – once people get past the psychological barriers. “It might be like sushi, where everyone first thought that eating raw fish was gross; now sushi is everywhere. Anyway, in comparison to prawns, crickets are beautiful!” Eating them is a lot better for the environment, too. ag