A bugs life

Are edible insects a solution to growing nutritional demand?

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimate that there are 1,900 species of insects in the food chain of at least 2 billion people, most commonly beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps and ants.

Edible insects are high in protein, vitamins, fibre and mineral content and importantly they require less food than cattle and do not produce methane. Meticulous Research estimates the global market for edible insets will reach USD 8 billion by 2030. It is not surprising, therefore, that hundreds of start-up companies worldwide are trying to commercialise insect-based food production.

Mexico has the largest variety of edible insects in the world: more than 300 species and could represent nearly 10% of the global market by 2030. An agribusiness consultant sees it as an attractive market that fits current government priorities, “Mexicans do consume insects but there is not mass consumption in the domestic market.” His colleague expands, “You have the traditional consumer that goes to the market and looks for grasshoppers, jumiles or nucú or the high-end consumer that awaits the rainy season to taste escamoles or maguey worm tacos in the best restaurants in Mexico City.”

“Mexicans do consume insects but there is not mass consumption in the domestic market.”

Agribusiness consultant, Mexico

An agricultural executive in Mexico commented on the main barrier to scaling up production and consumption, “The great challenge from my perspective is that the industry is fragmented and regulation is weak. But if these entrepreneurs come together and push an agenda, not only of food security, but also of sovereignty, identity, culture and development, it could resonate well with the government to begin to weave the institutional framework required for mass production and consumption.”

An agricultural advisor to the government agrees, “It would not be the first time that the government has promoted a campaign of local products, it has already happened with tuna for example and there are civil society organisations pushing an agenda to diversify food sources to stop the impact of the intensive production of food of animal origin.”

“Our main source of protein is livestock but this produces a lot of methane (a greenhouse gas x23 more potent CO2), and is responsible for 90% of the deforestation in Latin America over the last 10 years.”

CEO, Griyum, Mexico

Meanwhile, the start-up ecosystem around edible insects continues to grow. For example, the Mexican company Griyum runs controlled cricket farms for the production of cricket flour which is sells in the US and Europe. One of Griyums clients uses cricket flour to compete in the protein drinks markets, another uses it to make a form of tortilla.

The CEO and Founder of Griyum explains the environmental rationale behind his business, “Our main source of protein is livestock but this produces a lot of methane (a greenhouse gas x23 more potent CO2), and is responsible for 90% of the deforestation in Latin America over the last 10 years. The environmental and economic cost of meeting the nutritional needs of a growing population through meat and milk is enormous. We need alternative protein sources.”

 

 

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