Could breeding insects be an effective and sustainable way of producing protein? The FAO thinks so and so do a handful of companies, including Veolia, who have set their sights on this new growth market.
The FAO believes insects are an alternative, sustainable and healthy source of protein that could help meet current and future challenges.
With an estimated world population of 9 billion in 2050 and a growing global middle class, the need for food - especially protein - will increase dramatically. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that current food production will need to almost double. But how can we ensure food security and also protect the environment?
The solution could well be in the form of a small six legged bug. In any case that’s what the FAO thinks. In 2013 it launched a vast program to encourage insect breeding and consumption. It believes entomophagy has a number of benefits for both our health and the environment.
It’s win-win: edible insects provide high quality protein and nutrients and the ecological footprint of insect farming is much smaller than conventional livestock farming. "Insects’ consumption index is high - for example crickets need six times less food than cattle, four times less than sheep and half as much as pigs and chickens to produce the same amount of protein," says the FAO.
Insect farming also produces less greenhouse gas and less waste - and requires less water and space too! And finally insects feed on organic waste, such as food waste. A bonus for the circular economy!
For example in Malaysia, the start-up Entofood - partnered by Veolia - is developing products using black soldier fly larvae (oil, protein-rich flours and organic fertilizers) for use in aquaculture.
Because even before considering persuading people to eat insects, the idea is to use them as feed for fish, poultry and pigs. And the black soldier fly is perfect for the job because it feeds on food waste - the ideal circular insect. Leftover food and crop waste can for example be recycled into high added value products. This is called bioconversion. 1 kg of black soldier fly eggs fed with biowaste will produce 6 metric tons of protein in 10 days.
Demonstrating the emergence of a new sector, insects made their grand entrance at France’s national agricultural show in February 2018. Entomo Farm, insect meal producer for fish farms and pets, and Micronutris, the first edible insect farm in France, were present.
Like them, in recent years dozens of companies all over the world have started breeding insects. For example, Entocycle in the UK, Green Petfood in the Netherlands, Ynsect in France and Mutatec (in which Veolia is a partner via its subsidiary SEDE).
Insect bioconversion is a new opportunity that completes the range of solutions SEDE offers its customers to give them the very best solutions for recovering their organic residues.
Like the FAO, everyone is now convinced that these small six legged critters represent the food of the future!
©Library Veolia-Christophe Majani d'Inguimbert