Roughly one third of all the food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. That is just not sustainable! Thankfully, insects are here to save our asses.
“Practically every substance of organic origin, including cellulose, is fed upon by one or more species of insects, so it is only a matter of time before successful recycling systems will be developed.” Gene R. DeFoliart, a professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Entomology (1)
Insects are biowaste conversion machines
Insect species such as the black soldier fly, the common housefly and the yellow mealworm are very efficient at bioconverting organic waste. These species could collectively convert 1.3 billion tonnes of biowaste per year (2). Other insect species, such as crickets, can also be fed organic side streams to help make insect farming more profitable (3).
Black soldier flies make protein from food-waste
This is not just all theory. Companies are already finding ways to utilize insects as waste management tools. For example a start-up Mad Agriculture feeds black soldier flies with food-waste from a local juicery to produce protein that serves as feed for farmed animals and fish, and is a viable candidate to replace soy.
“We can produce the equivalent to an acre of soybean protein in two weeks in this little tiny refinery (a room about the size of a shipping container) when it’s fully cranking,” says the founder, Phil Taylor. “Not requiring any fertilizer, no water, no arable land.”
Crickets can be fed organic waste
Insects don’t have to be animal feed only. They can be a big part of human nutrition too. For example crickets that we use in our bars can be fed on organic waste like banana peels or rice bran. They make protein, essential vitamins, and minerals from plant matter that would normally be thrown away.
“The natural food of the cricket is not very well understood. We suspect they are omnivore insects, they eat several different food sources, mostly from decaying organic matter, vegetable organic matter, but they are also capable of eating animal food.” Juan Morales-Ramos, a research entomologist for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service
1) Gene R. DeFoliart, ‘The Human Use of Insects as Food and as Animal Feed’, Bulletin of the Entomological Society of America, 1989, https://doi.org/10.1093/besa/35.1.22
2) T. Veldkamp, ‘Insects as a sustainable feed ingredient in pig and poultry diets – a feasibility study’, 2012, https://www.wur.nl/upload_mm/2/8/0/f26765b9-98b2-49a7-ae43-5251c5b694f6_234247%5B1%5D
3) FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN), ‘Edible insects – Future prospects for food and feed security’, Rome 2013, http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e.pdf