Are Insects the Next Climate-Friendly Superfood?
Maybe you've see little cans of chocolate-covered ants or grasshoppers in the exotic food section of your grocery and thought to yourself, "Yuck—who eats that?" Insects may not come to mind when you think of superfoods. But they could be the next hot "alternative" protein. They're low in fat and loaded with fiber.
You might be surprised to learn you may have been eating insects already. More than 30 companies are already using cricket flour in their products such as cookies and energy bars. And while eating insects is common in Latin America, southeast Asia and parts of Africa because they're a cheaply available commodity, in the U.S. food items containing cricket flour, which is still expensive to produce, are being marketed as artisan products intended for adventurous foodies eager to try something before everyone else.
"Demand for food-grade insects is growing rapidly," says the website for Tiny Farms, a Silicon Valley-based start-up "pioneering the industry production of insects."
Currently, it admits, edible insects are a niche products with the cost of a pound of cricket flour ranging from $25-$45. But it says that's due to lack of scale and it hopes to change that.
"Right now in February 2015," said a recent post on the Tiny Farms blog "there are dozens of restaurants around the country experimenting with insects on their menus—from culinary hubs like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City to more conservatively palated Austin, Texas and Youngstown, Ohio. Food startups Exo, Chapul, Hopper Foods and Bitty Foods are ramping up production of their cricket flour energy bars and baked goods and growing their brick-and-mortar distribution networks in addition to serving up online sales. Exo's bars are even slated to be included in a snack box served on JetBlue Airlines flights. Boston-based Six Foods is preparing to launch their cricket chips, and dozens more new companies are developing products, business plans and marketing strategies to serve edible insects to the Western masses."
Youngstown, Ohio is mostly known for the death of its once-prosperous steel industry, which shrunk the city from 170,000 people to 65,000. But maybe it will become the edible insect capitol of the U.S. Big Cricket Farms, a project mentored by Tiny Farms, bills itself as "America's first urban cricket farm." Launched just last year, it says it's "devoted exclusively to raising human-grade entomophagical products" and that its crickets are fed high-quality, organic, sustainable feed. Founder Kevin Bachhuber first got the idea when he found himself snacking on bugs during a trip to Thailand and "found them to be delicious."
"So I raise bugs and I feed them to people," said Bachhuber in a recent TEDxYoungstown talk. "I'm shocked at how popular this has proven to be."
The farm raises European House Crickets, which it says "are considered to be tastiest, and are thus the most popular. They also offer a better nutritional profile than some of the other cricket species that humans typically consume."
The Washington Post referred to crickets as a "gateway bug" in an article titled How crickets could hook America on eating insects. What could they lead to? "Keep an eye on meal worms, fly larvae, caterpillars, black soldier flies and wax worms," says the Post.
England's Edible Unique, which serves the high-end gourmet market with edible bugs, offers such delicacies as chocolate-dipped crickets, bug kabobs, "extra large 'n' crunchy" Thai scorpions, bamboo worm larvae, edible giant water bugs and a mixture of Weaver ant eggs and Chinese black ants advertised as particularly "high in protein." They're sold out of insect lollipops so a lot of kids must have gotten a special treats.
With agriculture accounting for more than 8 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases, there's a great environmental benefit in going to insects as a source of protein. They require 1/12 as much feed as cattle, 1/4 as much feed as sheep and half as much feed as pigs and broiler chickens for the same amount of protein as well as a fraction as much water per gram of protein as all of these. And 80 percent of a cricket is edible, compared to 40 percent of a cow. A 2013 report released by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Edible Insects: Future prospects for food and feed security, focused on using insects as viable solution for feeding the world's growing population in a planet-friendly way as well as an engine for economic development.
"Insects as food and feed emerge as an especially relevant issue in the twenty-first century due to the rising cost of animal protein, food and feed insecurity, environmental pressures, population growth and increasing demand for protein among the middle classes," it says. "Edible insects have always been a part of human diets, but in some societies there is a degree of distaste for their consumption. Although the majority of edible insects are gathered from forest habitats, innovation in mass-rearing systems has begun in many countries. Insects offer a significant opportunity to merge traditional knowledge and modern science in both developed and developing countries."
So what kinds of insects are being consumed for the approximately 2 billion people worldwide who don't live in societies with that "degree of distaste?" Beetles lead the list by a large margin, followed by caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, crickets, grasshoppers and locusts.
Even earthworms are edible, according to Mother Earth News, which gives instructions on how to get the dirt they consume out of their bodies and says, "After purging, their flavor can be a little bitter. Drying them mellows this flavor; incorporating them into various dishes helps as well. They can be added to stirfries, stews, anywhere your imagination wanders."
One big debate remains: can or should vegetarians eat insects? Opinions vary.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
- New Clues Help Monarch Butterfly Conservation Efforts - EcoWatch ›
- Monarch Butterflies Will Be Protected Under Historic Deal - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
California faces another "critically dry year" according to state officials, and a destructive wildfire season looms on its horizon. But in a state that welcomes innovation, water efficacy approaches and drought management could replenish California, increasingly threatened by the climate's new extremes.
- Remarkable Drop in Colorado River Water Use Sign of Climate ... ›
- California Faces a Future of Extreme Weather - EcoWatch ›
Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
- 14 Countries Commit to Ocean Sustainability Initiative - EcoWatch ›
- These 11 Innovations Are Protecting Ocean Life - EcoWatch ›
- How Innovation Is Driving the Blue Economy - EcoWatch ›