Japan’s NTT East Eyes Coming into Insect-Based mostly Meals Enterprise

Japan’s NTT East Eyes Coming into Insect-Based mostly Meals Enterprise

Courtesy of NTT East Corp.
Boxes used to raise crickets for human consumption at NTT East Corp’s facility.

NTT East Corp. plans to work with a venture company to produce crickets for human consumption.

The company plans to use its expertise in communications technology and sensors to breed crickets more efficiently to meet growing demand. Crickets have attracted worldwide attention as a possible solution to global food shortages.

NTT East will begin its experiments on breeding crickets more efficiently this month at a facility in Chofu, Tokyo. It will partner with Gryllus, a startup that makes edible crickets based in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture. Founded by a Tokushima University researcher, Gryllus turns crickets into powder, which is then used to make confectionery and other food products.

Crickets usually mature in about a month if kept at around 30°C. Temperature control is essential for efficient cultivation as growth is slower when it is cooler.

Gryllus breeds about 1,000 crickets per breeding box, which is 50 square centimetres, and 400 boxes are tended by just two to three employees.

NTT East will be responsible for automating temperature controls and water changes to increase efficiency and production. The company is currently conducting trials to raise sockeye salmon in aquariums and plans to apply its “smart aquaculture” technology, which uses sensors to monitor water temperature and quality, to cricket farming.

NTT East intends to enter the cricket business seriously and is targeting billions of dollars in revenue by 2028. It is also considering selling its production system.

To provide enough space for a successful cricket farm, the company plans to use its various offices and other facilities nationwide. Consideration will be given to using reception areas where landline or internet applications have been accepted. Since most forms can be submitted online, many of these fields go unused, the company says. NTT East plans to have 600 breeding sites by 2028.

Courtesy of NTT East Corp.
Left: Edible powdered crickets.
Right: Snacks with edible crickets as an ingredient.

Eco-friendly option

Crickets are high in protein, and unlike cows and pigs, they require less maintenance and are said to have less impact on the environment.

According to a survey by JMA Research Institute Inc., the global insect-based food market is expected to grow to 100 billion yen in fiscal 2025, compared to 7 billion yen in fiscal 2019.

Concerns about food security have been heightened by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Interest in insect-based foods has also grown across the country.

When Muji shop operator Ryohin Keikaku Co. developed Cricket Sembei rice crackers with Gryllus in 2020, it sparked a huge reaction. Zipair Tokyo Inc., a low-cost airline that is a subsidiary of Japan Airlines Co., introduced hamburgers and other foods containing cricket powder in its in-flight meals in July. Additionally, major processed food maker Nichirei Corp. invested in a startup last summer and intends to develop insect-based foods.