Past Burgers: Consuming Bugs Is Simply One Small A part of Their Potential


Sasha Babitsky

Published 4 hours ago. Read about 4 minutes.

Picture: Entoprotech uses black soldier flies to turn food waste into a variety of advanced products | Entoprotech / Facebook

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Asking Westerners, “Would you eat bugs to save the planet?” Makes great headlines – but it just scratches the surface of how bugs can help solve global challenges. Essentially, insects like the black soldier fly are an essential addition to a circular economy.

Insects could represent the future of food and play a key role in feeding a booming world population in an era of climate change and increasing resource scarcity – but being restricted to their diet misses much of their potential.

Bugs are one of the global megatrends that inspire entrepreneurs and investors. The breeding of insects is much more sustainable than the rearing of cattle, poultry or even fish; because it requires much less land, fodder and water and produces a fraction of the greenhouse gases. Even the ME agrees – the European Food Safety Authority recently gave the green light
yellow mealworms for human consumption. Although we westerners ask, “Would you eat bugs to save the planet?” makes big headlines – especially when it can be combined with other scary-sounding futuristic megatrends like this robot-operated insect farm – it just scratches the surface of how bugs can help solve global challenges.

Our insect friends can do so much more for us than just eat food.

At first glance, for example Black soldier fly (BSF) appears to be a common insect – a species found almost everywhere in the world. But the common BSF is actually a miracle of nature – able to create a perfect, positive cycle that combines zero landfill disposal of organic waste with the production of potentially unlimited amounts of high quality protein and additional products. According to a February report by
Rabobank, the demand for insect protein could reach half a million tons by 2030, compared to today’s market of ~ 10,000 tons.

Black soldier flies have been around for about 200 million years and they have learned to chew pretty much anything and everything organic. Their larvae (BSFL) have voracious appetites and have become one of the most efficient biomass converters known to humans. The waste they break down encourages rapid growth and enriches BSFL with the highest quality proteins and fats, making them an attractive addition to the diets of fish and other aquaculture species, poultry and a wide variety of non-productive animals – essentially recycled they put nutrients back into the food chain. These properties indicate potential for extremely practical and valuable applications in a number of industries beyond food – from cosmetics to medicine.

Harnessing the potential of this cycle opens up opportunities for an extremely sustainable, cost-effective and circular business model that is easily scalable and can be used anywhere in the world.

In essence, BSF are insects … and an essential addition to a circular economy.

Of course, there are practical considerations before BSF can go mainstream. The regulation is great: in the EU seven species of insects, including BSF, are permitted as feed for farm animals; but the EU also stipulates what these BSF can feed – for example vegetable and fruit waste and dairy products; Food waste and animal manure, however, are not. BSF are an obvious solution for dealing with the enormous amounts of waste that is generated in the hospitality industry; It is therefore expected that the regulation will be updated accordingly. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US. For example, allowing BSF to be treated after kitchen waste has been consumed would significantly increase the production potential of BSF facilities while helping to combat climate change by diverting organic waste from landfills and recycling it.

Regulatory barriers are just one reason insect-based solutions to global problems have not yet reached their potential. There is also a lack of knowledge about the circular economy; And it is important that cities that truly want to become sustainable use their leverage to create an environment in which circular solutions, including BSF, can emerge and flourish. A good first step is to look at waste as a resource, and then it’s like any other strategy – collect and analyze data to assess the current waste system, seek and implement improvements while educating and incentivizing everyone involved Create circular solutions. And like any good strategy, circular solutions for waste should be flexible and regularly reviewed and adjusted to evolving needs and changing conditions.

Cities are already benefiting from the use of BSF to process organic waste in the form of the high quality products mentioned above, such as fertilizers, which are made available to the city administration.

So it is true that two billion people around the world already have insects in their diet. And yes, the ‘ick’ factor is still strong (just think of Bill Baileynightmarish vision of human slaves in an insect nation) in the west. But the insects are really our friends; and they might turn out to be the best friends the planet could have.

Published July 23, 2021 14:00 EDT / 11:00 PDT / 19:00 BST / 20:00 CEST

Sasha Babitsky

Sasha Babitsky is CEO of Entoprotech – an Israeli biotech company that uses food waste to make high quality protein, insect fat (oil), fertilizers and other high quality products. The company uses black soldier flies to break down waste, which has proven to be an extremely economical and environmentally efficient way to tackle waste treatment and protein deficiencies.