Absa at WEF
Re-imagining the future of food, with insects
Prepared by Leah Bessa, Owner: Gourmet Grubb
I launched Gourmet Grubb in 2017 on the back of extensive research I did as part of my food science studies. I looked at insects as a protein source and we now produce the world’s first dairy alternative, EntoMilk. It is made from the black soldier fly larvae and we use it to produce a gourmet, dairy-free ice-cream, as a first step to change consumer perception and reshape demand.
Innovations in insect farming and processing can put Africa on the map as innovators in this emerging industry, seeing that we already have the head start of eating insects traditionally. I believe that it’s time for us humans to make a change. In the words of the United Nations, it’s “time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food.”
We have developed technologies that enable us to go to space, and transfer information around the globe in a fraction of a second, yet we’ve turned a blind eye to some of the challenges that impact our very existence.
Agricultural techniques developed some 12 000 years ago, to feed the growing population, and with this tremendous head start on many other industries, it is surprising to see its lack of growing innovative technologies comparable to newer, faster growing industries. With the global population on the rise, there is a predicated decrease in available land for agricultural developments to keep up with the growing demand for both feed and food.
Our traditional farming systems were designed around producing high yield and efficiency, however, these are the same systems that have failed us. There are urgent questions around providing sustainable foods to mitigate the food security challenges we will inevitably face. Arguably, it’s these outdated, unsustainable farming systems that have created many of the challenges that we will need to overcome in the coming years.
It’s high time the Fourth Industrial Revolution revolutionises agriculture.
The challenge is now to not only find technologies that will mitigate the potential challenges we may face, but also ones that can reduce the effects of the current farming and processing methods. This global challenge will require a multidisciplinary approach, using a variety of solutions in combination to solve our impending food insecurity challenges. With novel foods gaining acceptance, alternatives are finding common place on the table, and one of the promising alternatives, albeit one of the more controversial options, are insects as a food source for human consumption.
A variety of insect species is eaten around the world and is a preferred protein source over animal protein in many countries. However, in the West we have overlooked this incredible food option. Insects are a nutrient-dense food source, often praised for their high protein content that is rich in essential amino acids. They typically have a good fat content, with a desirable fibre content and an incredible range of minerals. Iron and zinc are mineral deficiencies found in both developing and developed countries, and due to insects’ superior zinc and iron contents, they have the potential to effectively supplement malnourished individual diets.
For insects to have the global impact required, the use of farmed insects is preferred, as this enables quality control and prevents ecosystem endangerment from wild harvesting. It allows farming technologies to be developed that can be used around the world, which can have the global reach and impact that is needed to mitigate our future food risks. The black soldier fly larvae have emerged as the “golden egg” of farmed insects and is currently widely used for producing high-quality animal feed. They are incredible insects, reproducing incredibly quickly and efficiently converting their feed into good quality protein, fats and minerals making many insect species ideal for farming purposes.
The “super power” of the black soldier fly larvae is its ability to recycle a wide range of organic “waste” streams and it requires very little space, food and water to grow them. The black soldier fly larvae need not be limited to just animal feed. They are versatile to work with, and because of their high protein and fat content, they work well as a meat and dairy alternative depending on how you process them. These are two big industries that are contributing to a multitude of environmental concerns, so if we could reduce this using farmed insects, should we not rather embrace the opportunity to begin working with this versatile ingredient, instead of dismissing it because of our own unwarranted bias.
Speaking of bias, currently the challenge in bringing insects to the forefront of food is the aversion barrier towards eating insects. This can largely be overcome by introducing innovations in product development to revolutionise how insects are eaten and perceived. Our role is to change the shape of demand through innovative product development.
Our progress is slow, so the race is on. All we need to do as humans is rethink how we view our food, so that we can begin innovating with purpose and bring high-impact, nutritious alternatives to the forefront of food.
The global goal is to nutritiously feed 10 billion people by 2050. With the USA and Europe slowly introducing modernised insect-based products to the market, Gourmet Grubb aims to bring Africa into the conversation.
Let’s open our minds and welcome insects as food.