If You Can Eat Crickets, You Can Save The Planet
In the realm of clichéd childhood experiences, ant farms reign supreme in many hearts. You send away for a farm set and get a container in the mail with a set of ants, and then you watch them as they build their colony. And then you get bored, the ants generally don’t do very well, and that’s about it. In terms of meaningful, productive “farming” experiences, ant farms don’t rank as highly as they do in nostalgia. But what if we could up the ante of at-home insect farming and give it an endgame? What if something like an ant farm could actually earn the title “farm?”
This dream, the productive at-home insect farm, may be a close reality. Companies like Third Millennium Farming (3MF) are creating products that let anyone farm insects, for food or otherwise. Most people, especially in Western countries, may balk at the idea of eating insects, but bug consumption, or entomophagy, is already a part of two billion diets worldwide and may just be a valid response to environmental woes spawning from food production. Bugs take up little land to farm, whereas traditional animal agriculture takes up a third of the world’s fertile land. Bugs feed on food waste, and 40% of food produced in the United States currently goes to waste.
Bugs create few emissions along their supply chain and from their digestion, whereas cows, pigs, and other livestock are currently responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation is. Entrepreneurs with their finger on environmentalism’s pulse have been capitalizing on this trend with insect-based candies and protein bars, as have restaurants featuring creepy-crawlers in their main dishes. However, the industry has been held back by one thing: lack of production. Cricket flour, for example, costs up to $20 per pound because retailers simply don’t have access to large supplies of raw materials.
That’s where companies like Third Millennium Farming come in. 3MF’s “cricket reactor” allows green-minded people to raise crickets from home, and from there the culinary possibilities are endless. The cricket farm maintains an exceptionally hygienic environment for at-home cricket farmers to raise their “livestock” using household bio-waste for feed. The system also has special units designed to let crickets reproduce so the operation can truly be called sustainable. Beginners will be able to raise 100 grams of output per month, but, with experience, cricket farmers will be able to grow up to three kilograms a month, or 100,000 crickets. Production like that has real potential to put a dent in a diet’s carbon footprint.
Third Millennium Farming’s product was has already done beta testing in its prototype but, unfortunately North America don’t seem ready to make bugs a daily source of protein. In the meantime 3MF has found another opportunity for his crickets: selling their poop as fertilizer. “We started to use it (as fertilizer) in our backyard and had positive results,” Dzamba says. “Then I disseminated some to friends, family and acquaintances. It was all positive anecdotal evidence. We started to think that maybe there is more to it than it just being a fertilizer, because some of the plants were infected with insects and (we) noticed that those insects started to disappear.”
Though bug farming may not be for everyone and may never become commonplace, the simple fact that products like the cricket reactor exist and have garnered interest indicates movement in a positive direction.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has produced a report that points to bugs as an integral part of the future of food, and entomophagy advocates maintain that bugs are actually fairly delicious, common taste comparisons being nuts or, in the case of wax worms, even bacon. With products like 3MF’s on the market, this radical delicacy can reach the world and bugs can make the transition from “eek” to food chic.
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