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aspire_food_insects
Insects have always played a beneficial role in the ecosystem by pollinating plants and helping maintain the balance of the ecosystem.  In certain cultures, insects are also a vital source of nutrients. The United Nations believes that eating of insects could be a simple way to fight global hunger, as insect farming requires a smaller amount of land than other forms of farming. This newfound interest in insects prompted MBA students at McGill University to found Aspire Food Group.

Aspire Food Group aims to build a social enterprise that allows local farmers to farm, harvest, and process insects in order to make breads and other foods.  Today, the Food Group is conducting grasshopper-farming trials in Kenya, Thailand, and Mexico in an attempt to make processing these insects more labor and resource efficient. Aspire Food Group was recently praised by The Hultz Prize and awarded $1 million for further research. Ahmad Ashkar, founder and CEO of the Hultz Prize, believes insect farming “is our chance to empower the next generation and solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.”

However, in order for this new diet to be used most efficiently, it is important to address the social stigma associated with eating insects. Harman Johar believes that this misconception can be overcome just like that of eating raw fish in sushi. Johar devotes his time to harvesting and selling dry roasted insects to people all over the country. Dr. Marianna Shockley, an entomologist at the University of Georgia, believes that the United States is not a part of the 80-85% of the world that regularly consumes insects because of the perception and the nation’s wealth. In the United States, land for agriculture is readily available. Dr. Shockley believes that the Americans should attempt to incorporate insects into their diet as they provide an alternative source of protein while creating a much smaller carbon footprint.

Harman Johar is looking for investors in his company and believes that the insect movement will take off “when the timing is right.” He believes that food shifts come in great movements such as the industrialization of food in the post-World War II era and the realization that that industrialized food is unhealthy in the late 20thcentury. He is convinced that the next shift will be towards healthy and environmentally sustainable food.

Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: Mother Nature Network
Photo: Daily Mail 

Eating_Insects
Replacing the traditional steak with a plate of sautéed crickets might just be the beginning of a solution to meeting the rapidly increasing demands for food around the world, according to the United Nations.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a recent report entitled “Edible Insects,” that the world will host 9 billion inhabitants by 2050, meaning that current food production will need to double in order to nourish so many people.

As it stands, there are already 1 billion chronically hungry people today. In the coming years, that number could rapidly increase in the midst of continued overexploitation of fisheries, land degradation and climate change. To ensure current and future food security, the report concludes, the way people grow and consume food needs to change.

Eating bugs might have been the last thought on anyone’s mind – especially Westerners – but the U.N. makes the case that the “disgust factor” that keeps many from ingesting these creatures is simply a cultural barrier.

As evidence of this, the report states that around 2 billion people in Asia, Africa and Latin America currently consume 1900 different species of insects. For example, chocolate-coated bees are very popular in Nigeria, while deep-fried tarantulas are a traditional treat in Cambodia. In Indonesia, dragonflies boiled in coconut milk with ginger are a delicacy, and in Thailand, insects are found in supermarkets shelves in cookies, freeze-dried noodles, and microwavable packets and are even canned.

The U.N.’s case is further bolstered by the fact that insects have a high protein, fat and mineral content. One hundred grams of cricket, for example, contains 12.9 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of fat, 75.8 grams of calcium and many other important nutrients.

They are also extremely efficient in converting feed into edible meat. One cricket, for example, needs 12 less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein.

In terms of sustainability, insects take up less space and emit fewer greenhouse gases and ammonia than other animals, such as cattle and pigs. They also need much less water than conventional livestock and could be raised on human and animal waste.

Although the FAO recognizes that it is highly unlikely that caterpillar casserole might find itself on a traditional American family’s dinner table anytime soon, it does take the prospect of mass cultivating insects seriously. It even suggests that chefs and restaurant owners should help raise awareness about insects’ potential as food by including them in recipes and menus.

Eva Muller, the director of FAO’s Forest Economics, Policy and Products Division, optimistically argues that dietary patterns can change quickly, especially in a globalized world.

“Twenty years ago nobody in Europe would think of eating raw fish, and everybody now loves sushi, things can change, so even the cultures that are not used to eating insects may eventually develop a taste for them,” she said.

– Nayomi Chibana

Sources: United Nations, Time, BBC
Photo: ZME Science

Nagaland Citizens Utilize Unusual Food Source

Stink bugs, silkworms, dragonflies, tawny mole crickets, and red ants. To those afforded the luxury of daily meals, these insects are of little significance. But to the people of Nagaland, these bugs are nutritious sources of food sold in local markets to help alleviate hunger.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a 200-page report highlighting the benefits of Naga’s insect consumption. The report notes that insects are often full of more protein and nutrients than either fish or meat.  The insects can address malnourishment and provide food security, the report also states.

Farmers collect the bugs from forests and rice paddies. Both bees and larvae are expensive commodities in the local markets. The U.N. suggests frying the insects and preparing them in recipes, as they shouldn’t be consumed raw.

Nagaland isn’t alone in their bug consumption. According to the U.N., 1,400 insect species are consumed in almost 90 countries across the globe.

Numerous estimates suggest that 9 billion people will inhabit the earth by 2050. As more and more consumers are added to the planet, resources will have to be used more carefully. Nagaland highlights an effective way of utilizing all resources available. This is one unusual yet effective way of combatting poverty and world hunger.

– William Norris

Sources: The Morung Express, SI Live
Photo: The Morung Express

3D_Printer

NASA recently invested $125,000 in a project aimed to solve the challenges of supplying food in space missions. The project would astronauts to create their own food in space by utilizing 3D printers.

Just as a paper printer shapes ink to form letters, a 3D printer uses different materials to create a 3D object. To produce food for its astronauts in space, NASA is looking to print edible materials with 3D printers, including powdered forms of carbohydrates, proteins, and other nutrients. 3D printers could be beneficial for long space voyages because powdered substances could last up to 30 years.

While NASA may be looking to use 3D food printers for space travel, there is great potential for the use of 3D printers here on Earth, namely to end world hunger. With the long shelf life of food produce by 3D printers, the concern of food being wasted due to spoilage disappears. The powdered forms of the nutrients are also easier to transport because they exist in a more compact state.

The nutrients used in a 3D printer can also be retrieved from unconventional sources. For instance, insects could be used as a source of protein, which the UN has noted recently as a way to fight world hunger. Insects are rich in protein, emit less greenhouse gases than livestock, and are easy to harvest. Whether or not insects are used as the protein source of printed foods, the 3D printer could allow for better transportation and longevity of nutrients, which would help considerably in the fight to end world hunger.

– Jordan Kline

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,National Geographic,Time Magazine
Photo: Wikipedia