Edible insects – for food and feed

You may have noticed a growing number of news items about the potential for insects to become a major source of protein within the human food chain:

Indeed, a conference was held on this recently.

The Economist has produced a short video to explain more about the rationale for what may, to many, seem a surprising rationale.

This is a movement that could and should become really substantial. In business terms there are potentially huge markets both for lower cost livestock feed that could be grown on organic waste streams and for more sustainable, healthy insect-derived food products for humans.

This is taking off at a very substantial scale in the US and Holland, with considerable commercial activity in France and South Africa. However, in the UK we are still at a very early stage with only a handful of entrepreneurs in this market, all of which import farmed insects from overseas, and minimal research in this area. The notable exception is FERA and its consortium, which are part of both the European Commission funded PROteINSECT project and a project funded by InnovateUK, working with AB Agri.

Yet we have some of the world’s leading entomologists, food scientists, creative food designers and technologists, strengths in marketing, understanding public attitudes, food innovation and engineering. Surely the UK could be playing a part.

And this is not just about shifting our domestic consumption. One of the biggest challenges in terms of unsustainable food consumption patterns is the rapid shift being seen in China towards a “Western” diet with a high proportion of meat. Could the UK capitalise on its unique partnership with China to develop products and a mind-set that accepts insect-based food (and/or livestock fed on these) as desirable and even aspirational?  It would be an even greater success if we were to work together on the shift in public attitudes and the development of the necessary safety standards that will be required.

I am developing a network of individuals, academics, entrepreneurs, farmers and others who are interested in joining this journey. It feels we can potentially be part of a major new trend and ensure the UK is not just a follower of the US and the Netherlands but takes its own leadership role.

If you are interested, please join my LinkedIn group or visit my tumblr page.

Nick Rousseau, Head of International Innovation Strategy, BIS

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