THE FUTURE OF PROTEIN
The global population is continuing to increase, speeding towards 10 billion by 2050, and there are 5 billion people who are transitioning from poor to middle class right now. This increase in population and income per capita is translating into an enormous increase in demand for livestock animals, which is forecasted to almost double in the next decade compared to 1999.
However, already 70% of arable land on Earth is destined to forage and more than ⅓ of all wild fish catch becomes fish meal, a key feed ingredient the supply of which is inevitably limited. The explosive demand and the limited supply dynamics are reflected on the secular upward trend of the price of this commodity, which has grown six-fold over the last 20 years (shown on the right, 2000-2015 in USD).
Our food system is out of balance. We already consume more resources than our planet can continue providing in the long run: farmland is becoming scarce and our oceans have been overfished for decades. For the next generation of humanity - our children - we would need to increase protein production by 50-100%.
At the same time there is a huge amount of food that gets wasted globally: 1.3 billion bn tonnes per year standing to FAO. This problem is particularly acute in developed countries, especially in the wealthier ones such as Switzerland. The Helvetic Confederation has the highest ratio of food waste per capita, about 3 times as much as the EU average. This is a considerable economic loss, not to mention the detrimental impact that it has on the environment due to CO2 generation that stems from transportation and disposal methods such as incineration or biogas conversion.
It is possible to solve both the problem of growing demand for animal feed and that of food waste disposal at once, by converting the food waste stream into usable and sustainable feed ingredients through insect farming. There are numerous species of detritivore insects that could be up to the task, but one in particular, Hermetia Illucens, has the ideal features for this: it has the fastest metabolism in nature, digesting large volumes of materials in little time; the adults aren’t infesting, as they only live a couple of days and do not eat, so they don’t go near people/animals/food; Black Soldier Fly larvae contain about 40% protein and 40% fats, with nutritional values that match the ones of products derived from fish or other animals; hence, insect-based products are perfect substitutes.
No arable land is required, leaving more farm acreage to plantations and other activities that make up the food industry. Likewise, no added water is required as all the water the insects need comes from the recycled fruits and vegetables in their diet.
The real challenge here is to develop a system to farm and then transform these insects in large quantities, with consistent quality and in a safe way. For this reason, TicInsect has developed an innovative automated process that allows all of the above with minimal workforce and substantial energy savings.
Project made with the support of: Ente Regionale per lo sviluppo del Luganese and Aiuto Svizzero alla Montagna