Last week, I spoke to a budding entopreneur (see what I did there?) Mitali Poovayya, a neuroscientist who is now commercially growing black soldier fly (BSF) larvae in my home city of Bangalore as an alternative protein for animals. While perfectly edible for humans, Mitali and her company Insectifii are experimenting with developing different products from the BSF such as BSF meal, dried larvae and edible BSF oil to cook with. Since the insect has been declared hypoallergenic for dogs, she is attempting to create the first bug-based dog food product in the country.
The facts are astounding. The larvae can be harvested in a matter of days as opposed to months or years that regular protein sources take. Adult BSF can lay about 1500 eggs at a time, with larvae primarily feeding on organic kitchen waste. This is by far the most incredible fact advocating for the use of this insect—they can help create a closed looped system! According to the UN, nearly 1/2 of all fruit and vegetables produced globally are wasted each year—let that sink in.
Nutritionally, BSF larvae is richer in zinc and iron than lean meat, and its calcium content is as high as that of milk. Let’s remember that most forests around the world are being cut down so that we can grow food for cattle and cultivate soy. It’s estimated that less than half a hectare of black soldier fly larvae can produce more protein than cattle grazing on around 1200 hectares of land, or 52 hectares of soybean production. Here we have a solution to food waste that in itself is a highly nutritious source of food, can be grown in dense urban areas, are found naturally almost everywhere, environmentally sound, and are lending themselves to food innovations previously unheard of.
What do I mean by that? A South African based company named Gourmet Grubb is using Entomilk derived from black soldier fly larvae to make ice cream! What the heck is entomilk, you ask? “It’s not milk in the conventional sense in that you’re not milking it from a cow, but in it’s application it can be used as a milk alternative, much like almond milk or coconut milk” says Leah Bessa, co-founder and head of product development at Gourmet Grubb. EntoMilk™ is higher in proteins and unsaturated fats (the healthy type) than regular milk and, gram-for-gram, contains almost as much protein as red meat.
In the coming weeks, Mitali and I hope to put together an insect-based cookout using BSF in different forms – dried, fatless and rendered oil. While we won’t be making anything near as amazing as ento ice cream (as yet), I am inspired by the level of innovation on display and the way boundaries have been pushed. This seems to be the only way to shatter predispositions of disgust and disdain, all the while having something exquisite to snack on.