In the developed world insects are not a major feature of our diet. Indeed, many will recoil at the thought, even though they might know that in other parts of the world insects make an important contribution to the human diet. They provide protein and need much smaller inputs of energy and feedstock than do animals. Now a group of students from McGill University in Montreal has won the 2013 Hult Prize for their project developing an insect-based flour to combat malnutrition in under-developed countries. The prize gives the team $1m as seed money for their 5-year plan to develop ‘Power Flour’ and spread its use.
They are starting in Mexico, working with local farmers to start raising grasshoppers in large numbers. Mexicans already eat grasshoppers, but the aim is to mass-produce them for turning into a protein-rich flour. But the team will then go on to use other insects in different parts of the world for a similar technology, varying the insects they use in accordance with local cultures and the breeding cycles of the insects. This might involve palm weevils in Ghana, says the report, and caterpillars in Botswana. But the student team report that they have themselves consumed “kilos of insects” of different types during the project.
This is just the kind of project that has the potential to lift millions out of malnourishment. Instead of providing only stop-gap handouts, it is something that local people can develop and control, turning it into useful local food production that can make a steady and important ongoing contribution to the diet of poorer peoples. I have no idea what the various insect-based flours will taste like, though I imagine that people who already eat the insects will enjoy them.
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