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Power flour is made from insects and is a ready and cheap source of nutrition for people in poor countries

insect-flourIn 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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4 Responses

  1. I’ve read that insects comprise 50% protein, compared to 25% for steak, salmon and cheese. I’d try this and it would be enormous help to those wanting to lose fat from their waists, which I believe is largely due to high carbohydrate consumption – including bread and pasta – which unfortunately is promoted by the Government.

  2. Jonathan Bagley…. You appear to be comparing the protein content of all the tissue of one animal, an insect, with just one tissue, muscle, of another animal, a cow.

    If you milled a whole cow the proportionate protein content to be about the same as there is some consistency across the animal kingdom.

    As a bonus one cow will yield far more than one insect and is unlikely to fly off and ravage crops.

    I am not sure why it seems a good idea to feed millions of insects on grass with all the bother that must entail, when a herd of cows fed on grass would be far less bother and yield far more and greater variety of nourishment… and shoes too.

  3. One additional point. Food production is not the problem; food distribution is.

    USSR had the same problem.

    Because food cannot efficiently be moved from where it is produced to where it is needed, (they don’t have Tescos), much of it rots or is spoiled by pests.

    Producing food from a different source is an elegant solution to a problem that does not exist and does nothing to solve the problem that does… just means more food will go undistributed.

  4. Thanks for the info about protein John B. Wouldn’t insects be easier, less costly and take up less space to farm and process than cows? Millions of them in a big warehouse with the heavier ones being sorted somehow and sucked into a machine. I was also thinking of “flour” in particular, made into some sort of protein bread and biscuits.

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