The first US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded research program into insect farming for human food has commenced in the US, with the target of finding new ways to enhance cricket growth while lowering the cost of raising them.
A $100,000 grant from USDA’s Small Business Innovation Research program will allow Georgia-based cricket flour producer All Things Bugs to study how to increase automation in the rearing of crickets. The focus of the project, in particular, will be on harvesting, watering and feed formulations.
All Things Bugs said that around 25 US and Canadian companies currently produce consumer products from cricket powder, with a handful of industrial farms raising crickets for human consumption. But the processes involved in farming the insects, it added, remained primarily manual and was restricted by high labour costs.
Crickets’ prospective role in future diets is partly driven by the fact that they require ten times less feed than cattle while producing a similar amount of protein, as much calcium as milk, and high levels of both vitamins and minerals.
All Things Bugs founder Dr Aaron T. Dossey, who will act as lead researcher on the project, said: “In order for this growing industry to fulfil its potential, innovations must help cricket farmers raise these ‘mini-livestock’ more efficiently and thus drive down prices for the food industry. Ultimately crickets and other insects will be the lowest cost animal-based protein on the market.”
The company has previously secured grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help alleviate child malnutrition using insect ingredients; as well as two further grants from USDA to develop a ready-to-use food from insect ingredients and insect processing ingredients, and to refine the patent-pending technology invented to manufacture cricket powder and evaluate its functionality as a safe food ingredient and food solution of the future.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2017