Advocates say that besides being a cheap eco-friendly nutrition source, insects can also provide employment and even process animal waste, a growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Midway through studying for his Ph.D. at Waseda University, Seiya Ashikari launched an insect startup called Ecologgie focusing on mass producing crickets for fish meal. He now resides in Phnom Penh, where he works with farmers to breed crickets used to develop protein powder, snacks and animal feed both for sales within Cambodia and exports to Japan.
“We outsource the production of crickets to local farmers. The idea is to create an agricultural cooperative that can produce crickets while providing jobs for the socially vulnerable,” Ashikari says. Cambodia’s warm climate is ideal for breeding the hoppers, he says, while the nation’s cultural affinity with eating bugs means people are understanding of his venture.
Ashikari runs training programs for farmers, some who are beginning to make substantial profit, he says.
“We’re seeing the number of cricket farmers grow. The success of so-called ‘star farmers’ is also a motivational boost for others,” he says. “We’ve established a production and shipment system of a ton per month, but we still need work on standardizing the model in terms of efficiency and safety.”
Bugs are also addressing some of the world’s most pressing agricultural problems: food and animal waste, and dwindling supplies of livestock feed.
According to Allied Market Research, the size of the global waste management market was valued at $2.08 trillion in 2019 and is projected to reach $2.34 trillion by 2027. Meanwhile, Research And Markets forecast the worldwide animal feed market to register revenue of more than $415.5 billion by 2023, compared to 335.7 billion in 2017.
Extract from The Japan Times’s article Insects: The future of food?