Fly-food? Could entomophagy be a solution for 2050?

Romain Fessard is a rather unusual character. For over ten years now, he has been advocating insects as a foodstuff in France - and this is not just a hobby for him. He breeds, prepares and distributes insect-based foodstuffs and was one of the pioneers in France making a case In favour of fly-food, or more scientifically, 'entomophagy'. At the TEDxUTCompiegne, which is a programme of public lectures designed to "Inspire Creative approaches, to encourage Change and to enhance Innovation", Romain Fessard explained to the audience how consuming insects could change the deal in terms ion sustainable development is concerned. His subject was perfect for the January 2016 TEDx session, the core theme of which was "The 2050 Horizon, Innovation and Society".

Fly-food? Could entomophagy be a solution for 2050?

Do Westerners really balk at the thought of eating insects?

Well, yes, there is a degree of reticence in the West when it comes to eating insects. Nevertheless, when I experiment today with insects specially prepared as "aperitifs", some 80% of the guests accept to taste them. Entomologist Marcel Dicke asserts that on average a French person consumes 500 g insects per year, through contaminate fruit, or vegetables collected industrially. Insects inadvertently get trapped in jam pots, fruit juice 'bricks' or vegetable soup packs … Food intake systems may change too. The Romans loved a most unusual dish, the pink flamingo and especially appreciated the bird's tongue, served at 'business luncheons'. Today, potatoes constitute the second most consumed foodstuff in the world, just after wheat. And yet there were suspicions, in the 17th Century, that wheat could transmit diseases such as the plague and were only fed to pigs and prisoners. Tomatoes for a long time were only considered as decoration in North Europe before reaching our tables in the mid-18th Century. Our sense of taste constantly evolves and quite probably eating insects will become commonplace in the West by 2050

How do you see insect eating change in the world and in Europe in particular?

Today, about one third of the planet eats insects on a daily basis. The number of insect species consumed in the world is close to 1 900 and the figure is constantly on the rise. Most of these insects are collected directly outside, in fields, on trees … it is a food source that goes back to our origins, Men eating insects probably before they began hunting and eating meat. The only regions in the world where this is not an accepted feature are Europe and North America; in Europe, only the Netherlands and Norway can made the change and you will find restaurants in these two countries who have had insects on their menus for 10-20-30 years now. In France the turnover in this foods sector probably does not exceed 1.5 Meuros. I personally learned to enjoy insects over ten years back and I quickly moved to set up the web-site so that other in France could discover the products in Europe and particularly in France. I was the first trader to produce insects in France. In the beginning I only sold whole insects and today I have several species on sale. We breed comestibles insects but we also prepare them. The range runs from insect-aperitifs, to insect flour and other products such as protein bars. The breeding and raising of part of our stock take place in Pattaya, Thailand, because the temperatures there are more favourable to insect growth. This sort of breeding/raising is very widespread in Thailand and offers traditional products that are environment-compliant, such as 100% natural Thai crickets. Concerning transformed products such as protein bars or insect pates, we are gradually developing a real level of expertise in France, a sort of techno-food with a mix of innovation and nature compliancy.

Can insects be considered as contributing to sustainable development schemes?

Insects may one day represent the mainstay, staple diet of human food! Already, they can be seen as delicious with a variety of tastes! For example, flour maggots taste like hazelnuts, crickets resemble potatoes. Remember that insects are very rich in protein contents, some species even more than beef. There are regions in the world where pregnant women or ill persons are encouraged to privilege insect intakes. By 2050, it will be necessary to feed some 10 billion inhabitants on Earth. With today's diets, with increase meat on our plates, it simply will not be possible in the long run to keep up. It takes 10kg of vegetables to "make" 1 kg of meat, 5 kg of poultry or 9 kg of insects. The latter therefore display a favourable ratio here, not forgetting that they can be fed on organic wastes, such as discarded food, manure or garden composts. Insects also produce 10 to 100 times less GHG (greenhouse gases) than a herd of cows. In terms of space needed, they also represent a huge gain. One tonne of insects can be produced in 3 months on only 30 m². Such a surface would allow you to raise one cow, yielding 400 kg over 4 to 5 years to rear it to maturity. Insect DNA is quite distinct from human DNA, so the questions of transmission to humans of various illnesses and disorders is avoided - whereas these problems do exist when we consume produce from poultry and other mammals. And for all those people who worry about animal wellbeing and who are not happy seeing animals going to the slaughterhouse, entomophagy will be a way to limit one complicity with various forms of cruelty to animals.

Can insect product be developed easily?

Production can be carried out in an artisan way and does not call for any special skills. It needs few means and reproduction and breeding only require small surfaces, in the countrysides or in urban areas, in every country round the world. Insects need heat to develop so it will be less costly in terms of energy in warmer climates, but is not impossible to envisage insect farming in large European cities or in the USA. Setting up an insect farm only needs small surfaces and few means, so local production can be enhanced. Today the prospects seem promising. Countries like Belgium, Italy or the United Kingdom are interested in the field and insects are already beginning to come onto the shelves of the supermarkets.

Did you know this?

TEDx is a public lecture scheme which enables schools, colleges, enterprises or local authorities … to reproduce the concept of then TED lectures created to disseminate ideas "worth disseminating". The licensed TEDx programme is organised directly by the students? UTC will be organising its 3rd Conference venue in 2017.