Edible insects – the future?
Thomas Constant believes that people should have control over the food they eat, particularly when to support population growth and meet out 2050 carbon zero targets, the UK and global food industry is facing an unprecedented challenge.
Food & Drink Technology talks to Thomas about his company, BeoBia, which wants food for life and is developing an insect growing pod for people’s homes, providing a sustainable and healthy source of protein while reusing household food waste.
Please introduce yourself and tell us about Beobia and your ambitions for the business
I’m Thomas, founder of BeoBia, a food technology company.
BeoBia comes from the Irish Gaelic word meaning ‘food for life’. I chose this name because its meaning embodies our mission to produce and consume sustainable food, without compromising our planet’s health. We believe that insects are ‘food for life’ because they are not only healthy and delicious, but they also use far less of our precious planet’s resources.
Traditional meat production uses 70% of the planet’s cultivable land. Rearing insects is a more efficient alternative as they can be farmed vertically, requiring less space, water and resources.
We’re here because eating well and having a balanced diet isn’t a choice that should be dictated by your budget. Everyone, around the globe, should have every right to delicious, affordable, nutritious food. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t the case. But, beginning in the UK, we’re on a mission to change this.
This led us to create our first product ‘Re_’, an insect growing pod for the home. We have just launched Re_ on Kickstarter, and we reached the initial funding goal in less than seven hours!
‘Re_’ aims to help you reduce your carbon footprint, recycle your food waste and help you rethink your relationship with food. Our secret weapon…insects!
What’s your experience of using insects in food? How did you get involved with insects?
It was at university when the initial idea for BeoBia was born. As that’s where I first came to appreciate the hugely detrimental impact that intensive farming has on the planet and society. The turning point for me was when I came to learn that if cows were a country they would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter worldwide, between America and India.
I initially started researching potential sustainable food solutions and realised that people all across the Western World are becoming increasingly concerned with what foods they are eating, and the impact that these foods have on the planet. I then discovered the amazing benefits of insect production.
As we move deeper into what we’ve dubbed the ‘food enlightenment’ period, consumer demand for sustainable and healthy food is increasingly on the rise. As a result, a gap is being created for businesses to provide innovative solutions. There are minimal opportunities for people living in cities to produce their own food. So that’s why we created Re_, a modular, cable-free insect growing pod, that can be placed anywhere in the home—no matter where you live! New York, Paris, Tokyo, you name it!
How have you used technology in your products?
As I mentioned, BeoBia means ‘food for life’ in Irish Gaelic. Like the meaning, sustainability is at the core of our mission and our products are built to do good for you and the planet. That is why we have embraced using sophisticated 3D printing techniques that allow us to design, manufacture and ship all of our products from the same facility, reducing our carbon footprint.
Our growing pods are made out of recycled bioplastics derived from renewable plant starch such as sugar and corn which can then be industrially composted.
We want to lead the way in creating a new type of ecological company that takes a holistic approach to how we design, manufacture, ship and dispose of our products. Taking a ‘cradle to grave’ angle on all of our products.
Why should people grow edible insects?
Insects aren’t just delicious, they also use less of our precious planet’s resources. They are the future of sustainable protein. They require a fraction of the land, water and feed compared to traditional livestock. Not only that, they are also extremely healthy — mealworms are over 54% protein, they contain all nine essential amino acids and are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and antioxidants. A true superfood.
Growing mealworms empowers people to be able to create sustainable, affordable and protein-rich food in the comfort of their own home, no matter where they live. Plus, mealworms feed off of fruit and vegetable scraps, so users can recycle their food waste and turn it into high quality protein. Even the insect poop (known as frass) can be used as a plant fertiliser for your indoor plants. So, the actual process of farming the mealworms is extremely sustainable, resulting in no waste and two outputs from just one input.
Will entomophagy go mainstream?
In many ways it is already mainstream, and always has been. Currently over two billion people eat insects, it’s only in the western world where it’s seen as a taboo of sorts. However, views in the west are changing quickly. Over 43% of young males here in the UK are interested in trying products made from insects.
I have no doubt that edible insects will continue to grow in popularity in the western world due to their sustainable credentials, high protein content and versatility with cooking. And we hope to become the market leader as we see huge potential growth and scalability of our insect growing pods.
We believe that in the not too distant future insects will become an intrinsic part of our diets. Samsung stated in its 2019 Future Report that ‘every kitchen will be equipped with counter-top growing pods’.
We’re at the forefront of edible insect innovation and we expect to grow as demand for this ecological superfood continues to increase.
Will adoption of growing your own insects lead to the food sector adapting food production and adding to a reduction in carbon footprint?
Yes. Growing insects and anything else people can do to become more self-sufficient is key in reducing global emissions output. By 2050, a 70% increase in food production is required to meet demand for the rising global population. It is not an option for unsustainable livestock farming to make up the supply, as currently, over 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from traditional livestock. And livestock uses 70% of the world’s fresh water resources. If we want to stay below the carbon budget, we must change to a more efficient protein source. It’s time to start a sustainable food revolution.
What nutritional trends are you paying attention to?
The two main consumer food trends that we’re seeing shift dramatically are: the rise of meat free products (plant-based milks and veganism etc), and secondly, consumer desires to reduce their ecological footprint.
Over a third of meat eaters here in Britain have reduced their meat consumption, due to consumers increasingly seeking products that are nutritionally healthier.
People are also increasingly concerned with their CO2 footprint and with ‘food miles’, the distance food has to travel to get to your plate. This consumer shift is pushing people to seek more local foods with lower food miles.
In short, views towards food are changing dramatically fast here in the UK and we are at the forefront of creating a truly sustainable, healthy and innovative home solution that will increase in popularity as the idea of edible insects normalises.
Do you have any favourite insect recipes?
I personally love insect cookies, as not only do they taste delicious but they are also a great treat to give to people before they try a whole insect. Mealworms have a mild nutty taste, and they can be ground up or eaten whole, making them a great protein additive for savoury or sweet treats. From salad to smoothies to pizzas. We are actually releasing an insect recipe eBook that you can currently get on our Kickstarter campaign.