TED Conversations

Patrick Murphy

This conversation is closed.

Buggin' Out: Urban Bug Farming for the Future

In many cultures eating insects is more than a delicacy – it’s a food staple. However, the use of bugs as a mainstream ingredient is a foreign idea in the developed world. As the human population continues to grow, we have to think about how to feed people. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has shown interest in using insects as an alternative food source. Due to their high concentration of the eight essential amino acids, vitamin B12, riboflavin, vitamin A, amazingly efficient converters that leave a much smaller environmental impact on the planet than cattle.

Once technologies are developed to produce insect-based food ingredients they can be incorporated into numerous food products. They would make great protein substitutes as any food additives to cereal, snack bars, or traditional meals. The high nutritional value, probiotic potential, and affordable price are just a few reasons why many Asian and Latin restaurants already offer insects on their menu.

Rethinking the urban farm and how to deal with the upcoming need to increase food supplies, Claire Lemarchand is planning a series of cricket farms to be placed throughout cities, that go beyond just growing bugs. Crickets are bred in cylindrical units surrounding a light source, to optimize yield, and are fed fresh food waste from the market and surrounding restaurants. While at night, the cricket farming units double as an urban lighting system.

Is urban bug farming a valid food source strategy? What other ideas could be implemented into our food supply networks? Or, could push the boundaries of urban farming and sustainable food sources to better prepare for future food demands?

Why Insects Should Be in Your Diet By Aaron T. Dossey

The Cricket Bigger Than Beef By Claire Lemarchand


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jun 4 2013: Theoretically, eating insects as protein source would be affordable idea because it has better protein ingredient contained and less natural sources required to grow.
    However, there are several application issues. Many people oppose to eat insects because of the nice exoskeleton looking. Let me tell my some personal experiences. I have traveled a lot and occasionally I have chances to eat insects that are locally considered famous and delicious cousins. Well, what I thought was there was a reason why they liked it so let’s try. One of them was Stag beetle larvae deep fried. It just tasted like “Cream cheeeese puff!!!” For sure, sometimes, it tasted weird such as Bundaeggi (silkworm chrysalis) in the Korea. For me, appearance-wise, it seems really similar to shrimp or crab. “Think it is just a land shrimp or crab and eat, it would be not big matter.” But the real issue, that is under-assumed, is a distinctive odor. It is so special and strong enough to be hard to hide under seasonings unless buried into seasonings for a while. In order to spread such the consumption insects as food, I think it is required to remove such special odor.
    You may think that “then, why don’t we just eat non-special odor insects. Well, it would be good idea. It is easy to grow in urban area because it needs less area than a cow. However, it may cause ecological issues. We have heard about foreign species invasion and they have destroyed local ecosystem. Many of them are once introduced as food or other reasons like pet. If they are ensured in closed facilities, it would be okay but they escaped and spread out. Nutria, snakehead are the good example. They have imported as food sources, but escaped and spread out in local nature.
    Then my question is that “are we sure that such the edible insects won’t harm local ecosystem when they are escaped?” insects are smaller than conventional farm animals which mean it is much higher chances to escape from farms.
    • thumb
      Jun 5 2013: Haha!! I love silkworm! I used to eat it since I was young, so I do not feel disgusted when I see it; actually it makes my mouth watery! In fact, I have two cans of silkworm in my kitchen.
      My boyfriend was shocked when he saw me eating the worm. Haha.
      I think that as Dr. Green pointed out in the class, the culture contributes the behavior and belief that can be accepted or not. Eating silkworm is normal in Korea, but many people in US would give me an weird look when I eat silkworm!

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.