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.

  • thumb
    Jun 4 2013: I am all for creating a more diverse diet. If we utilize a larger variety of food sources, there will be less stress on one particular source, so I think introducing bugs into our everyday diets is a great idea. However, it may be a little bit difficult to start. Not very many people are that willing to eat bugs because it isn't something that our culture is used to. If we came up with some way to influence people to start eating bugs, and prove to them that they can actually be extremely beneficial (and hopefully tasty) then maybe people will begin to open up to the idea. How exactly could we go about doing this though?
    • thumb
      Jun 4 2013: I think the there are several ways that we can go about doing this. I came across several websites with recipes for muffins and other baked goods that contain insects but in a way that you would hardly notice them. When people think about eating insects I assume many picture picking up a bug that looks exactly like it does alive and popping it into their mouth... an idea I even struggle with a bit. But our steaks don't look like cows when we eat them so why should an insect have to! (even though I think that distancing us from our food is a big issue). Here is a cool blog I came across that makes insect foods come in a sushi-like packaging. They make a great point that if people have gotten over eating raw fish than they can likely get over eating insects too.

      • Jun 4 2013: I think you're right, Eleni, by hiding the insects in ordinary foods it will help American consumers get past the "creepy crawlies" associated with ingesting insects. I was also thinking about the link posted below about the Lion King grub scene and the TEDtalk with the gourmet bug candy. Does anybody remember the lollipops with a scorpion or caterpillar inside of them or chocolate covered ants as novelty treats? What if insect advocates utilized methods similar to the previous examples to help ease in hesitant patrons?

        I for one would be willing to try chocolate covered ants.


        There are also other potential sources for protein besides insects, with high protein and require less energy than current protein sources. One example would be snails, which in a study conducted on school-aged children and their mothers found that both preferred a "snail pie" to beef pie; it was more desirable in taste, texture, appearance, and flavor categories than beef! It also had a higher amount of protein and iron. Snails are also easy to maintain, perhaps becoming a beneficial protein source for urban farmers. They also are a little bit less gag-inducing than eating insects, they are quite the delicacy (escargot anyone?).

        "snail pie": http://www.inderscience.com/info/inarticle.php?artid=29278
      • thumb
        Jun 5 2013: Now that you mention it, I've totally heard of people baking insects into brownies and whatnot. I'm from Chicago and we have a locust in the midwest that lives below ground for 17 years and comes above ground for one summer to breed. After they breed, they die and we are left with dead locusts everywhere. And I mean everywhere. You can't even step on your driveway without crunching one under your feet. It sounds gross but it's actually great because its basically a giant feast for the local birds and other animals that eat bugs. I've only experienced the 17-year locusts once (since I'm only 21) but from what I remember, people were scooping them up off the ground and making brownies and other baked goods with them. I didn't try them but now I wish I had!

        Here's a little more info about the locusts is you're curious.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.