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Patrick Murphy

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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
(http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/34172/title/Why-Insects-Should-Be-in-Your-Diet/)

The Cricket Bigger Than Beef By Claire Lemarchand
(http://www.yankodesign.com/2012/02/27/superbugs-bugs-with-powers/)

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    Jun 5 2013: This could be a good idea, one definitely that should be considered for future generations, not me. Like many have said, if you grow up eating bugs, then the idea doesn't sound so repulsive. Besides, who doesn't eat bugs when they're a kid? One thing we must consider is if there are any consequences of bugs. Some bugs may be associated with a number of parasites which could transfer disease. We would definitely have to perform an extensive amount of research on the subject before such a proposal could take action. However, despite it being a good idea and what not, I highly doubt that people, especially Americans, will start eating bugs.
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      Jun 5 2013: Ya I definitely agree with you on the risks from eating bugs, they could be carrying parasites or toxins (as I mentioned below) or even potentially just heavy metals (1).

      I want to delve into the specifics of how bioamplification works and its threat to upper-tier consumers.

      For instance, lets say to survive for a day, a frog eats 10 bugs, a fish eats 10 frogs, and a eagle eats 10 fish. If the bugs have 0.1 g of a persistent toxin on any given day, then a frog has 1 g of this toxin within it. A fish would therefore have 10 g and an eagle would have a whooping 100 g of the toxin inside of it. This is potentially really dangerous.

      There are a few strategies we could use to avoid such problems those. Perhaps creating sterile factories that are solely focused on growing bugs up. In contrast to wild bugs, factory raised bugs might not be as nutritionally effective and may lack a wide diversity of nutrients.

      Ultimately, it may be best to create nature reserves for the raising of these comestible bugs. In these areas you could ban most human activity, especially farming and the nearby spraying of insecticides and pesticides. This would take out "two birds with one stone" by providing a food source as well as a natural reservation for wild animals.

      1. Croteau, M., S. N. Luoma, and A. R Stewart. 2005. Trophic transfer of metals along freshwater food webs: Evidence of cadmium biomagnification in nature. Limnol. Oceanogr. 50 (5): 1511-1519
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        Jun 5 2013: I think biomagnification would really be an issue with farm raised bugs. We control what they eat and what nutrients they have available. If we give the insects food that isn't contaminated, then we don't have to worry.
        I do agree that we may have to worry about diseases and parasites, just as we do with all of our food, but I doubt it becoming an issue if safe food handling and preparation practices are developed for the consumption of insects.

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