Flour from grasshoppers? Students awarded $1M to fight global hunger with insects
Insects are a sustainable protein source for much of the world's poor. Soon, they may also be bread.
Tue, Oct 22, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Photo: McGill University/video screen capture
The U.N. already believes that eating insects could help curb global warming and feed the hungry. And they may have a point. Insect farming requires dramatically less land than other forms of animal protein, and it's considerably more efficient at turning feed into food.
Vegans and vegetarians may be conflicted about the idea, but with much of the world's population already eating insects on a regular basis, I would not be surprised to see bug-based foods becoming more commonplace everywhere.
That's certainly what one team of students from McGill University are hoping (hopping?) for, and they've been awarded the $1 million Hult Prize to turn their vision into reality. Calling themselves Aspire Food Group, the MBA students plan to build a social enterprise that will enable local farmers in poor countries to farm locally-appropriate insects, harvest them efficiently, and process them into protein-rich flour for making breads, tortillas and other foods.
Working with farmers in Kenya, Thailand and Mexico, the team has been trialing insect farming and processing technologies, and has also spent time researching existing insect farming operations in Thailand. Their innovations, they say, will help make the process of farming grasshoppers and turning them into flour much more labor- and resource-efficient. According to the U.K.'s Daily Mail newspaper, plans are already afoot to deliver 10 tonnes of grasshoppers to farmers in Mexico by early next year.
Besides the prestigious prize and the money that goes with it — money that was handed to students Mohammed Ashour, Shobhita Soor, Jesse Pearlstein, Zev Thompson and Gabe Mott by former President Bill Clinton at a ceremony in New York — the idea has been attracting attention from major media outlets including Fox News, CNN and The Telegraph. And while the story may have novelty value for squeamish Westerners, the intention behind it and the potential for lasting change are what impressed the Hult Prize judges.
Here's how Ahmad Ashkar, founder and CEO of the Hult Prize, describes the challenge facing humanity in the coming decades:
"This is our chance to empower the next generation and solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. Almost a billion people go hungry every day and without new solutions, food security issues are likely to get worse."
In the video below, Aspire team member Soor explains more about the project:
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