5 Reasons You Should Drop Everything and Start Growing Bugs

9/10/13Follow @tiny_farms

Around the world, since the dawn of time, humans have eaten insects. The Western aversion to the idea is a recent phenomenon. With feed conversion ratios double that of chicken, and nearly six times that of beef, edible species like the common house cricket are a popular food source worldwide. In countries such as Thailand, commercial cricket farms are rapidly scaling up to meet growing demand.

For an entrepreneur seeking opportunities for disruption and rapid growth, the edible insect industry is unlike anything else. In the past couple of years, an increase in media attention—backed by a couple of reports from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization—have captured public imagination in the West. Events like Future Food Salons draw crowds of intrigued consumers. Early adopters are experimenting with insect recipes, and startups like Exo and Chapul are building consumer food brands.

To anybody in the know, we’re on the verge of a protein revolution. Here are the top five reasons you should get involved:

5. Do Something About Food Scarcity

Modern agriculture is facing a crisis. A growing world population demands a protein supply that is not attainable with current methods. A third of the world’s grain is used to feed livestock; beef cattle occupy a staggering 24 percent of the planet’s land. In an era of scarcity, the US could reportedly feed 800 million people with the grain currently fed to cows—which require 100,000 liters of water to produce a kilogram of meat. Cattle are so inefficient that 1 pound of feed produces only half an ounce of beef (dry weight), a feed conversion ratio of 3.6 percent.

Entrepreneurs’ disruptive powers derive from increased efficiency. We strive to optimize systems, doing more for less. There are few industries less efficient than modern agriculture, and it presents a striking opportunity for new thinking. There’s funding available for those who need it—from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to regional NGOs.

4. Plentiful Low-hanging Fruit

Humans have always eaten insects, but it’s only recently that large scale bug farms have emerged. Modern agriculture has had thousands of years to evolve, and contemporary insect farming can be primitive in comparison. Entire cricket farms have been wiped out by disease, and yields are low for the cost. On the consumer side, retail food products are still fairly unsophisticated, and insect-based recipes have a long way to go.

For an entrepreneur willing to do the leg work, there are countless opportunities to do things better. Perhaps you could import technology from traditional agriculture? Maybe you know something about nutrition, and can design cheaper bug feed? Do you have the marketing background to make a new product take off? The current industry is characterised by enthusiastic amateurs. There’s a lot of room to do better.

3. Bask in the Media Spotlight

Any once-taboo food is a conversation starter—and edible bugs have taken the press by storm. With coverage in every major outlet, journalists are reaching out to entrepreneurs for the inside scoop on what’s going on. What’s more, tireless advocates like Little Herds are working hard to build a domestic market. It’s a dynamic community and an exciting place to be.

Instead of clamouring for attention from TechCrunch, courting bored tech writers who are tired of the same old apps, be part of an industry that’s making a big dent in the world. It’s a lot easier to promote your business when the press are knocking at your door.

2. We’re Desperate for Supply

There are two major sides to the modern bug business: retail and supply. Right now, retail is really taking off. Products from Exo and Chapul have gained a load of attention, with distributors knocking down their doors. The bottleneck now is supply. With only a couple of food-grade insect farms (like World Ento and Chirp), the industry’s total production capacity is relatively small. At this moment, any entrepreneur with the resources to start a cricket farm has a guaranteed market for their produce.

1. Welcome to the Ground Floor of a New Industry

Have you ever dreamed of being there at the dawn of the industrial revolution, the beginnings of Silicon Valley or the early days of biotech? Well, that’s where the edible insect industry is today. The next century will require a lot of clever thinking around food security, and insect protein will play a major role. Don’t just take our word for it—the UN has much to say on the matter.

With the intelligent application of technology and processes from other domains, insect protein supply can rapidly scale, give millions a better quality of life and moving us closer to a post-scarcity world. The global supply chain is ripe for development; there are opportunities wherever you look. Things are moving fast—don’t miss out on your chance to disrupt conventional agriculture and shape the course of history.

Daniel Imrie-Situnayake is a co-founder of Tiny Farms, the edible bug company. Follow @tiny_farms

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  • RNAeatsbugs

    You forgot #6, they’re delicious! As evidenced by this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oag931T2D8Q

  • Shoddy journalism

    Conflict of interest should be disclosed!

  • Dan

    hey, i think I need to talkt o you as have a few questions, I ve been doign much research lately into different products and farming. I think I have your number already from your friend Dave, Birmingham.
    Im Dan from birmingham living in Seattle, Im currently in England visiting adn doing some research, so It’d be great to talk to you when I get back next week.
    Dan

  • bespoked

    I think a TechCrunch equivalent for this industry is needed: BugCrunch!

  • bodybuildchic32

    I went paleo, and I’m frugal. Growing my own protein source on veggie scraps sounded cheap and easy. I bought my first batch of adults who are laying like crazy….I move the egg station in a couple days and hope for the best! I can’t eat them until baby batch stable. I hope I like eating them because I’m a great cook!