Edible insects: an industry with legs
Australia can become a player in the billion-dollar global edible insect industry, producing nutritious, sustainable and ethical products to support global food security, according to a new roadmap developed by Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO.
The roadmap lays out a comprehensive plan for the emerging industry, exploring the challenges, opportunities, cultural values, sustainability and health outcomes of the edible insect industry in Australia. Co-funded by CSIRO and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the roadmap provides a framework within Australia for First Nations initiatives, start-ups, insect businesses, researchers, policy makers and community members interested in engaging with the edible insect industry.
CSIRO researcher and report co-author Dr Rocio Ponce Reyes says the global edible insect industry is growing fast: “The worldwide edible insect market is expected to reach $1.4 billion AUD in value by 2023,” he says. “Europe and the US lead the western world market, with more than 400 edible insect-related businesses in operation.”
Insects have high-value nutritional profiles, and are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, folic acid and vitamins B12, C and E.
“They are also complementary to our existing diets, because they are healthy, environmentally-friendly and a rich source of alternative proteins,” Dr Ponce Reyes says.
More than 2100 insect species are currently eaten by two billion people from 130 countries, including 60 native insect species traditionally eaten by Indigenous Australians. Iconic Australian species include witjuti (also known as witchetty) grubs, bogong moths, honey pot ants and green tree ants. Many species have the potential to be sustainably harvested or grown in low-impact farms, to be turned into foods for humans and pets.
Commercial insect farming is considered to have a low environmental footprint, requiring minimal feed, water, energy and land resources. Edible insects also have the potential to provide future trade opportunities and could lead to valuable economic outcomes.
The roadmap also points to challenges, including scalability and consumer response. However, with the global population set to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, in order to provide sustainable protein options, it’s clear that we need to explore alternative sources.