Potential sustainable new food industry grows legs

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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 by Australia’s national science agency CSIRO.

Edible insects – A roadmap for the strategic growth of an emerging Australian industry was launched last week and 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 (DFAT) through the Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR), 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 industry.

CSIRO researcher and report co-author Dr Rocio Ponce Reyes said the global edible insect industry was growing fast. “The worldwide edible insect market is expected to reach $1.4b in value by 2023. “Europe and the United States of America lead the western world market, with more than 400 edible-insect-related businesses in operation,” Dr Ponce Reyes said.

“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 a healthy, environmentally friendly, and a rich source of alternative proteins.”

More than 2100 insect species are currently eaten by two billion people from 130 countries, including 60 native insect species traditionally consumed by First Nations Peoples in Australia.

Iconic Australian species include witjuti (also known as witchetty) grubs, bogong moths, honey pot ants and green tree ants. CSIRO entomologist and report co-author Dr Bryan Lessard said the report highlighted the importance of supporting and promoting First Nations-led enterprises.

“The roadmap draws on the expertise of Australian and international scientists, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, insect farmers, food processing industry leaders and chefs, to set out the challenges and opportunities presented by one of the world’s richest sources of protein and other micronutrients,” Dr Lessard said.

“Australia has a high diversity of native insects. “Working with First Nations enterprises, many species have the potential to be sustainably harvested or grown in low impact farms, to be turned into new and delicious Australian foods for us and our pets.

“Commercial insect farming is considered to have a low environmental footprint, requiring minimal feed, water, energy, and land resources factors of importance to the modern health and ethically-conscious consumer.”

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