The United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO) ensures that by 2050 the world population will reach 9,100 million people, 34% more than today. Most of that increase will come from developing countries, which will see their standard of living increased and, consequently, they will want to eat better and consume more and more proteins.
Therefore, to meet the anticipated demand for food and feed, an increase in 70% food production, according to the organization: 1,000 million more tons of cereals and 200 million more tons of meat.
Santos Red He is a professor of Entomology at the University of Alicante and director of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resources. But, in addition, he is the founder of a startup called BioFlyTech that tries to turn the Valencian town into the main European producer of animal protein production from insects.
"That the insect is going to be part of our daily diet is something that is going to happen", says in conversation with EL PAÍS RETINA. "That BioTechFly or other companies are those that produce these foods will depend on the expertise of each one. But the size of the industry is going to be huge. "
BioFlyTech does not intend you to eat insects. Not directly. Its intention, rather, is to ensure that fish farms and, when legislation permits, farms have sufficient food to ensure production. Thus, the startup is dedicated to making animal protein from insects that, according to Rojo, will be an essential ingredient, replacing or complementing fishmeal.
"In order for an animal to grow quickly and in the healthiest way, they feed them some feed," explains Rojo. "These feed have a series of components that can cost more than the animal itself can be worth. If we want to continue feeding in 2050 as we feed now, based on meat and fish, we have to find new sources of food. "
Insects are the last food frontier of the human being. Until now it is the only great source of proteins that nature contributes that has not become part of human nutrition on a global scale. "Basically we feed on plants and animals", says Red. "But insects, although they are consumed in some parts of the world, have not become domesticated. " And why have not we eaten them until now? "Because it has not been necessary, "says Rojo.
Capital. BioFlyTech has been operating for seven years. In July, Moira Capital committed an investment of 16 million euros. With this money he expects to reach a production of more than 20,000 tons of protein and 5,000 of animal fat and expects to reach an approximate sales of 40 million in 2024.
Challenges The main challenge is not whether the insect proteins are suitable or not, but whether producing insect meal feed products is feasible from the economic point of view, says Jordi Bladé, CEO of BioFlyTech.
You are not alone in this opinion. In his book False myths of feeding, besides highlighting soy and quinoa as food of the future, Miguel Herrero mentions insects and algae as alternative protein sources to meat in order to reduce their dependence. Also, as he points out, "producing a kilo of algae will always be cheaper than producing one of meat"
"Insects are still a more complicated issue, because of the disgust they generate in many Europeans, which relate them to dirt and diseases", recently explained to Planeta Futuro Arnold van Huis, Professor of Entomology at Wageningen University (The Netherlands). Are these reluctance justified? Rojo responds with a resounding no. "We have specialized in the black soldier fly (black soldier fly), a species that is not involved in the transmission of any type of disease to humans, animals or plants.
Both Santos Rojo and the CEO of the company, Jordi Bladé, highlight the traceability they provide: the larvae with which they work in their pilot plant are reproduced in a closed and controlled environment.
Because the insects used are not exactly rustic. Some of the employees by BioFlyTech (and their descendants) they have been within the walls of the company for a decade, which ensures their purity. Something similar happens with the flour worm (tenebrio molitor) that is used in the factory Ynsect in Dole (France).
The insects, Van Huis completes, "they are much further away biologically from humans other farm animals, I would say that the risk of transmission or transmission of diseases is much lower. " Bladé agrees with this statement. "The quality of the feed is such that although we can not devote ourselves to that now directly, feeding pigs or birds with feed made from insects would be safer. And it's totally natural, "he adds.
And there is also the aspect of sustainability. Agriculture and livestock emit large quantities of greenhouse gases. Compared to agriculture, insects produce much less: just one tenth of methane and one hundredth of nitrous oxide. And there is also the reuse of waste, says Santos Rojo. "The larvae that will serve to feed the fish are fed, in turn, other by-products and waste from other industries".
One of the many ways to address the safety of food and feed is through the breeding of insects, ensures the FAO.
Insects are everywhere, reproduce rapidly and have high rates of growth and conversion of feed, as well as a reduced environmental impact during their life cycle. They are nutritious, since they contain high levels of proteins, fats and minerals. They can be raised using different waste streams, such as food. In addition, they can be consumed whole or ground, in the form of powder or paste, and incorporated into other foods. The use of large-scale insects as an ingredient in the composition of feed is technically feasible, and in various parts of the world there are already consolidated companies that are at the forefront in this regard.
The use of insects as raw material for aquaculture and poultry feeding is likely to be more frequent during the next decade.
It's so obvious to both of them that they assure that "the moment will come shortly when we ask ourselves, was there really a time when the insects were not used to create a circular economy that serves to reuse all the byproducts of vegetable or animal origin to integrate us into animal feed? ".
Environmental benefits Insects are very efficient in converting food because they are cold-blooded species and because they consume less water.
The greenhouse gases produced by most insects are lower than those of conventional livestock. Pigs, for example, produce between 10 and 100 times more greenhouse gases per kilogram.
Insects can feed on biological waste such as food waste or human waste, fertilizer and manure, and can transform these residues into high quality proteins.
Advantages for health. Insects provide high quality protein and nutrients compared to meat and fish and are rich in fiber and micronutrients such as copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, selenium and zinc. In addition, they pose a reduced risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases (from animals to humans) such as bird flu or mad cow disease.