Who would have suspected that the humble bug would be farming’s secret weapon? We’re already used to the idea of integrated pest management (breeding friendly bugs to eat the ones we don’t want), but what about a bug burger for humans?
Climate change has brought new pests to farmers in England so we looked to developing countries for their experience in using natural predators to control these species. It’s resulted in demand for large quantities of these predators to be farmed. The insects are grown in large controlled environments, and monitoring their progress is a highly skilled job. The high cost of – and consumer distaste for – traditional pesticides has reinforced the trend towards this kind of pest management. Demand for tasty bugs to eat took longer – people were initially squeamish, but now insect farmers produce crickets and beetles for food outlets on a scale few would have imagined twenty years ago.
Professor Arnold van Huis from Wageningen University in the Netherlands is a consultant for the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation. He said: "Producing a kilogram of meat from a cow requires 13kg of vegetable matter as feed. Yet 1kg of meat from a cricket, locust or beetle needs just 1.5 to 2kg of fodder, and produces a fraction of the CO2 emissions. The good news is that, not only do insects require less food to farm, you also don't have to eat as much to survive, as they are an extremely good source of protein and vitamins."
For more information on the project, our research process and the jobs themselves, take a look at our summary document.
You can use our PowerPointPresentation to share this project with your colleagues. It also has some suggested discussion questions that may promote some debate.