ExoTerra Why Insects ?
ExoTerra Ilc. develops sustainable eco-friendly technologies from insects and plants to improve food security and health.
Insects make up the largest and most diverse group of organisms on the planet. The biochemical and chemical diversity within these creatures matches or exceeds that biological diversity. Insects also possess highly efficient metabolic pathways which utilize their food and water much more efficiently than other animals such as cows, chickens, pigs and other vertebrate livestock.
However, relatively little research has been done to utilize these features of insects for the benefit of people and our planet. Thus, ExoTerra Ilc. seeks to capitalize on this by developing insect-derived food products and biologically active chemical compounds for use in agriculture and medicine.
As the human population grows, it is ever more important to decrease our levels of consumption and harvesting materials from the planet and its ecosphere. The world adds about 70 million people each year. The United Nations expects the population to grow to more than 9 billion people by 2050, adding approximately twice the current population of China.
We cannot rely on food production strategies utilizing livestock such as cattle to feed our growing population. Humans consume roughly 40% of the biomass that the land and the coastal seas produce. Approximately 70% of agricultural land, and 30% of the total land on earth, is used to raise livestock.
Expanding the amount of land used for livestock production is neither a feasible nor a sustainable solution to cover the food/protein needs of the projected increases in population. Thus, it is important to use sources of high quality animal protein which reduce the amount of pollution, habitat destruction and abuse of natural resources.
Insects are a promising source of high quality animal protein with a substantially lower ecological footprint than vertebrate livestock. Increased utilization of insects in food products rather than ingredients from vertebrae livestock will significantly reduce the human impact on the natural environment, including our contribution to climate change.
However, new technologies for improving food security, such as production and processing insects as human food, take some time for application on large scale, so it is important to make investments in these innovations sooner rather than later
Insects have numerous attributes which make them highly attractive, yet under explored sources of highly nutritious and sustainable food. The general categories where insects provide the most substantial benefits for a sustainable and secure food supply are: 1) efficiency and 2) diversity.
EFFICIENCY:Insects can be produced more sustainably and with much smaller ecological footprint than most vertebrate livestocks such as cattle and swine.They are very efficient at biotransformation of a wide variety of organic matter into edible insect body mass (eg: a high feed conversion ratio)
Food input to weight increase ratios as Listed below
Cattle = 7 to 1
Pork = 4 to 1
Poultry = 2 to 1
Fish = 2 to 1
By contrast, crickets create approximately 1 lbs of body mass for every 1.25 lbs of feed
The feed conversion ratio for milk is 1 to 1, however, milk is 87% water. Additionally, dry milk powder is only 30% protein. Crickets create 4.4 times more protein output per food input.
Water and land requirements for animal-derived protein versus insect protein output are equally disproportionate.
Cows consume 8 grams of mass to gain 1 gram in weight, whereas insects can require less than two.This is partly due to insects being poikilothermic thus using less energy for body warmth.
House crickets (Acheta domesticus) have an “efficiency of conversion of ingested food” that is twice that of pigs and chickens, 4 times that of sheep and 6 times that of steer.
This efficiency leads to less usage of pesticides on animal feed, thus providing additional environmental, health and economic incentives. Compared to all other animals on earth, insects are substantially more prolific (higher fecundity) and have shorter life spans, so they can be grown rapidly.
For example, house crickets can lay 1,200-1,500 eggs in a 3-4 week period, whereas beef cattle require about 4 breeding animals for each animal marketed
Insect production also uses much less water than vertebrate livestock. Insects also give off lower levels of greenhouse gases than do cows. Additionally, many insects can eat non-human food plants or agricultural byproducts, thus they don’t compete with the human food supply like vertebrate livestock such as cows, chickens and pigs.
BIODIVERSITY:The UN FAO estimates that there are well over 1,000 edible insects currently used, and others estimate that number to be over 2,000.There are over 1 million species described and 4-30 million species estimated to exist on earth, living in every niche inhabited by humans and beyond. With this diversity and their collective reproductive capacity, they are a lot safer bet for future food security than are vertebrate animals.
Development of more diversity in animal livestock/protein sources is critical to human food security going forward. For example, since there are insects of some sort on nearly every patch of land on earth, chances are that some local species in every area can be farmed as human food without transporting non-native species into the area for the same purpose. Additionally, the large numbers of edible species mean that an insect farm affecting their initial species can likely switch to another species which is resistant, which has already been done at some US cricket farms.
CLEAN PROTEIN FROM INSECTS:Salmonella spp. andListeria monocytogenes in samples of the following commercially farmed cricket and mealworm species: (Zoophobas morio,Tenebrio molitor,Galleria mellonella, andAcheta domesticus) . Additionally, to date, Exotic Proteins inc. has not foundEschericha coli,Salmonella sp.,Staphylococcus aureus, orListeria sp. in any of several shipments of raw frozen insects from some of the largest US cricket and mealworm farms, and coliform/total plate count is reasonably low. Also, pasteurization appears to reduce total plate count to very low and possibly nearly sterile levels. Additionally, insects are biologically more separated from humans than vertebrate livestock, so the risk of an insect viral pathogen or parasite jumping to humans is exceedingly low. Thus, pathogen risk appears to be very low for farmed insects.