What’s sustainable about farming insects?

Sustainable or climate-efficient food can be understood as getting the biggest amount of calories using the smallest amount of land and harming the ecosystems as little as possible.

Because insects are incredibly nutritious and require very little land, water and feed, they are considered to be a very sustainable food (see FAO’s report on Edible Insects, 2013 for details).

Most people in the world, who eat insects today, get them from the wild. Crickets, grasshoppers, locusts and beetles for instance, are collected via nets that are waved through the field or simply by your hands to pick up the bugs. Although insects from the wild will often be contaminated with pesticides from the crops, this is an excellent way of getting tasty and nutritious food on the table on a small scale.

However, for insects to be a sustainable food on a bigger scale, it is necessary to farm them in a closed environment. This makes the production more efficient since their feed can be controlled and it increases food safety.

Vertical shelves - a great place to be a worm

In Europe the climate is best for smaller insects such as mealworms and lesser mealworms (buffalo worms is another tasty name for them). Mealworms’ natural habitat is small dark spaces, which is perfect for constructing space-efficient farms.

Our partner farm in the Netherlands, Protifarm is the world’s first and largest vertical farm for breeding the Alphitobius diaperimus, better known as the buffalo beetle. The buffalo beetles are reared in a high shelving system, taking up very little space compared to conventional farming using fields. The  facility is fully operational and can deliver enough protein to feed a small city, all with the space of less than a parking lot.

Protifarm leverages forty years of insect breeding and rearing research and development, from their sister company Kreca, an established European leader in insect production.

Sustainable feed – circular production 

The secret to effective breeding, apart from the facility, is the feed. The buffalo’s are fed on vegetable streams. These streams are in large part made up of spent grain, a fancy word for bio-waste, solving yet another problem.