A start-up business focused on finding new ways of using insect protein in food products is a finalist in this year’s MassChallenge, the Boston-based start-up competition and world’s largest accelerator program. Get over your squeamishness, because bug-based foods will soon infest our markets.
The “elevator pitch” for Israel-based The Flying Spark states their intent to manufacture protein powder based on insect larvae that can be added to a wide range of food products, replacing today’s protein powders – commonly made from whey, soy, or casein. Insects contain extremely high protein, fiber, micro-nutrients and mineral content. They’re also naturally low in fat, and cholesterol-free. The tipping point for this product’s potential is that insect protein will cost less to produce than any other source of animal protein.
People have purposely eaten insects for ages, and bug-based foods are now being explored on a commercial scale to address a ballooning world population with stressed natural resources. In 2013, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a report (link here) promoting insects as a basic ingredient in both animal feed and human food. It emphasized sustainability, noting that insects (unlike livestock) can be reared on vegetable and domestic waste as well as slaughterhouse byproducts.
The Flying Spark aims to produce protein powder from ground-up fruit fly larvae, not to create new foods, but instead to sell to manufacturers that already use traditional protein powders in their products, such as nutritional supplements for body builders.
“We think athletes are early adopters,” company founder Eran Gronich told the Boston Globe, “We have only one challenge — and that is the psychological barrier – although people eat shrimp and lobster and squid, [which] are like cockroaches crawling on the bottom of the ocean picking up the trash.”
The Flying Spark pitches their plan to panels of MassChallenge judges next week, and final judging takes place on October 14-15.
The independent, not-for-profit MassChallenge is the startup community’s largest and highest-value event, solely motivated to support and strengthen entrepreneurs – no strings attached. The competition awards cash grants totaling $1 million USD to the startups demonstrating the highest impact and highest potential.
Read more about the growing insect-based food business (link here), a sector supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Wide Fund for Nature, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. They all think it’s the most promising way forward to feed the planet.