Could insects help counter any food shortages in the wake of Covid-19?

Covid-19 News | Food & Drink | Interview

Business Leader recently spoke with Thomas Constant – the founder of BeoBia – to discuss how his firm is using an insect growing pod to tackle food waste and C02 footprint. Constant also talks about how insects could be the key to aiding any food shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic

Can you give me an overview of your company and products?

BeoBia is hoping to create a food revolution by empowering people in urban areas to become more self-sufficient.

The company mission is to help people recycle their food waste, reduce their CO2 footprint, rethink their relationship with food and join us to create a truly sustainable future.

Our first product that’s launching later this year is an insect growing pod. The pod enables users to create their own source of high-quality protein at home, by reusing their fruit and vegetable scraps that otherwise would be tossed into the bin.

Made of fully recycled bioplastics, the pod has the capacity to produce over 300 grams of mealworms per harvest, with each mealworm being over 54% protein; enabling people to affordably produce homegrown protein. As the popularity of functional consumables has increased so too has the price of these products, some to quite frankly astonishingly prices.

We’re here because eating well and having a balanced diet isn’t a choice that should be dictated by your budget! Everyone, around the globe, should have every right to delicious, affordable, nutritious food. Unfortunately, however, this isn’t the case. But, beginning in the UK, we’re on a mission to change this.

What was the inspiration behind the idea?

It was at university when I first came to appreciate the hugely detrimental impact that intensive farming has on the planet and society. The turning point for me was when I came to learn that if cows were a country they would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter worldwide, between America and India.

By 2050, to meet demand for the increasing global population, a 70% increase in food production is required. It is not an option for intensive cattle farming to make up supply, on the contrary, innovative solutions which will protect the planet but also meet demand, must be taken to the mainstream. Agriculture must urbanise its processes, encourage consumers to do more themselves and further proliferate the benefits of vertical farming.

I researched potential solutions and realised that people all across the Western World are becoming increasingly concerned with what foods they are eating, and the impact those foods have on the planet. I then discovered the amazing benefits of insect production and how, gram for gram, they are over 22,000 times more ‘water-efficient’ than beef, 1,140 times more ‘ammonia efficient’ than pigs and, best of all, can be farmed anywhere.

As we move deeper into what we’ve dubbed the ‘food enlightenment’ period, consumer demand for sustainable and healthy food is increasingly on the rise. As a result, a gap is being created for businesses to provide innovative solutions. There are minimal opportunities for people living in cities for example to produce their own food. Despite demand for this rising quickly with consumers eager to reduce their food miles and buy locally.

So that’s why I created BeoBia, so we could bring a disruptive and revolutionary product to market.

How have you utilised tech in your products?

As a sustainable company we want to minimise our impact on the environment while embracing innovative manufacturing methods. That’s why we are only using sophisticated 3D printing techniques that enable us to design, manufacture and ship all our products from the same facility. Reducing the overall distance needed to manufacture the insect pod.

Our growing pods are made out of recycled bioplastics derived from renewable plant starch such as sugar and corn, which can then be industrial composted.

We want to lead the way in creating a new type of ecological company that takes a holistic approach to how we design, manufacture, ship and dispose our products from ‘cradle to grave’.

As a first to market product – how do you market it and what has been the reaction to it?

I have no doubt that insect growing pods in people’s home will become increasingly mainstream. Why? It is one of the most efficient and affordable ways to create high-quality protein.

How we approached marketing was a combination of two things, speaking with would-be customers and understanding the challenges facing the global food supply chain. For BeoBia, we realised what was in demand, was a sustainable solution to the absence of urban farming and self-sufficiency in the home.

This is how we are marketing the product. To appeal directly to the preferences of many consumers, who are eagerly awaiting the capacity to produce protein in an environmentally-friendly way, from the home and in turn reduce dependence on global livestock farming.

We are excited to be one of the first companies to enter this newly emerging market. One of our users stated that she found it a truly rewarding experience to ‘eat home-grown food in a small apartment in the city’.

Will we see an increased effort from the food sector to change food production and reducing its carbon footprint?

Definitely. There is a huge shift in consumer attitudes towards food. The rise of meat free products, plant-based milks and veganism coupled with consumer desires to reduce their ecological footprint has had a tremendous impact.  Which can be seen in supermarkets across the Western World, for example, here in the UK, whole new food sections have appeared recently in supermarket aisles including ‘Meat Free’ and ‘Free From’.

People are also increasingly concerned with ‘food miles’, the distance food has to travel to get to your plate, such as almonds from California, beef from Argentina and tomatoes from Spain. This consumer shift is pushing people to seek more local foods with lower food miles.

These two food sector trends are expected to continue to grow and I believe they will further increase focus on people to become more ecological and self-sufficient.

Will insects become more common on tables around the world?

It already is common around the world. Currently over two billion people eat insects, its only in the Western World where its seen as a taboo of sorts. However, views in the West are changing quickly. Over 43% of young males here in the UK are interested in trying products made from insects.

Insects are being seen less like a ‘bush tucker’ trial, and more like a sustainable high protein snack. I believe that edible insects will become increasingly common in the West over the next serval years.

Could insects help with potential food shortages during the coronavirus outbreak?

Insects are very well placed to be a solution for any food shortages that come as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. On the one hand, edible insects are incredibly sustainable and use a fraction of the feed, water and resources than traditional livestock uses, easing pressures on the global food supply chain to recover as quickly as it would otherwise need to.

On the other, in more urbanised spaces, besides having a small herb garden, the majority of people can’t produce any food from their home and are dependent on big business to fill their fridge. Which in recent times, has proved to be challenging. Farming insects is one of very few ways to generate a source of protein from the kitchen.

This is the crux of what we at BeoBia want to alleviate. To empower people to produce food no matter where they live.

What other food trends are on the horizon?

Agriculture and food are always changing. Lobsters, oysters, sushi and even avocado’s all used to be deemed as unfashionable and ugly food. However, as cultures develop so too do their views towards food.

Western consumers want environmentally friendly, healthy alternatives that don’t compromise on taste or price, which has resulted in the quick growth of alternative meats, milks and increased taxes on sugar. Besides alternative meat I predict that this rise of environmentally, health-conscious consumers will continue to grow, with next key trends focusing on other animal-based goods like, fish, eggs, and dairy.

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  1. Stop trying to make “eat the bugs” happen. We’ve had enough of your humiliation rituals. This will not happen. We will not eat the bugs. You’ve been found out.

  2. Such amazing innovative and world changing
    prospects. We need people like Thomas Constant to lead the way and enlighten
    society about what really matters.
    Good luck and success to BEOBIA.

  3. Why are eggs and milk being dumped, chickens being buried, and crops being destroyed? Totally unnecessary to eat bugs. Stop making it impossible for farmers to flourish, harvest, and distribute their crops. People talk and we know.

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