The global food crisis has left as many as 783 million people uncertain about their next meal. With world population on a steady increase, the current models of how we put food on our tables across cultures and continents are showing serious signs of stress. A possible solution may be found in entomophagy, the practice of seeking nutritional solutions in the insect world.
“We are aware that what we are proposing is nothing short of a colossal cultural shift,” asserts Arnold Sciberras, right off the bat. Mr Sciberras, possibly Malta’s most renowned professional pest control consultant and naturalist says “we know that it will take a while, until we start making strides into the collective consciousness on the subject, but the results we have already achieved, are extremely encouraging.”
Insectopia is in fact a Malta-based insect farm which is pioneering the cause. “We are on a mission to change the way we think about food, sustainability, and our impact on the planet. In a world facing unprecedented challenges like conflict, economic shock, and climate extremes, the need for sustainable and alternative food sources has never been more urgent,” Mr Sciberras continues.
The concept of edible insects addressing global food shortages dates back to the 70s, and today, the European Union is investing over $4 million in researching entomophagy as a sustainable protein source.
“Like with every other animal species, insects can be pests, but they can also be allies,” explains Mr Sciberras. “While it is true that we are brought up with a certain sense of repulsion for insects, we don’t seem to have any trouble with beautiful butterflies, which come from the very same animal kingdom. Similarly, we have no issue with their water-based ‘cousins’, such as shrimp and other crustaceans: these ironically are immensely sought after as food world-wide!”
From left to right: Andrea Degiorgio, Arnold Sciberras, Luke Degiorgio and Nicky Vassallo
Insectopia seeks to provide a viable alternative to traditional livestock farming, which is known to have a considerable effect on the environment. “Traditional livestock farming, particularly beef production, puts a significant strain on resources and contributes to environmental degradation. In contrast, insect farming, such as that practiced by Insectopia, offers a more sustainable solution. One kilogramme of worms is produced using second-quality food but yields high-quality nutrition. This process not only conserves resources but also reduces the carbon footprint associated with traditional farming,” Mr Sciberras explains.
Insectopia focuses on two key species, the mealworm beetle and the super worm beetle. These particular species offer a sustainable and nutritious alternative to traditional food. The process of breeding these insects is not only cleaner but also environmentally conscious.
“Insects, such as crickets and mealworms, provide a source of complete protein with essential amino acids comparable to soybeans. Additionally, they contain dietary fibre, essential minerals, and vitamins like B12, riboflavin, and vitamin A. In comparison to traditional meat sources, insects offer similar nutritional benefits with lower caloric content and reduced fat. For instance, locusts contain more iron than beef per 100 grams, showcasing the potential of insects as a nutrient-dense food source,” Mr Sciberras adds knowledgably.
At this initial stage, Insectopia is focussing on supplying high-quality pet food which is derived from insects. These can be used for birds, reptiles, and several exotic pets. The farm utilises innovative technologies and methodologies to cultivate four insect species approved for human consumption in the European Union.
“As the company grows, the goal is to expand into human consumption,” says Mr Sciberras confidently. Thus, he emphasises that Insectopia will be “offering a beneficial and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional protein sources.”