How to foster a buzzing edible insects industry

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

'There will be the usual suspects of food and feed firms and researchers, but then also input from technology players,' says Finnish researcher behind insect project. © / Wittayayut
'There will be the usual suspects of food and feed firms and researchers, but then also input from technology players,' says Finnish researcher behind insect project. © / Wittayayut

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A Finnish project is to investigate the main hurdles and opportunities for the edible insect industry by linking up input from multidisciplinary players from relevant sectors. 

Invenire Market Intelligence secured €100,000 in preliminary funding from Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, to spend six months researching business hurdles and opportunities for edible insects and to scope out what multidisciplinary players could be brought in to meet these challenges.

Johanna Tanhuanpää, executive consultant and partner at Invenire, told us the three main hurdles facing the sector were technology, regulation and consumer acceptance.

She said the project was about looking at the role of edible insects within an overall sustainable protein ecosystem. 

This meant going beyond insects alone and could see partnership with other sustainable protein sources like algae as well engagement with technology firms.  

“The aim is to get different players involved. There will be the usual suspects of food and feed firms and researchers, but then also input from technology players for example.”

Much of the feeding and moving of the insects is currently done manually. She said technology companies could help explore ways to automate this and make efficiency gains.

“Currently scaling up is done by increasing production area, and of course this is not the way to go. It’s good so far because volumes are still small, but when feed opens up the volumes will be a completely different ball park.”

She said that day was coming, with EU legislation allowing insect meal to be used as feed for farmed fish​ expected within the next 12 months.

Regulatory movement has also been seen within the food sector.

The novel push  

After years of uncertainty for the edible insects industry, new EU regulation on novel food ingredients passed last year placed insects firmly within its legal scope.  

The message was clear: insects are unauthorised novel food ingredients within Europe if they were not consumed before 1997 in the EU.

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Companies already marketing insects for human use on the EU market now have two years to submit a dossier for approval, which trade group International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) said it was working on.

Tanhuanpää said she planned to reach out to IPIFF for the project.

“Obviously collaboration between organisations is a good thing, especially on the regulatory front because no company can solve this alone.” 

Invenire's project has been in the pipeline for a year now.

Last year when the research firm first started seeking crowdfunding, Tanhuanpää told us she wanted to provide something of a business plan for a young and enthusiastic industry.

“The whole edible insects industry is so new and it’s in such an embryonic state. There’s a lot of enthusiasm, there’s a lot of people who are very into edible insects or sustainability.

"And sometimes that just means there’s not all that much business thinking as this enthusiasm and drive to make it into something mainstream.”

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