Growing up in rural parts of South Africa more and more people have always diversified their eating habits by eating insects such as locusts.
Such eating habits have been a delicacy, even among young people.
But as civilization kicked in, more and more people moved away from such food – not knowing that they are actually giving up protein rich food.
One of the few cricket farmers in South Africa, Joanne Techow told Mzansi Agriculture Talk that crickets have up to 70% of proteins.
She began farming crickets in 2017 with a fellow company, before starting her own venture, Ensekta, in 2018.
“It began in 2016 while doing a research project for the Endangered Wildlife Trust – I stumbled upon articles of insect farming and was totally amazed. “I did a bit more research and soon learnt that you can eat them too,” said Techow.
Following this, Techow learned about how sustainable and healthy crickets are, and that’s when she felt she wanted to start farming them immediately.
“Thankfully, I found an organisation with the same mission – to farm insects for food, which helped me to get started in the insect farming industry. I have been doing this ever since then,” she said.
Techow says the benefits of eating insects are three-fold.
“It’s tasty and fun to eat insects. Insects taste good and are a whole new group of ingredients to add to foods – think of all the taste adventures! 🙂
“Secondly, Insects are healthy as they contain a lot of nutrients,
limited fats, and other micro-nutrients that we need.
“Insects are environmentally sustainable (or, more so than traditional proteins), using far less water, space, feed, and even producing fewer greenhouse gases,” said Techow.
One thing for sure Crickets are the best with up to 70% protein.
Techow said that many insects contain amino acids (all 9 in crickets), omega 3 and 6, and even calcium, Magnesium, zinc and iron etc.
“Healthy fats are present as well as chitin which is basically the same as plant fiber. When in the gut it spurs the growth of beneficial bacteria which helps with digestion,” she said.
Techow says there are also environmental benefits related to farming insects.
“Yes, greenhouse gases are basically negligible, the insects CAN be farmed on waste products thereby reducing waste too; however, if fed on traditional livestock feeds, in comparison to beef (mass for mass), insects (and crickets in particular) use much less food, water and space than cows,” she explained.
Then what exactly is involved in insects farming? Like education, training, resources and knowledge?
“You definitely need knowledge of insect life cycles, and basic biology and or science. Honestly you can easily learn a lot from just watching the insect and replicating what the insects need in life to survive and reproduce, but finding the starting colony is difficult. Tertiary education of biological sciences, particularly entomology, is useful but many people have started and grown insect farms from completely different industries without entomological knowledge. Food and business knowledge is important for entomophagy entrepreneurs. Resources necessary are a bit of space and low-tech farming containers, depending on which insect you wish to farm. Often just large boxes or tubs are all that is necessary, with some food and water. Heating is often the biggest challenge (or, environmental control),” explains Techow.
At Ensekta, Techow farms with Mealworms (they are the most fun and easy to eat), silkworms (they taste great and I was excited to farm them since I had silkworms from Thailand) and crickets (best source of protein and best efficiency).
Now is there a market in South Africa for insects and how is it compared to the global markets?
“There is a niche market. South Africa is a little behind the rest of the world (Europe and America have been doing insects as food for several years now and are even creeping into the supermarkets, we are still a bit behind as a country). People are just beginning to hear about eating insects, so we still have a way to go. Globally, hundreds of insect-farming insect-eating companies are popping up and growing the market and the awareness of entomophagy on every continent in almost every country. Some countries have even been eating insects for hundreds of years (2 billion people) and the rest is growing,” she said.
Advice for anyone who would like to venture into that kind of market?
“Just start. Be prepared for a long-time journey and a lot of market creation and market-pushback. Entomophagy is still a sensitive idea (with a flinch factor) and you have to be prepared to spend time and resources turning it into the WOW factor.”
For more information, follow Ensekta on facebook and instagram @ensekta for recipes and product information or email us at email@example.com.