Cricket Is Just a Better Chicken

One of the main arguments insect food companies bring out in their communication is comparing the environmental impact of  insects to conventional meats like beef, pork, fish and chicken. There is no denying that insects are clearly the best choice from this group, but in most cases comparing insects to other animals is not relevant.

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The example picture above is from LEAP Pure Cricket Powder- Facebook page. 

The most relevant category to place insects is not “the environmental impact of animal based foods”, but wider “environmental impact of high protein foods” that includes a large variety of plant based foods as well.

In this more relevant category, whether the comparison is about consumption of water, creation of green house gases or feed conversion rate, crickets show up just as a better chicken. From environment’s perspective best options are plant based options like pulses and plant based protein products. Additionally, plant based proteins clear out of many other issues like ethical questions related to animal farming, use of antibiotics and cultural acceptance.

It is important to understand that we are now talking about industrial scale farming where using of bio waste as insect feed is not possible for multiple reasons. For low scale farming where using of bio waste is possible insects are excellent option even over plants.

You might have noticed that in the given infograph it is said that insect consume less water than pulses. This might be true, but it depends on how the water is delivered to crickets. Is it open water or through feed? When comparing the water consumption of animals the combined impact of drinking water and the water used in the farming of the feed should be considered.

There are plenty of reasons to eat insects, but if you are looking for the best environmental choice, industrially farmed insects are not the one.

Further reading:

Semi-Automatic Water Station for Crickets

In 2015 I was working on multiple projects to find ways to help insect farmers with their two main issues: Farming requires too much manual work and that there are too many risks in farming. One solution to fight these two issues was a prototype of Semi-Automatic Water Station for Crickets. I designed the following prototype with one great engineer, but due to lack of time with did not push the design further. The prototype has been tested in couple of farms the basic functionality has been confirmed, but for sure there are details to improve in all aspects.

The problem of high risks and need of manual labor.

Here is an example of a regular cricket farm. Picture taken from Entomo Farms’ Instagram:  (https://www.instagram.com/p/BHhtRZVg4JU/?taken-by=entomofarms)

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UPDATE 30.4.2017: New updated picture from Entomo Farms was uploaded USAID- Medium profile. Very interesting set-up! Photo courtesy of Stewart Stick, Entomo Farms. Link to the article: https://medium.com/usaid-2030/3-food-innovations-changing-how-the-world-eats-ddda0414fbb

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What you can see from the picture is that there is wooden plate for the cricket feed and black plastic “river” where water flows for the crickets to drink. The water system has multiple problems. Well, before going in to the problems it must be said that this river-thing is a lot better than the other traditional drinking device: “the sponge-thing”, sold e.g here: https://www.armstrongcrickets.com/waterdevice

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Both of the shown methods of bringing fresh water to crickets suffer from the same problems of crickets dying and dropping feces into the water. What the river-method has better that the sponge is that you don’t need to be filling up the water tank frequently.

The Solution: Semi-Automatic Water Station

Here below I present my concept of low manual labor that has minimized the risk of crickets touching the fresh water. In the first picture below I show the basic unit of the system. The shape and size of the pipe can be basically anything, in this case the pipe is made for a regular plastic container. There are small  drinking holes in the long sides of the pipe and for each hole there is an individual ramp. The ramp has such surface that the crickets are able climb on it, but the pipe itself is so slippery that they cannot move on it. This way the crickets will only move to the drinking hole and no where else. Additionally, the holes are so far away from each other that the while the head of the cricket is at the drinking hole, the other end does not reach the neighboring hole.

The pipe is filled with plastic mesh that has tiny holes. The mesh is rolled and pushed into the pipe. This way the mesh is exposed at the drinking holes and capillary action offers fresh drop of water for the thirsty animal. When the small drop has been drank, the capillary action will bring a new one.

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In the next picture the flow of water is explained. The water enters the system from the left by a drip hose that is either connected to water line (best option), or a separate tank. In this example the rearing boxes are piled on top of each other. Water enters the top most box from the left and exists from the right. To the next one the water enters from the right, exists from the left and so on. Under the last one there is a overflow tank that collects the water that was not drank during water’s way through the system. In large scale operation the water would go to the drain or possibly pumped back to circulation.

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The system is calibrated in two steps. First of all it is essential that the system is level, if tilted the water can overflow on one side and leave the opposite side with no water at all. The correct flow of water can be confirmed by in the beginning checking how much water comes out to the overflow tank. If you can get e.g one drop every 10 min, you know that there is water throughout the system and that the water is not stagnant either.

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The service and cleaning of the system is essential. The boxes can be taken out from the system by lifting out the flexible pipes connecting the boxes from the hard plastic that is inside the boxes.This way you can even taken out one of the boxes in the middle of the pile without touching the ones below and above. The hard plastic pipes are removable as well. As you can see from the first picture the pipe is connected by two holders. When you click the pipe out from the holders the pipe can be taken out completely, or just pushed out of the way when e.g the cartons are changed. The plastic ramps are connected to the pipes by clicking action as well.

I believe the system will remain clean for the duration of one life cycle of crickets, so the cleaning would happen in the same time when the crickets are harvested. The pipes, hard and soft, can be placed inside a dishwasher and the plastic mesh can be taken out easily before that. One could also try running strong alcohol through the system to clean out bacteria.

Please feel free the take this idea to your farm and let me know what if it works or not. And especially if it doesn’t, I would love to hear what are the reasons.

Starter Kit for Ento-Entrepreneurs

Lately quite a few people have reached out for me for tips for starting a new Insect for Food and Feed- companies. I very happy to see the industry growing and it is my pleasure to help out. To make your starting easier I have here collected some links and tips how to get started and how to avoid some of the pitfalls.

I believe strongly in the Lean movement, not only in daily work, but also larger projects that starting of a new company is. The prevent unnecessary work and loss of resources, start by collecting data and objectively evaluating the potential of you business plan.  To learn more about Lean and modern business management check out the great Lean Startup- book by Eric Ries.

Study the literature. Unfortunately there are only very few publications on the business side of IFF- business, biological knowledge can be found much easier. My thesis that I wrote in 2015 is still one of only publications looking at the production and supply chain side of this specific industry. The thesis comes with full list of references that can you use to dig deeper into all the discussed topics. Here below are some links I recommend you to read. Other than the links listed here you might want to check also the Directory from the menu bar, from there you can find all my blog posts e.g about how to choose the best species to farm.

  • Thesis: Risk Management in High Scale insect farming: https://ilkkataponen.com/2015/05/20/thesis-supply-chain-risk-management-in-entomology-farms/
  • Dipterra-blog. There most professional insect rearing blog: http://www.dipterra.com/
  • Mass rearing of beneficial organisms- book:  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270274339_Mass_Production_of_Beneficial_Organisms_Invertebrates_and_Entomopathogens

Get connected with insect entrepreneurs. The largest database online with contact information can be found from this website, just click the “Entomology Company Database” from the menu bar. I also recommend that you will contact your local association of IFF companies, here are some links:

  • International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed http://www.ipiff.org
  • North American Edible Insect Coalition http://www.edibleinsectcoalition.org/
  • The ASEAN Food and Feed Insects’ Association http://affia.org/
  • The UK Network for Insects as Food & Feed https://woven-network.co.uk/

By getting connected you will get essential tips from more experienced people and you can team up to work on topics that you the concerns about (health of genetic pool, fighting horizontal integration issues etc).

Contact your local Food Safety Authority. In USA it is the FDA, in EU- level its EFSA. In other words the one that interprets the national laws regarding food and feed. They are there to serve you and they will tell you the status of insect food and feed in your environment. A nice collection of the legal status’ can be found here:  http://www.foodnavigator-asia.com/Policy/Exploring-the-legal-status-of-edible-insects-around-the-world

Stay up to date. The following links are for news sites and social media channels that keep you up to date of the latest news in the field.

  • 4ento is a news center for everything around the topic: http://4ento.com/
  • Robert Nathan Allen is the founder Little Herds- association. Follow him in Twitter for the latest especially in North America. https://twitter.com/RNAeatsbugs
  • Food Navigator is news center for Food & Beverage industry, follows closely also IFF- industry: http://www.foodnavigator.com/
  • All About Feed is similar to Food Navigator, just with the feed aspect: allaboutfeed.net
  • Facebook-group Food Insect Newsletter.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/EdibleInsects/

2016 Was a Successful Year!

It is the time of the year to look back and anticipate a little bit the future as well. The amount of visitors and pages viewed on this site more doubled even though I was able to contribute less on writing. The reason to the slowing pace of blog posting was that I started my current full-time job at Gold & Green Foods Ltd. G&G Foods is company in search for the perfect protein and so far we have brought one product to the market: Pulled Oats. If you are interested to learn more, see our website at http://www.goldandgreenfoods.com

Here below are some graphics and numbers from this blog. I am really happy Finland is not anymore the number one country from which the visitors are coming from (can’t say anymore its just my mom reading my posts). Numbers that I not did put here are the downloading rates of the files I offer: Patent database was downloaded 120 times, the company database 540 times.

Other than working at G&G Foods I did few consultation works and I gave few speeches, maybe most interesting one was Woven network’s event in Nottingham. Link to the speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V74_exxTGY&t=14s

Also, I published my thesis as audio book. I explained the publishing process in this blog: https://ilkkataponen.com/2016/05/08/how-i-created-and-published-an-audiobook/. What is crazy about this audio book is that in Audible, the most recognized audio book platform in the world, I am the most sold Finnish author with 34 books sold between April and November. What explains this status is that there pretty much aren’t any other Finnish books available there. That facts takes something out some of the fame, but anyway its a nice title, right?!

In the coming year I have already agreed to take part to one nice insect related publicity campaign here in Finland. I am also thinking of taking this blog more and more away only from insect-related topics towards the wider whole new-proteins, food security and climate change issue. Let’s see what happens!

Happy new year!

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The Entomology Industry is Entering a New Era

I have been updating the Entomology Company Database in this site now for 1,5 years and the list of active companies has been growing a month after a month until this summer. There was a two month break that I didn’t find a single new company and when I finally did find the summer’s first I had the feeling that there must be something happening in the background. I went through the complete list of the companies on 20th of August and this is what I found out:

25 companies had their status changed from active to  not active.

8 companies had their status changed from active to unknown.

Even though 25 up to 33 companies have left the industry it does not mean that the industry would have lost its potential, but it tells of loss of the biggest hype and arrival of realism. The ones with no real potential are moving on.

What is worth noticing is that of the 25 closed down companies only four were farming companies. This change is a step towards healthier structure of the industry. Before this change, and also still today there are very little raw material producers (beginning of the supply chain) compared the end product manufacturers and sellers (end of the supply chain).

Would be really interesting to know the reason for the companies to quit. Are the end product companies quitting mostly because of:

  1. Difficult regulatory environment?
  2. Challenges entering the markets with insect products?
  3. Because of the lack of supply in the raw material side?

Any idea about this? Please leave a comment!

Check out the latest update of the Entomology Company Database here: https://ilkkataponen.com/entomology-company-database/

How I created and published an audiobook

About one month ago my thesis Risk Management in the Supply Chains of Entomology farms was published as an audiobook in all major platforms like iTunes, Audiobooks.com and Audible. I am still waiting for the first numbers, but at least three people have told me they have bought it!

I got the idea from hearing multiple sources that “yeah the thesis sounds really interesting, but I do not have the time to read it”.. Well, no you have no excuse left!

Now when the project is happily over I though I should share some of the experienced to help you out as well to make your own audiobook from an existing, ready written document:

  1. Edit the book to fit the new format. In the case of a thesis academic references play a big role the document, but in the audiobook format they are simply useless: No one wants their listening pleasure to be interrupted all the time for a list of names and dates. In the beginning of the audiobook it is announced that the references have been removed, but are available accordingly in the written document. Second thing to modify is references to graphs and pictures in the written document, as obviously the listener cannot see them.
  2. Hire a professional narrator. I had access to professional recording gear, but even though I know English quite well, I am not a native speaker. I think I could have made a reasonable recording, but I think people would have lost the enjoyment of listening quite soon. One hour and 40 minutes is not a long audiobook, but it is really long time to listen if the narrator is not really good.  I used the Fiverr- service to find the narrator. I contacted three people who all seemed very friendly and professional. In the end I chose the person who answered me the first, and the result came out really nice. It really sounds like a real audiobook and the price was good as well.
  3. Use a publishing service. This advise is a not only an advise, but a must for all non-UK and non-USA based publishers. The main publishing platform is ACX that handles everything for iTunes, Amazon and Audible. They do not accept private uploads if the person does not have tax-ID in either in UK or USA. To go around this obstacle I contacted some publishing houses but found only one suitable one: Author’s Republic. They are a USA based company that offers similar service as Tunecore offers for bands and musicians: They will upload your copyright- materials to all agreed platforms and they will do all your paper work for you against a fee / portion of your royalty income. I can only say positive things about the arrangement I have with Author’s republic: Very fast and friendly service and my audio book was published in very short time.

You can purchase the audiobook behind the following links:

http://www.audiobooks.com/search/author/Ilkka%20Taponen

https://www.overdrive.com/creators/1120533/ilkka-taponen

http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_hp_tseft…

https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/11615148

The audiobook also available at iTunes, just search for “Ilkka Taponen”.

I am looking forward to hear your thoughts about the work!

Entomology Patent Database Analysis

Some of you might have already noticed that I have opened a new tab to my page called “Entomology Patent Database”. This is a one more database project I have, this time I have collected insect rearing related patents to a file, analyzed them and put them into the right category.

The study of patents in an industry is one of the key tools to collect Competitive Intelligence, the topic I wrote about in my previous blog post. Looking at the patents you can learn many things: On what species are companies focusing on, what techniques they are using and how they feed their insects? Also by looking at the big data you can learn from which countries, companies and universities the patents are coming from and by looking at the publishing year you can see if the pace of new patents coming up is increasing or decreasing. Maybe one might also want to look for individuals behind patents for hiring purposes?

Here are some numbers from the database, any surprises for you? At the moment the database consists of 400 patents.

258 of them were originally filed in in China, 73 are originated in USA.

173 are granted patents, 227 are patent applications.

The patents are originating from 286 different companies, organizations and individuals.

36 of the patents were published in years 2015-2016, 109 in years 2013-2014.

79 different species are individually mentioned in the patents. 118 are related to more than one species. 26 patents are focusing only on Black soldier fly.

In the database there are five categories of patents: Methods (92), Apparatus (172), Insect feed (83), Separation / Collection (43) and Processing (67).

Before starting to study the patents, I did not realize that there is so big concentration of patents in China. USA being one of the main countries making patents to this industry (or almost any other industry) is no surprise. What surprised me as well was that so big number of patent applicants have applied only for one patent. The 400 patents have 286 different sources, giving the very low average of 1,4 patents per applicant. Though, must be noted that in the database for example a company A+ Individual B is considered to be different applicant as the company A alone.

Here are some of the most interesting patents in my opinion:

“Industrial scale farming apparatus for mealworm”  from China, 2014.

“A fast method of forming a fly pupae” from China, 2014.

“Antropod egg harvesting method and device” from USA, 2014.

“Continuous feeding device and harvesting of larvae of diptera insects” from Spain, 2015

” Automated insect breeding system” from Singapore, 2010.

This database is not available on my website, but if you are interested, more information is available at https://ilkkataponen.com/entomology-patent-database/ or just click on the top menu for Entomology Patent Database.

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