THE HAGUE – With a population that continues to grow, the world could find itself without enough food for everyone. But a Costa Rican startup is coming up with solutions to this problem that involve using insects to make flour and crickets to make cookies and ice cream, an expert has told EFE.
For CRIC, insects are “the food of the future” as they are the world’s most common species, consume 2,000 times less water, take up 25 times less space, require 12 times less food and generate 100 times fewer greenhouse gases than the livestock industry, according to nutritionist Daniela Arias.
Compared to other meats that lack certain nutrients, insects have protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals as well as sources of calcium, which makes them a “superfood,” according to the startup.
The company, which has a farm of edible insects, is using these creatures to come up with healthy and sustainable solutions for the future and is currently working to bring powdered crickets to the market as a raw ingredient to use in cooking.
Under the slogan “we’re saving the world, we’re eating insects,” Arias and her partner Alejandro Ortega have managed to officially register crickets as a “raw material,” allowing them to place the product in other countries from Costa Rica, which has a vast variety of insects available.
CRIC is also starting to work with other insects, like beetle larvae or grasshoppers, in order to “create other products, not necessarily for the food industry,” but as substitutes for plastic developed from biopolymers, using individual insects “in the most efficient way and for a specific use.”
The breeding process is the most important factor, according to the nutritionist, as it determines whether a solution is sustainable and healthy for the environment. So the “most critical” factor is guaranteeing that the production of insects is of the best quality and efficiency as possible, with the aim of including them “in a circular economy.”
At the same time, it’s important to guarantee a continuous flow of insects, Arias says, and for a company like CRIC that is just starting out, there is a need to “sacrifice clients in order to maintain production and meet the requests of others.”
The company’s main clients are in Mexico and in Costa Rica “we’ve had clients like companies that make cookies or other products, even cricket ice cream,” Arias says between laughs, adding that nobody would say they prefer insect flavor over chocolate.
The insects reproduce every seven weeks and if they aren’t killed they multiply by 10, which makes the whole process scalable.
CRIC has clients in Mexico and Costa Rica, and is associated with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, where it receives important strategic support that Arias wants to harness in order to take root in Europe, using Amsterdam for its distributions center.
They don’t plan to move their headquarters away from Central America or the Caribbean islands because “the climate, humidity and temperature allow insect production to take place in the most efficient way, with less costs and resources like electricity, allowing the insects to feel in their natural habitat.”
Arias discovered this world after finishing her degree when she enrolled in a course about the relationship between nutrients and arthropods, a family that includes everything from spiders to scorpions and seafood.
She realized that insects could be a solution to global problems and presented “a good business opportunity” because by 2050 the world population will have gone from 7 billion to 9.8 billion, concentrated in Asia (52 percent) and Africa (21 percent), according to United Nations predictions.
This boom could generate malnutrition problems as well as chronic diseases provoked by deficiencies in proteins and other nutrients.