Tasty, edible crickets may solve the impending food crisis

The planet must produce more food in the next four decades than all farmers in history have harvested over the past 8,000 years. With the global population set to reach 10 billion by 2050, many scientists have come to the consensus that we’re going to enter a desperate world food shortage very soon if we don’t make some changes.

I’ll be honest, for an American under the age of 80 (like me), it’s hard to imagine the concept of food rationing. Any time of day, I can walk three blocks in any direction and feed myself until I’m gorged. And for the past half-century, the developed world has really only known a food surplus. But this fact could be quickly shifting.

Climate change, urbanization, and soil degradation is shrinking the availability of arable land, according to the World Economic Forum. Add water shortages, pollution, and worsening inequality into the mix and the implications are stark.

Joseph Hincks, Time

This means that scientists and farmers alike are tasked with finding creative solutions. Innovative farming hubs, such as the Food Valley at the Netherland’s Wageningen University & Research, show how farms of the future will use indoor vertical farming techniques to make farming more efficient.

We’re aware that most food production is inefficient. Another way of looking at the problem, though, is that the inefficient farming is dependent on what we choose to eat. For instance, the animal farming necessary to satisfy our taste for meat takes a massive toll on our resources.

A kilogram of beef is about 30-times more demanding on the environment than a kilogram of plant protein. For a sustainable future, I suspect that quite radical change to our diets is needed.

Joseph Hincks, Time

The obvious solution is to scale back our consumption of meat and the need for animal farming would decline. This means consuming our protein from a different source.

One of the most compelling alternatives is Soylent which manufactures meal supplements that cover all of one’s dietary needs – turning optimal nutrition into three shakes a day. It’s a fascinating community of die-hard fans that I’d even compare to the early Apple craze.

An emerging (and far less palatable) diet is eating insects as a main source of protein. No, seriously. It’s a theory that’s not all that off-base.

Two billion people in the world eat insects as a part of their normal diet, approximately the number that owned a smartphone last year.

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Tiny farms is one company that is making a big bet on crickets to be used a reliable source of protein. Right now, they largely produce the crickets for use in pet food, but there’s no reason spice-fried crickets can’t take off with humans.

Edible insects isn’t a popular concept in the US today. Currently, the estimated market value of edible insects amounts to $406M USD and is forecasted to increase to about $1.2B USD by 2023. All we need is a Gatorade-like product for edible insects to arise and this forecast above will be vastly surpassed.

It’s evident that we cannot go on producing and eating food the way we do. The solutions are present, but will only take place when we are ready to change as a culture.

I have faith that the growing “food conscious” movement will spark this change. It could be any of the Netflix documentaries detailing the ugly side of factory farms. It could be a TED talk that reverberates across the globe.

One generation can create massive cultural change. And dammit if I have to eat a cricket to save the planet, then pass the Sriracha because I’m going in.

Would you eat crickets?