There’s a lot of hype around insects as a healthy, sustainable source of protein, but are American consumers really interested? The answer seems to be a resounding yes.
We’re often asked our opinion on the biggest challenge facing the nascent food insect sector. The expectation is that we’ll mention one thing: the struggle to convince Americans to eat bugs.
It’s received wisdom that consumers are closed-minded, “disgusted” by bugs and unwilling to try new things, and a chorus of sensationalist articles have repeated the obvious fact that most Westerners have yet to try insect-based foods. It’s hardly surprising, since insect products are only beginning to make their way onto supermarket shelves!
Since starting Tiny Farms, we’ve continually found these claims contradicted by our experience. Far from needing convincing, a huge share of the people we meet - from suburban mums to fitness freaks, regular diners to chefs, and farmers to food-tech investors - are thrilled about the chance to try a new ingredient. The phenomenal popularity of culinary exploration shows, like Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown, shows that Western audiences are hungry for new ideas, and our intuition is that we’re barely scratching the surface of demand.
Now, our intuition has been quantified by genuine research. San Francisco-based market research firm Blueshift Research have added insect-based foods to their monthly “trends tracker” study, an ongoing survey of a demographically representative sample of over a thousand US consumers. Alongside consumer opinions on technology, sustainability and media consumption, they’re collecting data on whether people want to eat bugs.
Their research has shown that roughly one-third of respondents rate themselves likely to buy an insect-based product. Not only do 32% of consumers want to eat bugs, but the rate is increasing quarter to quarter. They’ve found that insects are particularly popular among those ages 30 to 44, and those making between $25,000 to $49,999 or more than $150,000. This comes as a huge shock to those who see insects as a “poverty food”, impossibly beyond Western palates, or a novelty appealing only to the young and adventurous.
Three years of working on the frontlines of entomophagy mean that we’re not surprised by these results, but it’s still exciting to see the numbers. It really validates the amazing work being done by the consumer-facing pioneers in our sector. The biggest challenge in our industry remains the following: increasing production at a rate that can keep pace with rapidly growing demand. We’re excited to be working at the forefront of this space.
Co-founder & CEO, Tiny Farms Inc.
It’s amazing that we’re already a month into 2015, and it is shaping up to be a very exciting year for the ento industry!
Right now in February 2015 there are dozens of restaurants around the country experimenting with insects on their menus - from culinary hubs like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City to more conservatively palated Austin TX, and Youngstown OH. Food startups Exo, Chapul, Hopper Foods, and Bitty Foods are ramping up production of their cricket flour energy bars and baked goods and growing their brick-and-mortar distribution networks in addition to serving up online sales. Exo’s bars are even slated to be included in a snack box served on JetBlue Airlines flights. Boston based Six Foods is preparing to launch their cricket chips, and dozens more new companies are developing products, business plans and marketing strategies to serve edible insects to the Western masses. In Europe, Belgium has approved the sale of insect based products to consumers, and mealworm based meatballs and "chicken" nuggets are available in stores.
As that demand grows, the supply chain is working to keep up. 2014 saw the debut of Next Millenium Farms in Ontario Canada, Big Cricket Farms launch in Youngstown Ohio, and Aspire Food Group’s merger with World Ento to launch a cricket farming operation in Austin Texas, while All Things Bugs in Georgia has landed a valuable Phase II SBIR grant to further development of their cricket powder and further research food safety. Meanwhile we’ve heard that Next Millenium Farms has landed new investment to grow their operation, and we've heard from many more individuals and teams who are excited to become cricket farmers and help rise the tide of this growing industry.
2015 is set to be a pivotal year for our industry as the supply chain develops to support national distribution of products, and consumers begin to see cricket based products on brick and mortar shelves in their own towns. Food trendologists have announced that edible insects are “in”, and food professionals are scrambling to learn more so they can keep up with the movement.
Here at Tiny Farms Inc., we also have some very exciting developments in the pipeline for 2015, and we look forward to sharing more details in the near future.
Get ready for the year of the Cricket!
This week, after thirteen years, there is a new World Trade Center in New York City.
Built on the site of a horror that redefined America’s relationship with the world, One World Trade Center makes a powerful statement. It rises up from what once was - and could have remained - the sullen graveyard of three thousand people. Rejecting the grip of misery and fear, Lower Manhattan was rebuilt. One World Trade Center is an emblem: not for the suffering of thousands, but the great, driving optimism at the heart of human culture.
On raw numbers the new building doesn’t beat its predecessors. To begin with, there’s just one tower where there used to be two. One World Trade Center holds 2.6 million square feet of offices space; the combined Twin Towers held 7.6. It has 104 floors, where the originals had 110. At $3.9 billion, it cost more 2014-adjusted dollars than the original’s $2.3, and it’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere - but not the entire world.
Take a deeper look, though, and things get impressive. Hardened against another attack, the building’s concrete core resists fire and explosives and its ventilation system can filter out chemical and biological weapons. Designed by a society that cares more about efficiency, much of the new tower is made from recycled materials. Its windows are made with an ultra-clear glass that reduce the power required for lighting. The building will collect and recycle rainwater, which it uses for cooling. A built-in 4.8MW fuel cell system, the world’s largest, generates power and steam for heating - with the rest of its energy coming from renewables. It’s one of the most advanced, efficient structures ever designed.
The new tower stands as proof that progress isn’t always a straight line; sometimes the next step forward comes as part of the recovery from a terrible setback.
In our world, millions of people go hungry every day. Without new ways to produce food, things are going to get worse as our population grows and the climate goes haywire. Scientists, and organizations like the UN, have called for help from entrepreneurs. In response, inventors are figuring out new ways to make the food on your plate cheaper while keeping it healthy and delicious.
Our company, Tiny Farms, is building the infrastructure for large scale insect farming. We’re farming insects because they’re recognized around the world as a fantastic, delicious type of food, and because they’re more efficient to produce than traditional meat.
In terms of the potential for human suffering, global food shortage is more devastating than any world war. The World Trade Center attack killed nearly three thousand people in a terrible act of violence, but undernutrition kills almost 8,500 children every single day. As a stimulus for new technology it’s motivating a huge amount of work, from farmed insects to plant-based eggs and lab-grown meat.
While many people are excited about the transformative power of new types of food, there is a vocal subset of the population who claim to prefer business as usual. Grievances range from the subtle to the zany. Some worry that admitting we’re not able to feed the world with our existing agricultural system is somehow a proclamation of civilization’s decline. Others spin wild conspiracies; that new food companies are plotting with the government to send all their steaks to Africa and feed Americans on bugs.
A recent PBS photo essay documents urban farming in post-industrial West Virginia. In a region that was once home to heavy manufacturing, new urban farms are proving a regenerative force in towns that have lost much of their population to a changing economy. Industry moved away years ago, and land that has been derelict for decades is finding a new use as productive, profitable farmland.
While the article is full of positive quotes from residents, some comments underneath reflect typical Internet cynicism - people claiming that the replacement of factories with productive farmland represents a step backwards for “progress”.
Ignoring the fact that these sites have been empty for years, a commenter suggests that factories are being replaced by farms, as if we’re moving backwards from industrialization to a pastoral economy. Critics are conflating the wound with the band-aid; that the historic loss of middle class industrial jobs in the US heartland was somehow caused by these efforts to restore local pride.
We see the same reaction from people hearing about new types of food. Seemingly blind to the world’s desperate need for better nutrition - a need that has driven agricultural innovation since the dawn of mankind - they act like food technology is actively creating the problems it is trying to fix. Threatened by the thought that their lifestyle might change as the global economy shifts, they blame the folks offering solutions rather than the underlying cause.
As disheartening as it may be, in a world where macroeconomic cause and effect can be difficult to resolve, it’s understandable when people blame the solution. As entrepreneurs, it’s our job to help clarify the situation and make sure the public knows we’re doing the right thing.
Luckily for us, we’re doing something amazing. We just have to focus on the goal: providing plentiful nutrition for everybody in the world and making it possible for everybody to enjoy healthy food, not just a lucky few. We aren’t taking away anyone’s steak; we’re inventing new ways to give people the foods they love to eat. The more productive we are, the cheaper your steak will remain.
As urban farms help reconnect the West with the land that produces our food, and advances in technology and engineering make it possible for the rest of the world to share the bounty we’ve enjoyed this past century, we’re not moving backwards. We’re rebuilding that tower - often amongst the tragic remnants of the structures that existed before - but we’re building it stronger, safer, and more robust. We’re forging an industry that won’t rust away, a food system that provides for billions, and a world that can focus on culture and creation, not stark survival against the odds.
With the news filled with fear and loathing, it’s easy to miss the facts: global hunger is at its lowest level in history, deaths from war have similarly fallen and while Western inequality is rising, global inequality and resulting poverty has been drastically reduced. Despite the threats we face, I’m excited and optimistic for the next hundred years. I hope that you are, too.
-- Daniel Imrie-Situnayake, co-founder of Tiny Farms
Post by Joris Baars
On September, 20th, Tiny Farms participated in an annual local awareness event (ZimbabWeCare) put on by the JF Kapnek Trust - an organization providing pediatric aid to Zimbabwe. People could get some information about edible insects and a free taste of some insects. We thought it would be a nice experiment to see how many people would actually taste an insect, so we decided to keep track of this during the event.
We served free samples of 3 different flavoured crickets: salted, curried and soy-sauce. The charity event attracted mostly children with their parents. This gave a good opportunity to see the difference between adults and children tasting a cricket. Our findings are put in the table below.
What is interesting to see is that the percentage of children who tried a cricket is 68% and the percentage of adults who tried a cricket is only 30%. What we often saw was that a group of children stimulated each other, the phrase “If you do it, I will do it” came by very often which resulted in a snowball effect of children trying a cricket.
Many adults showed a lot of interest in edible insects but the border to actually grab one and taste it was in many cases too high. However, often the adults and children who showed interested, but found the border to high, returned and still tasted a cricket. Their change in behaviour was often explained by “my friend said it was good” or “my son tried one, now I have to try it to”.
The overall opinion about the taste was rather good and “not so bad as I expected”. The word “Nice!” came by very often, and some children even came back 2 or 3 times to get more.
Around 150 people attended the event and most of them came by our table, with over 50% trying the crickets. At this rate things are looking pretty good for acceptance of insect protein.
Last week we had the privilege of attending and presenting at the first Eating Innovation Conference, organized by Alimentary Initiatives and the Future Food Salon group and held at the Space For Life in Montreal, QC. We spent three very full and enriching days attending presentations and round tables with fellow entrepreneurs, academic researchers, veteran pioneers, and enthusiastic individuals, punctuated by introductions and conversation during breaks.
There was awesome art:
And cool new products on display! Like this home-scale cricket reactor from Third Millenium Farming called CircleChirp
We met old and new friends, tried exciting new food products from Montreal and France, and on the final night experienced a full 9 course bug banquet featuring myriad preparations of crickets (grown by our friends at Big Cricket Farms in Ohio) as well as chapulines and gusano salt imported from Mexico. They had an amazing photographer, and a full gallery is available here!
Our co-founders Jena and Andrew had the honor of presenting the third day's morning plenary session. They talked about business innovation through the lens of Silicon Valley, and presented an overview of startup funding options before opening up the session to a general strategy discussion where valuable questions were posed and insight shared by the audience. We're posting their presentation slides along with their notes below for everyone to access. We have also launched a forum topic for conversation spinning off of this topic, and we hope that anyone with questions or expertise will participate here:
Beyond the success of the conference itself (thanks to the indefatigable organizers), the very fact that this conference took place is a momentous event for those of us working day in and day out to build a viable edible insect industry. It is amazing and gratifying that our emerging field has now garnered enough interest in 2014 to warrant both a fully devoted academic conference in Europe (Insects to Feed the World) and a devoted interdisciplinary Art, Science and Business conference here in North America. We're seeing more than a flash in the pan here - we're seeing a real movement developing.
We're happy to announce that we are releasing an initial BETA version of the Open Bug Farm Mealworm Farm Kit, now available from our online store!
If you've been thinking about growing some bugs, whether for cooking and eating or feeding to chickens or reptiles, Open Bug Farm is the best way to start! Be one of the first to try out the new kit and contribute back to our growing field of knowledge. Your feedback will be instrumental in shaping the evolution of Open Bug Farm!
The Mealworm Farm Kit is designed to provide a harvest of up to 1kg of mealworms per month - enough for eight 1/4 pound mealworm burger patties :) Of course, you're free to produce less than this, or you can extend it with extra Mealworm Grow Bags. You can easily grow enough to sell or give to friends. To see how it all works, check out the instructions on our Wiki.
The complete kit costs $154, including Ripstop Nylon covering for climate and dust control, but you can get started growing bugs for just $22 with a single MealwormGrow Bag. Every purchase helps our team take Open Bug Farmfurther. That said, you can build it all yourself for free - we'll be making the plans available on our Bug Farming Wiki over the coming weeks.
Everything has been developed with a lot of input from our awesome community, but this is only the beginning. The entire kit is open source, meaning the designs will be available for anyone to use, for free. You can build your own components, make improvements and share what you learn with fellow farmers.
We're incredibly excited about what this means for the future of bug farming! We know that by putting the means of production in the hands of people all around the world - not by locking away secrets with patents and lawsuits - we can all work as a team to help feed the world.
Come be a part of something amazing!
Co-founder, Tiny Farms
p.s. We were featured by Wired Magazine on Monday - check out why they think open source is the future of farming, and how Open Bug Farm could help make all the difference!
It’s just a month into 2014 and there is a lot going on in the world of edible insects right now. In the last half year we’ve seen several new companies developing to serve consumer products based on edible insects, including Exo, Bitty, and Six Foods joining the ranks of Chapul and Don Bugito. Our friends at World Ento have broken new ground completing their HACCP documentation - the first HACCP we are aware of in the United States for edible insects and a crucial piece of documentation for long term regulatory acceptance of their business model. A third incarnation of the Future Food Salon is planned in Austin, TX in just a few weeks, featuring almost all the big names in bugs, and we even have a panel discussion on edible insects at this year’s SXSW Interactive. Here at Tiny Farms we’ve been receiving a hugely positive response to our own current project - Open Bug Farm - where we are working to develop an open source bug farming kit to enable folks to start farming their own insects. With all this great stuff happening, we think it’s worth taking a minute to consider some of the most important players in this emerging industry, the advocates.
Sometimes new industries and markets are born as the brainchildren of existing industry powers. Large established entities undertake extensive (and expensive) marketing and advocacy programs to cultivate consumer acceptance. Other times new industries emerge from a more grassroots level, from individuals who simply care enough to build the future they want to see and live in. Here in the West, the emerging edible insects industry falls squarely in the second category. In addition to a few university backed projects and with moral support from the UNFAO, we have a small group of individuals and companies who strongly believe there’s a beneficial and profitable future in edible insects. We all know it’s a good idea, the hard part is convincing everyone else.
This is where advocates come in. On the one hand, every player in this space is an industry advocate. We all give interviews and write articles explaining the benefits of eating insects. The consumer products companies in particular have to work hard to carry the message to their target consumers. However for those of us developing for-profit businesses, we can only focus a limited amount of time and energy on advocacy as we also work to develop our products and those efforts usually have to focus on the realm of our own product offering. The industry advocates on the other hand are not so encumbered. Like self-appointed guardian angels they seem to be tirelessly available to answer journalists, provide tastings, speak to children's’ classes, and post witty comments on social media.
We are extremely lucky to be working in an ecosystem that includes a few passionate individuals who have taken up this cause and are doing their damnedest to see it succeed. Some, like David Gracer of Small Stock Foods and The Bug Chef David George Gordon have been working at this for years. Daniella Martin has cheerfully and eloquently espoused the benefits of insect eating along with some tasty recipes on her Girl Meets Bug blog, and will soon have a book on shelves explaining this whole phenomena to the lay person with, I am sure, plenty of friendly encouragement to try it out themselves. Meanwhile newer faces like Little Herds out of Austin Texas have jumped in with two feet. Little Herds, now the first 501c non-profit insect advocacy group, has been organizing tastings, recruiting chefs to experiment with bugs, presenting to kids and much more since they got their start.
These efforts are grassroots, non partisan, unentangled, and just plain awesome. The benefits to us businesses getting started in this space are generally intangible but also invaluable, and it’s important for us to keep in mind and support these advocates in whatever ways we can. Indeed, anyone who wants to see the edible insect industry grow and anyone who is even considering developing a business in this space owes a debt of gratitude to these fine folks.
Right now our friends at Little Herds are raising money for their 2014 endeavors to bring more bugs to more people. We love what they do, and we think that everyone should take a minute to read about their work and consider supporting their cause, even with just a few dollars. Check out their campaign on Start Something Good here http://bit.ly/1hyzPbS
This year is off to an exciting start, we’re looking forward to seeing where it goes from here!
Co-Founder, Tiny Farms
It was Marc Andreessen who famously claimed that software is eating the world.
He was referring to the fact that computer technology is transforming more and more industries, the inevitable end result being a completely connected world.
It certainly looks to be true: software technology is revolutionizing everything, from the way we shop to the way the things we buy are made. The computers and apps we use every day are the most visible component, but behind the scenes, new software tools are helping all sorts of companies build better products more cheaply.
Most new technologies tend to spread fast, but there's a big secret behind the blistering speed of technological progress in recent years. It's something called Open Source, and it's part of what powers everything from your cell phone to some satellites in space.
Since the birth of the patent, engineers and producers have tried hard to prevent others from getting rich off their ideas. It makes intuitive sense - if you spent the time and effort to develop a new invention, why should other people reap the benefits?
But over the last century, a rebellion has been brewing. Rather than locking discoveries away, companies and individuals are choosing to share their technology with others. And not necessarily out of a sense of altruism or charity. Starting with the major US auto manufacturers, companies have begun to realize that by sharing the costs of research they could achieve far greater things.
The concept called Open Source began in the software world. A lot of early programmers were from academia, where collaboration and sharing is a part of everyday life. They brought this approach to their new endeavors, sharing the source code of their programs to help one another build more sophisticated software. Source code is just letters and numbers, so it's easy to share and change.
From humble beginnings in research labs, the idea of collaborative sharing has spread to power a huge part of the technology we use today. Most of the websites you use are made from Open Source tools, built incrementally by thousands of people across the world. Rather than a single company being responsible for designing the tools and fixing their faults, the burden is spread over many contributors, some working within large companies while others work as individuals.
By harnessing the power of collaboration, Open Source software is able to adapt and grow at a rate that far outstrips its "closed" equivalents. This is part of the reason why software can "eat the world" - there are millions of programmers writing billions of programs, and they're all helping one another improve.
At Tiny Farms, we've recently announced Open Bug Farm. It's a project to design a home scale insect farming kit that will allow anyone to start producing edible bugs. We've chosen to make it Open Source from the beginning. Farms are physical, not just software - so as well as source code for any software components, we will also be sharing the plans and blueprints needed to build the farm, as well as the processes required to produce bugs.
By releasing the plans as Open Source, we guarantee that anyone in the world will be able to build a kit from raw materials, whether or not they can buy one from us. We open the doors to development and evolution from people outside of our company, meaning the farm's technology will improve at the speed of thought and adapt to any situation. And not least, we allow ordinary people to contribute to the development of entomophagy - the use of insects for food - by directly applying their skills.
Open Source is just another example of our trend towards a more distributed world. Instead of being locked up within monolithic corporations, important work - whether research or production - is being spread across entire communities. Software is just the beginning.
Imagine a world in which food and products are produced in smaller facilities, closer to where they are consumed, using advanced technology that's available for free. With our modern tools, we can transform industries to use distributed production whilst maintaining the quality and homogeneity consumers expect. By removing the fragility inherent in a centralized model, we reduce the impact of things like food contamination and price manipulation, whilst democratizing production and promoting better understanding of its impact on our lives.
While companies like Monsanto are working to lock down the technology behind food production, using scarcity and hunger as a tool to make money, a new wave of innovators is fighting back. By applying the principles that helped software eat the world, we can empower our farmers to feed it.
Co-founder, Tiny Farms
It has been a while since we’ve posted any updates about what we’ve been up to here at Tiny Farms, but rest assured we’ve been busy. Now we are excited to announce our latest project! Here’s an introduction to what’s coming up, and we will have lots more to share in the coming weeks and months.
Over the the last year we have encountered two major trends in the fledgling edible insect industry:
1. People are developing awesome consumer friendly food products, but cannot find a reliable supply of food grade insects.
2. Lots of people are interested in getting started farming insects for food and feed, but they don’t know where to start and have a hard time finding good information about how to go about it. We get questions about both of these every single day!
The solution to the foodies’ problem is obvious - they just need more people farming insects. However, would-be farmers have a much tougher situation figuring out how to step up and start filling that demand.
We realized that we could make the biggest impact by providing a bridge to get interested folks actively raising insects, building the experience they’ll need to scale up to larger operations.
To that end, we are proud to announce: Open Bug Farm.
Introducing Open Bug Farm
Open Bug Farm is a project to create an out-of-the-box, home scale insect farming kit that will allow anyone to start building their own herd of edible bugs.
The farm kit will be entirely open source, with the goal that anyone in the world will be able to build their own farm from readily available materials. As well as the blueprints, the farming processes and control and monitoring technology will also be open source, enabling anyone with access to the information to start growing bugs, collecting data and contributing their learning back to the community.
To make it easy to get started, we'll be making pre-sourced kits available to buy directly. It's our hope that a diverse community of hobbyists and researchers will advance the technology, readying it for deployment where it will make the biggest impact. Imagine an entrepreneur in Africa or Southeast Asia having free access to plans that will enable them to start their own farming business, using "battle-tested" techniques developed by a global community. It's a power that has driven major innovations, from the Linux operating system to the Arduino, applied to a new kind of agriculture.
To deliver the best possible solution, we’re taking a lesson from the technology industry. We know that design is an evolutionary process, and that teams of people working together and openly sharing information are able to develop the most innovative solutions. So instead of building a static, closed product and selling it as is, we are working to create an ecosystem of product, knowledge, community, and service.
With greater detail below, each Open Bug Farm kit will include:
- All the basic equipment to house and care for the insects
- Instructions and background information to maintain a healthy productive population
- Membership to an active community, with the tools to share information
- Online farm management tools, to maintain records and track progress
We will be offering the complete kits for sale, with all the equipment ready to “plug and play”. However, a key goal of the project is that all the materials required should be low cost and readily available worldwide, so DIY farmers can easily build equipment for themselves.
Rather than just shipping a box of parts, we are working to build a community. We will be maintaining a web based community platform so that farmers can meet, share experiences, and discuss improvements to the design. By working as a giant team, continuously evolving the design, we'll be able to optimize production efficiency much faster than we could in isolation. The stream of new design ideas and insights will benefit everyone.
In addition to shipping each kit with a detailed instruction manual, farmers will have access to a living knowledge base where we are carefully compiling and organizing the results of the community's research and experience raising insects. As a set of living documents, the knowledge base will be kept up to date with our own latest findings and insights from the community, creating a resource whose value will grow continuously.
To support our farmers, we are building a web based farm management system where farmers can track activity, keep records, and analyze and compare the data they collect while running their farm. Pre-built kits will include access to this system, and DIY kit builders will be able to sign up. We will be launching with a base set of features informed by our own experience raising insects, and going forward our development will be driven by what the community needs.
Interested? Let us know!
We are really excited about the potential for this project, and we look forward to hearing from anyone interested in taking part! Whether you're a prospective farmer, an educator or researcher, or someone with a passion for sustainable tech, we'd love for you to take part.
If you would like to be kept up to date about the kits, just let us know your email in the form below. Also stay tuned because we’ll be posting more details and discussion about the project soon.
For more information, see our homepage, and check out this video!
Right now is an exciting time to be involved in the development of the edible insect industry. In the month since the United Nations’ FAO report on edible insects, nearly every major media outlet has run stories on the potential benefits of entomophagy. An exhaustive and ever growing list of news stories, articles, and interviews is being maintained by Ana C. Day in two Scoop.it lists: Entomophagy: Edible Insects and the Future of Food and Protein Alternatives: Insects as Mini-Livestock. Her thumb on the media pulse provides an invaluable resource to those of us working to develop this industry and push it forward. These sort of carefully maintained repositories of relevant information allow groups like us to stay informed on the movements and developments of other groups working in the same space – enabling us to reach out, network, and build on each others’ progress instead of plugging away in the dark as individuals reinventing each others’ wheels.
Indeed the flow of information is the driver of humanity’s progress in a most fundamental way and it is amazing to consider this fact in historical context. It is our capacity for language and communication that enabled our early ancestors to build on each others’ knowledge, improving their understanding of their world and developing their technology over generations. There are a few key points in the history of man that are widely considered revolutionary towards enabling our development and ascent to be the dominant species on Earth. The first is the acquisition of spoken language that allowed oral traditions and early societal development. The next great milestone was the invention of writing which extended the capacity of human cognition beyond the constraints of natural memory. Once knowledge could be off-loaded into the world we could delve into far more abstract pursuits, recording our findings as guideposts to subsequent investigators, who could push ever further in pursuit of knowledge. Then, thousands of years later, we invented the printing press. All of a sudden we were no longer just recording knowledge but capable of sharing it broadly. Since the invention of printing, human progress has been growing on an exponential track. Most recently, with the introduction of the internet and subsequent sharing platforms like e-mail, Wikipedia, Twitter, and Facebook, our ability to collaborate and progress knowledge has entered new dimensions. In fact, as a fun exercise, try thinking of a really good idea, any really good idea. Then spend some time on Google. Chances are you will find someone already working on the same thing or something quite similar. That is extraordinary because now you can potentially connect with that person, share your own perspective on the project, work on it with them, and in the end bring the idea to fruition faster and in a more developed state than you ever could have alone. In many ways it is like a super power for our whole species. As a result, our current capacity and infrastructure for communication offers an unprecedented opportunity to develop the technology and processes for a sustainable and economically viable edible insect industry in an incredibly short amount of time.
So enough of the context and on to the point. This early stage but growing edible insect industry needs information hubs. It is likely that anyone reading this post has spent some time researching entomophagy. It is likely you have had a hard time finding all the information you wanted in one place. There are some great resources out there, like Ana C. Day’s Scoop.it lists mentioned above, and other resources like Daniella Martin’s amazing blog Girl Meets Bug and a handful of facebook groups like David Gracer’s Food Insect Newsletter and Paul Landkamer’s Missouri Entomophagy. However even these key sources of information are largely limited by their platforms. Individually maintained resources will not be able to keep up with the information demands as the industry really begins to take off, and platforms like Facebook are very useful for discussion, but serve poorly as knowledge repositories. At the moment a wiki is the best available platform for the kind of information hub the edible insect industry needs.
Wikis are extremely powerful and extremely simple. Conceptually they are just a collection of searchable interlinked documents that can be edited by anyone. In practice you can get hugely powerful resources like Wikipedia. The key is the fact that they can be edited by anyone, which allows everyone involved in the space to pool their knowledge and findings in a single repository that is searchable by anyone. It takes a lot of work to populate a wiki, but when they gain a critical mass of contributors, they are able to supersede individually maintained websites and blogs as sources of information.
With all this in mind we have set up a wiki using the MediaWiki platform (the same software used by Wikipedia). Over the coming months we are committing time and manpower to develop and begin populating this resource. As it grows, we hope that more people will join on as contributors, sharing their knowledge and experience with the rest of the world. Indeed consider this an open invitation to contribute – the wiki is currently being hosted at wiki.entoculture.org [EDIT - Due to spam attacks, the entoculture wiki has been removed for the time being. However we're still sharing info! Check out the forum for our new Open Bug Farm project www.openbugfarm.com/forum]. We are excited about the potential of this resource and hope you keep checking back as it develops, and even contribute to its growth.
Co-Founder, Tiny Farms