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