If crickets — which have huge traction from a nutrition and sustainability perspective — are going to make meaningful space in the alternative protein arena, two things must happen before you even start a conversation about consumer education, said COO Gabi Mott: Costs must go down and costs must be reduced. Consistent and high-quality raw material supply is increasing, the two motivating factors behind it Aspirenew factory.
“I would say we could almost see a significant drop in price [once the multi-million-dollar facility is up and running] Although the production costs of any livestock operation are currently on the rise, from the cost of steel to shipping to animal feed, we are all in something of a hyperinflationary cycle,” Tell FoodNavigator-USA.
Laying chicken and eggs…
He said while backing awayAnd “There has always been a problem of chicken and eggs in the human food industry. No large CPG company will incorporate bugs because the cost is too high and the supply chain is too unpredictable, and no one will invest in building a strong supply chain if no one is buying it.
“We were very fortunate to find some really important partners who were willing to commit to buying the majority of the process production in Canada before we got going. So the bulk of it would go to the pet food company, but that would open up the human market as well.”
he added: “If you look at the companies that failed to make those human food products [using edible insects]There were a host of variables, but the cost and unexpected offer were the real challenge.
“If you go into retail, and all of a sudden you can’t fill the shelves, they give that space to someone else and they won’t invite you back, so it’s a very risky place to start a CPG without a reliable, dedicated supply chain. Once we go into business, we will be able to dedicate a specific amount of our production To innovate in human food, the entrepreneurs, and really help them get products to market.”
The basics of edible insects are strong, says Gabe Mott, COO of Aspire Food Group: Eating insects isn’t crazy. In fact, it’s not surprising, if you take a more global perspective, he notes, given that more than two billion people eat insects in 80% of countries around the world, from locusts and ants in Mexico to fried locusts in Thailand, and caterpillars. in Africa and water bugs in China.
Cricket Powder (Whole Ground Crickets) is a whole food ingredient that is low in fat but rich in protein (60-70%), calcium, iron, omega-3 and vitamin B12.
Image credit: GettyImages-sirichai-raksue
Agriculture and production are now the only focus after selling the EXO brand
Pioneer in edible insects in the United States, Austin, Texas I aspirein 2012 by five MBA students from McGill University on a mission to advance efficiency in insect breeding. Six years later, I acquired EXOConsumer brand, which manufactures cricket bars and high protein powders Recently sold to Hoppy Planet FoodsSo she can focus 100% of her efforts on farming and production.
Today, much of Aspire’s production from its Texas plant still goes to the EXO brand, but it also supplies bulk cricket powder (well-ground whole crickets) to other human and pet food companies, and nutrient-rich crickets. rubbish(cricket feces, shed exoskeletons, feed waste), which serve as compost, soil supplement, and plant protector.
“We want to give cockroaches the best sanitary environment and the least stress possible”
Mott, who has spent years identifying the optimal environment for large-scale cricket production, said the Ontario plant — which received C$16.8 million in funding from Next Generation Manufacturing Canada — would be able to produce at least 200 times what Aspire currently makes. In Texas, from temperature to humidity to feeding regime to cleaning.
When it comes to raising crickets, he says, the most work-intensive part is harvesting,”We are now automating nearly 100% of this.”
He explained: “You have He should wash everything, harvest the crickets, separate the crickets from the detritus, separate the live crickets from any dead crickets. [a small percentage will die regardless of the conditions, he says, although Aspire has honed the operation such that it has dramatically reduced this percentage].
“We want to give crickets the best sanitary environment and the least stress possible, and that means monitoring conditions at every life stage, especially the first 48 hours.”
The best environment for cockroaches
Baby crickets (also known as “pin heads”), for example, need moisture, but they can’t contain droplets of water, because they are so small that they can actually drown in them, he points out.
“There are also a lot of things that pin can’t climb so if you leave bulkheads or voids they can fall into and not climb out of, they will pile on top of each other so a lot of engineering has gone into not just the design of the environment, but the materials we choose and how they are finished The materials, how the water is supplied, all these things.
“If the feed is not good enough, for example, the cockroaches cannot eat it because it is too small.”
Crickets live in the house, but they get nervous and start to eat each other if they are closely packed
For optimum densities, crickets “social“And they like to hang out with fellow crickets, but they are known to get nervous and aggressive and start snacking on each other if they are packed too closely,” he said, so as a commercial operator you have to find the right place like you can run an efficient farm And cockroaches have enough room to thrive.
They will gain 800 times their weight in less than a month. It’s an amazing growth rate. They’re also climbers, so what really matters in terms of space isn’t volume, but surface area.”
he added: “When we started, we were looking at the literature and trying to see what we could learn, and we found that the literature didn’t tell us almost anything, because it’s based on small containers, really small collections, and it didn’t translate into the biggest conglomerates.
“We do a lot of monitoring at our Austin, Texas site, and have been able to learn a lot, but as we move into this large facility, we are collaborating with partners including a large telecom operator. [TELUS Agriculture] in Canada, a high-end sensor manufacturer [Swiftlabs]And And an AI startup [DarwinAI] To collect data at unprecedented levels, then solve it.”
Application of industrial automation and robotics, the Internet of Things and deep learning/analytics to cockroaches and processing
The sensors, designed and developed by Swiftlabs, will monitor the environment, using a proprietary 5G industrial network for the Internet of Things from TELUS to provide real-time insights into conditions and plant operations, according to Aspire, which holds a suite of patents in developing technologies for the new facility.
DarwinAI’s machine learning tool will then determine optimal light, sound, humidity, temperature and food supply, initially making recommendations to plant operators, but eventually controlling production in an automated feedback loop.
Aspire is working with several commercial partners to develop bio-fertilizers from the plant’s cricket tailings, while Dymatic will implement an 11-storey automated high-density storage and retrieval system.
- Sign Out Part 1 of FoodNavigator-USA’s ‘Edible insects in focus Series HereWait for the third part in the coming days…
Snacks, bars, and protein powders are the most important areas of use for edible insect powders.
However, cricket powder also works well in veggie burgers, sausages, fruit rolls, shakes, and other products. Inclusion rates vary by product, and in many cases are constrained by cost rather than function, although you can generally get more in a bar, rather than chips.
Because cricket powder is more like protein powder than flour, 1:1 substitutes with wheat flour are generally not recommended.
Photo: Hoppy Planet Foods (which got EXO protein this fall).
Feeding cockroaches: you are what you eat?
Aspire currently uses a modified form of certified organic poultry feed to feed crickets, but is exploring whether in the future it could incorporate a percentage of food waste streams or other affordable/sustainable options without compromising the consistency of the end product.
The challenge—and the opportunity, Aspire says, is that crickets are the literal manifestation of the “you are what you eat” axiom. In other words, if you want to produce cricket flour that has a higher iron content, you can engineer that fairly easily by giving them iron-rich feed. On the downside, if you put in a junk, you’ll get out of it.
For example, post-consumer waste is generally very variable, which may affect the growth rates, health of crickets, and the consistency of the cricket powder into which they are turned. The company says food waste from commercial manufacturing operations is more attractive due to its greater consistency, although it still presents challenges.
After harvest, house crickets [Acheta domesticus] High in complete protein (65% by dry weight), iron, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids) are frozen, dried, and sold as is, ground into a powder, or ground into a slurry and spray-dried (resulting in a mute said) a paler, finer powder Suitable for more food and beverage applications.
“We have a bunch of different styles [to processing]. We have a patent for spray drying, and we also do a variety of different roasting and grinding methods, depending on what the consumer is looking for.”