While your flatmates are arguing about dishes and being too loud past 10pm, there is a flat full of students who are working to make the world a more sustainable place. They have started a company called Ento (the Latin word for insect), and they want to make insect consumption mainstream in New Zealand.
Ento began with a conversation between flatmates George Mander and Liam Good about the Global Enterprise Experience competition and has since turned into a family affair, with the other flatties and a neighbour getting involved in the start-up. Together they are competing in the Audacious competition for funding.
George, CEO and law and science student, explained that he’d once eaten fried lotuses at a TEDx talk and they were “quite delicious,” which prompted him to suggest it to Liam.
Initially Ento toyed with creating their own insect farm out of their flat, and even couriered a box full of crickets and kept it in a wardrobe. Even landlords weren’t a setback for the team, as the pair reminisced about a flat inspection where the property manager made no comment about the 30 screaming bois.
George explained that farming insects was “not difficult,” and had “serious advantages” in space, compared to cows, for example.
However, at roughly 1000 insects per 100 grams of powder, it was decided that it made more sense to take advantage of farms that already exist. They let their crickets die of old age (RIP) and have since made connections with local locust farm, Otago Locusts, run by Malcolm Diak.
The team’s first step is to perfect the formula for creating insect powder, which will take some experimentation. Trials so far have included running a box of roasted locusts through a coffee grinder.
They are experimenting so no one else has to. Ento launched a survey that received 150 responses just in the first day, and indicated that 85% of people are keen to try insects, but don’t actually want to see the bugs.
Creating insect powder is the natural solution to that, but at a minimum of $20 per 100 grams, George noted that, currently, “there’s no way that people will experiment with that cost”.
Which is a shame, since the data to back insect consumption is solidly in their favour. According to Ento’s research, insects turn 90% of what they eat into their own weight, and the entire thing is edible. Compared to cows, where only 40% of what they eat turns into weight, and then the end product is only around 60% edible.
In a world with growing meat consumption rates, this is unsustainable.
Insect farming is recognised by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as a way to mitigate unsustainable elements of conventional farming. According to the FAO, insects can be fed on compostable waste, and need six times less feed than cattle.
George said that the high cost was due to there being zero insect powder manufacturers in New Zealand, making access to it dependant on shipping from Thailand. Ento, if successful, would be the only player in an untapped market. They echo the U.N. in saying that insects need to move beyond merely “novelty snacks”.
“It’s almost too good to be true, but it’s not; the catch is just that they are bugs, and they are expensive.”