The global edible insect industry is growing fast. It expected to reach $1.4 billion AUD in value by 2023.
Already, more than 2,100 insect species are currently eaten by two billion people from 130 countries. In Australia, there are records in the literature of more than 60 native insect species traditionally consumed by First Nations Peoples. Insects are highly nutritious. They are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, folic acid and vitamins B12, C and E. Not only that, farming them commercially has potentially low environmental footprints. This is because insects require minimal water, food, and space.
Europe and the United States of America are the leading the edible insect markets in the West today. There are more than 400 edible-insect-related businesses in operation. Australia is still considered an emergent market, with 14 insect-based businesses currently operating here, including farmers, product developers, chefs, and consultants. The insect industry here is projected to grow into a $10 million AUD/year industry in the next five years. But much of this will depend on scaling up the production adopting new technologies, research local species and changing consumer attitudes.
In CSIRO, in August 2019, we organised a Symposium in Brisbane, Australia. The symposium ran over three days. With a combination of presentations and group discussions we explored challenges and opportunities for the Australian edible insect industry in four areas:
- Health and diet
- Future actions
We invited representatives from different sectors, including First Nations Peoples, insect businesses (farmers, product developers and consultants), researchers from Australia and abroad, policy makers, and members of the general public who are considering engaging with the emerging industry. With the information generated in the symposium, we produced a roadmap report that identifies the challenges and opportunities for the Australian edible insect industry in the four areas listed above.
Australia is well positioned to be at the forefront of the edible insect market worldwide. This is because here in Australia, we have a long tradition of agricultural innovation. Our diversity of insects is rich high quality research and serious industry experience to take advantage of developing opportunities. However, in order to advance the Australian industry, we must:
- forge new collaborative partnerships among First Nations Peoples, researchers, industry, and government
- co-develop First Nations Peoples owned and led initiatives
- improve Western perceptions of insect consumption
- create new Australian-branded products that promote traditional usage and market acceptance.
- Identify and incorporate native insect species to encourage an ecologically sustainable industry
- produce new edible insect foods that are delicious, nutritious, and easy to access to help improve the Australian diet.
Increasing investment, ongoing collaborations, as well as research and development are key for Australia to become a leading international player Australian-branded edible insect products, that are nutritious, delicious, sustainable, and ethical sourced. This can contribute to meeting the global challenge of achieving food security.