A professor at Laval University is working to position edible insect farming as animal production in its own right, which might even help with organic waste management, rather than perceiving these bugs as enemies of the agrifood system.
Marie−Hélène Deschamps can now count on a new string on her bow to help gain recognition for this emerging but rapidly expanding sector in Quebec.
Laval University announced this week the launch of the Chair in Teaching Leadership in the Production and Primary Processing of Edible Insects, held by Ms. Deschamps.
The main objective of the chair will be to train future agronomists in the entomoculture sector, until 2023. The first in Canada, according to the professor at the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Over the next five years, Ms. Deschamps wants to train students who will be able to work in the edible insect industry, but also better inform those who work in government agencies to support the development of different companies.
“Edible insects are little known by regulatory agencies such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. We must therefore do several demonstrations to show them that insect products meet all standards.“says Mrs. Deschamps in an interview.
The chair will also have a research and development component, namely with the aim of optimizing production techniques.
Fighting food waste
Breeding edible insects has a role in terms of food waste: They have the ability to feed on food scraps, says Deschamps.
She is studying a system where organic waste is used to help insects grow. These, then, “will produce proteins, lipids, new foods of very high quality that can be redirected for human consumption or, in other cases, animal feed”, explains Ms. Deschamps.
Raising edible insects also requires less space and less water, adds the expert.
Currently, the province cultivates three species of insects: the cricket, the mealworm and the black soldier fly. The first two are intended more for human consumption, while the last one is mainly intended for animals.
Quebec is a small player in the entomoculture sector, but several producers are moving away from the artisanal model to have volumes capable of meeting animal feed needs, says Deschamps. She gives the example of the company Sherbrooke Entosystem, which will build a new factory in Drummondville at a cost of more than $60 million, to produce 5,000 tons of protein larvae a year.
The new chair has funding of US$635,000 over five years from 14 partners such as Recyc−Québec, Telus, the Center de développement bioalimentaire du Québec and the National Institute of Organic Agriculture (INAB) in Cégep de Victoriaville. .
Its launch comes as Quebec hosts the 4th International Conference “Insects to Feed the World” on Sunday to discuss the state of research in entomophagy (the consumption of insects by humans) and entotechnologies (production). In parallel with this event, various activities for the public are planned at the Grand Marché de Québec from June 16th to 18th to promote edible insects. Creators and processors will present their products there.
This article was produced with financial support from Meta Fellowships and the Canadian Press for News.
Frederic Lacroix-Couture, The Canadian Press