A conference on edible insects in Québec City
Superworm tempura. Cricket tacos. Grasshopper kebabs. A pear salad with Chiangbai ants. Is your mouth watering yet? In the not-so-far future, these types of dishes may be your new favourite meals or dishes served during conferences and other events.
Scientists, including Grant Vandenberg, Professor at the Université Laval’s Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and member of the Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Club, envisions such a future. He believes insects can contribute to feeding the planet and saving the environment.
And that is precisely the topic that will be covered during the third edition of the International Conference Insects to Feed the World (IFW), which will take place in Québec City in June 2022!
A Canadian first: An event dedicated to critters
Mr. Vandenberg’s outstanding work and the strength of Québec City’s food and nutrition industry will take centre stage during the third edition of the International Conference Insects to Feed the World (IFW).
Hundreds of pioneers and experts in the field as well as businesses looking to market edible insects will attend the event to discuss a wide range of topics, including ethno-entomology, insect production systems, circular economies and environmental sustainability, and non-food applications of insects.
Initially, this major international conference was to take place at the Québec City Convention Centre in June 2020; however, it was postponed until June 2022 by the local organizing committee due to the global pandemic.
The event will be a Canadian first! The first two editions of the conference took place in the Netherlands, in 2014, and in China, in 2018. Mr. Vandenberg, along with Marie-Hélène Deschamps, who heads up the Entotechnology Program in the Animal Science Department at Université Laval, succeeded in bringing the conference to Québec City thanks to the inroads local researchers are making in studying insects for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.
Québec City: Showcasing the industry’s innovations in transforming insects into food
The Province of Québec is at the forefront of developing bioprocesses that can transform edible insects into food and feed on an industrial scale. In Québec City, insect-based research programs and private ventures, fueled by the provincial government’s visionary commitment to the environment and sustainability, are making their impact in the agri-food industry across Canada and around the world.
Sustainable solutions to solve the world’s food crisis
According to the United Nation, the world’s population will increase to 9 billion people by 2050. This is particularly alarming with respect to food security for both humans and animals. With so many mouths to feed, the steady rise in population is putting tremendous pressure on food/feed output from agricultural crops and ecosystems.
“As climate change continues to impact water and forest resources and as agricultural land becomes scarcer, researchers and organizations are on race to find sustainable solutions to the food crisis,” explained Mr. Vandenberg.
And one of the most compelling solutions that is available—and already used in many countries around the world—is insects as food and feed.
Insects to the rescue of the environment
Since the beginning of his career, Mr. Vandenberg has worked relentlessly to leverage agri-food approaches to address environmental issues. One major challenge he has taken on is how farmed fish are fed.
“With overfishing and unregulated fishing causing marine fish stocks to be overexploited or depleted, aquaculture, when carried out sustainably and within regulatory compliance, is paramount in protecting marine culture.” Unfortunately, as Mr. Vandenberg pointed out, farmed fish are fed with fish meal, which inevitably comes from one fish stock or another, and exacerbates the problem.
And that is where edible insects come in. “Edible insects contain high-quality protein, vitamins and amino acids for both humans and animals, including fish,” Mr. Vandenberg explained. “Insects feed on organic waste and have a high food conversion rate, which means insects require much less to feed on than other animals.”
For the moment, Mr. Vandenberg’s research is centred around two main edible insects, the black solider fly and mealworm; both grow very rapidly and eat a lot of organic matter, making them potentially great candidates to feed farmed fish.
“Using insect meal to feed farmed fish is a considerable innovation that will undoubtedly segue to feed for other animals—and humans,” he added.
Edible insects as part of our food supply
“It’s amusing to notice just how much of a buzz insects as food are for uninitiated Western cultures. Many non-West countries already incorporate insects in their standard diets,” Mr. Vandenberg said. “Insects are just as natural to eat as oysters, shrimp, fish or beef, yet people are grossed out about bugs,” he laughed.
Mr. Vandenberg hopes perceptions will change as research continues to unveil the undeniable benefits edible insects can offer the world in terms ending hunger and protecting the environment. “Insects are no different than any other animal people eat,” he concluded.
Perhaps, in the very near future, parents will start saying eat your bugs, instead of vegetables, at suppertime. Bon appétit!