Business & Economy

In Bangkok, bugs beckon food’s future, eco-friendly eating culture

Bangkok, Feb 15 (EFE).- Palm weevil ice cream and ant-egg salad were two dishes served over 3D-printed condiments to give increasingly climate-conscious people a taste of the future at an expo in the heart of Thailand.

The project offered sustainable protein alternatives to meat during the Bangkok Design Week, an eight-day event to showcase innovative ideas that ended over the weekend.

“The environment and world’s resources are being destroyed by climate change and global warming,” said Athivach “Boom” Pongsattasin, co-founder of Exofood, a research institute and insect farm that collaborated with technology space FabCafe, who helped with the 3D printing.

The 34-year-old told EFE in a recent interview he believes this is one key to tackling the climate crisis.

“People are using cars, emitting carbon dioxide, and farming livestock. Livestock farming creates a huge amount of methane, which is harming the earth’s atmosphere,” he said. “We livestock-farm for protein. If the world needs a solution to global warming, livestock farming will have to stop developing.”

Atihivach said insects create very little carbon footprint and that “if we want to reduce global warming, insects will be the main source of protein.”

Although insects such as scorpions and crickets can be found barbecued whole in Thailand’s tourist spots such as Khao San Road, and offered a bit more subtly and creatively in some fine-dining establishments, they haven’t become mainstream.

“The appearance turns some people away,” Athivach said. “But if we can develop insects to be in food without having to see them, for example in the sauce, chili paste, cream or noodles (…) people will consume them more, and may make them realize about the nutrients in insects.”

Exofood Thailand said it wants to make products broken down from whole insects put into dishes with the nutrients still intact.

“We don’t present the whole body of the insects, but they are inside every molecule of the dishes,” Athivach said.

Among their other dishes at the event were Grilled Honey Comb and Mystery Aroma, which features larvae; and Rice Field to the Table, combining wingless long-horned grasshoppers, house crickets, mole crickets, giant water bugs and rice field crab.

FabCafe 3D printed items such as crackers, plates and gelatin, Athivach said, adding that Exofood aims to farm insects to export internationally.

“We are not just raising insects to sell. We raise them, analyze them, develop strong species, and figure out how to take insects (…) to people’s mouths all over the world, how to make them safe and high in nutrients,” Athivach said.

Black soldier fly larvae, which Athivach said are high in protein, lauric acid and calcium, are being used to make pet food sold at veterinary hospitals and online, as the company’s studies have found they’re better for the digestive system.

For now, Exofood is looking to market red palm weevil, which Athivach said is lower in protein but contains Omega 3 and Omega 6 – which are good fats – and lauric acid, which helps fight inflammation and reduce allergies. He added that the shells are also rich in calcium.

“We think red palm weevil is an insect that will have an important role in the future because humans can benefit from them in many ways, not just for protein.” EFE


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