The major seafood producer Thai Union has announced a partnership with the Israeli start-up Flying Spark which aims to promote insect protein as a sustainable and healthy protein source. Flying Spark is also the first investment announcement as part of Thai Union’s US$ 30 million venture fund to support innovative start-ups in the development of breakthrough food technologies.
The start-up yields protein from the larvae of the Mediterranean fruit fly. The fruit fly’s life span is only seven days and within this time period their body mass multiplies 250 times. Flying Spark’s cultivation process is waste-free and produces a 70% mild-tasting protein powder which has high levels calcium, iron, magnesium and amino acids. All parts of the larvae are used in Flying Spark’s process which is unique even among other insect protein sources such as crickets and grasshoppers.
The consumption of insects has been gaining public attention as a possible solution to the global food crisis. By 2050, there will be an additional 2 billion people on the planet and demand for food and feed is expected to increase by 70%. As urbanisation also rises, the need for nutritious and sustainable food that can be grown on non-arable land like insects will become an imperative.
Insects are a much more sustainable source of protein than livestock production as they do not use hormones or antibiotics, require very little land and water, their feed to meat ratio is twelve times more efficient than cattle and they release far less greenhouse gases and ammonia into the atmosphere per kilogram of meat compared to pigs or cattle.
The powdered form that Flying Spark’s product takes can be discreetly incorporated into other foods, which acts as a more enticing option to customers who have an aversion due to cultural attitudes of insects being ‘disgusting’ or ‘dirty’. Many places all over the world eat insects due to their taste and nutritious properties; it is only really in the West that insects are dismissed as food.
It is promising news that a seafood giant sees the potential profitability in alternative protein, indicating a rising trend and giving the start-up some leverage to bring an alternative and sustainable protein source into the mainstream.