Edible Innovations: Andrew Brentano Harvests Insects from a “Smart Farm”

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Edible Innovations: Andrew Brentano Harvests Insects from a “Smart Farm”

From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.

When most of us think of insects, we think of the creepy crawlies that we are constantly shooing out of our homes and gardens, not a tasty meal. However, if you look just beyond the initial “ew” issue, then the world of edible insects is not only delicious, it’s sustainable.

Big agriculture and livestock farms are major components of climate change. The industries that produce our typical proteins (beef, chicken, turkey) are just not sustainable or efficient. They produce large amounts of waste that affect the environment and the people living in it. Andrew Brentano not only saw the inefficiency with these food industries, but also knew that with the rise in the overall global population, there would be a rise in demand for proteins. His solution: let’s eat insects!

The Start

Brentano is an eclectic young man, with passions ranging from metal working to cooking to big data analysis. The core of his company and his beliefs come from the moral imperative to improve conditions for people on Earth. He uses his background in Cognitive Systems to seamlessly weave advanced technology into insect farming in order to ultimately create smart farm systems.

Brentano is also an environmentalist, concerned about our rainforests and humanity’s well-being. Rather than destroy more rainforest, and continue to lower our world’s biodiversity, our maker proposes we look to new proteins. He hopes that spreading the idea of smart farms will satisfy both our need for new types of protein, and reduce our destructive need to create more space for growing food. Tiny Farms (@tiny_farms) was born from that hope.

Eat the Bug

If you are still trying to wrap your mind around the idea of eating an insect, just know that it’s been done before by many different communities around the world. Insects are packed with lots of proteins and nutrients, making a low calorie, yet filling meal. They can be consumed like regular cooked proteins, or ground down into flours, like cricket flour.

Eating bugs can actually be better for you; they are lean proteins that are shelf-stable and have very little sugar in them. They can be seasoned and cooked in different ways to create delicious meals. Since 2008, top chefs around the world have been tackling the idea of insects as food, and have created culinary masterpieces with bugs as the focal point.

A Community of Little Farms

Tiny Farms does two things when it comes to bugs: it develops commercial solutions for new insect farmers, and it creates a community platform for at home farms. The community is called Open Bug Farm. It is essentially a place where aspiring bug farmers and eaters can share ideas, experiments, successes, and failures in bug farming.

The forum originally started as a platform to sell mealworm start-up kits and promote insect consumption, but the idea of this sustainable protein caught on. A quick look at Open Bug Farm now shows a vibrant community communicating about their farms and practices, with little to no help of Tiny Farms. This exciting advancement only further shows the interest in insect farming, and the advantages this type of protein has to its consumers.

Incorporating Tech

What makes Brentano’s approach to insect farming so unique is his incorporation of technology right from the start. By using advanced sensors, data captures, and automation, he helps create smart farms. This way farmers new to insect production can closely monitor their yield and adjust as necessary.

They take old styles of insect farming, specifically cricket farming, and re-imagine it, in order to cut time and labor required for tending and harvesting the crickets. All the while you can monitor the environmental conditions of your farms through their systems. More production, less time, and less labor creates an ideal system for farmers just starting out in the insect farm business.

Tiny Farms sponsors insect farms in different rural parts of the world, where the native biomass can be used to raise protein-rich insects. The company is looking to break into the traditional protein market soon by substituting insects for both human and pet food. As meat becomes increasingly expensive, and the industry’s environmental impact becomes too great, this affordable and nutritious option will rise in the market.

One day you could be buying crickets for dinner instead of pork. Until then, Tiny Farms will continue to help new farmers create their farms in smart ways and make the most out of their insects.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Chiara is fascinated by food as a means to impact bodies, minds, and environment. She has studied international business in three different countries, and is an alumni of the Food Innovation Program and US Director at the Future Food Institute.

Based in California, she is also a Research Scholar at Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, working on building the first comprehensive Internet of Food to enable food care through food systems semantics. She is a selected member of Barilla Center Food Nutrition Foundation, a Research Affiliate at Institute For The Future, Board Member at Maker Faire and selected member of the Global Shapers, a young global network of innovators promoted by the World Economic Forum.

She is passionate about social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and aims to leave her mark on society.

View more articles by Chiara Cecchini


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