MKH: The area required for each kilogramme is ten times higher in conventional cattle breeding than on a mealworm farm. With this in mind, what are the opportunities for the industrial use of insect farming?
KU: Our Vienna facility has just received 2.5 million euros of support from the EU. The next step will be to expand the pilot plant that we developed in 2019 to the extent that it can convert 1,000 tons of dry waste material into protein with the help of insects every year. This should be done using plug-and-play equipment. Hence, the objective is to develop a flexibly applicable technology that can be set up wherever such residues occur. This is not just about producing food for humans but, principally, animal feed.
MKH: The UN recommends the consumption of insects as a means of battling global hunger. Which other Sustainable Development Goals have you considered?
KU: Fish is the basic foodstuff for large swathes of the population in the Global South. However, much of the catch is also used to produce fishmeal, which is then used as feed in fish and chicken breeding. The amino acid, fat and protein profile of insect meal, such as that which we produce in our pilot facility in Vienna, is very similar to this fishmeal. Every ton of fishmeal that can be replaced by insect meal leaves five more tons of fish for human consumption. This lever exemplifies how insect farming can make a major contribution to the meeting of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger). And we have also made a commitment to meeting Goals 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action) and 15 (Life on Land).
MKH: Vienna, Hong Kong, Shenzhen. What is the situation in these cities (or countries) in terms of the cultural acceptance of insects as a source of nutrition? What activities do you carry out in the area of communication?
KU: That's really had to answer. In our experience, the consumption of insects in Asia is nothing like as common as sometimes portrayed. People in Asia frequently take a lead from the USA or Europa, where a lot of meat is eaten. This is another reason why the culture of eating insects in Hong Kong is much less pronounced today than is often believed. I see Vienna as far more open than Hong Kong to the idea of using insects as a source of protein. In turn, the notion of sustainability may be stronger in Shenzhen than in Hong Kong but it is not as advanced as in Europe. With the help of our Hive Explorer, the curriculum that we have developed and a range of events, we are trying to build awareness in this direction.