Insects au gratin: LSBU academics 3D print edible insects
11 February 2014
Insects Au Gratin, a
collaborative project involving LSBU's Susana Soares, Andrew Forkes and Dr Ken
Spears, explores the nutritive and
environmental aspects of entomophagy (the consumption of insects as food),
combined with 3D food printing technologies.
The foods are made by drying and then grinding insects into
a fine powder. The resulting 'flour' is then mixed with other food products
such as icing butter, chocolate, spices, and cream cheese, to form the right
Speaking to newspaper Metro
about the project, Susana Soares who lectures in Product Design at LSBU, said:
"As the population grows, insects will be a solution to some food problems."
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
has stressed that trends towards 2050 predict a steady population increase to 9
billion people - forcing an increased food output from available
agro-ecosystems, resulting in an even greater pressure on the environment.
Insects are a rich source of nutrition - four crickets
provide as much calcium as a large glass of milk, while one dung beetle proportionately
contains more iron than a steak.
"Mealworms have proved to be quite useful - you can get a 40
to 50 per cent protein count. We have then been turning them into flour,
combining that with a fondant paste and using that in a 3D printer", says
collaborator Dr Ken Spears, an LSBU food scientist.
Why 3D printing?
Radical uses of 3D printing technology may enable us to
overcome the traditional aesthetic issues of 'eating insects' and challenge
people's perceptions of eating insects. The use of insect protein as a
'printable' material opens up a range of new applications and questions about
sustainability, raw materials, nutrition, and food acceptance.
Speaking to The
Telegraph Dr Ken Spears said "We are using this very hi-tech printing
ability to try to encourage people to consider a new protein source."
"We would like to do things like printing cake toppings,
flowers and designs. If we can get a substantial structure we can print bars,
like cereal bars."
Although the notion of printing food is not a new
development, the innovation of using insect paste as a build medium is highly
novel. This - coupled with farming and harvesting insects - could create a
sustainable source of food for an increasing global population.