Despite Lionel Bart’s “Oliver” eulogy of food, it is a problem. We need it to live, yet both an excess and a shortage can kill us. Some 850 million people, globally, are believed to be undernourished and each day an estimated 25,000 die from hunger and malnutrition. In contrast, at least 2.8 million people die each year from being overweight, while COVID-19 has shown that the overweight or obese are more at risk and susceptible to poorer outcomes from the pandemic. At the same time, the production of food for human consumption impacts the environment. Over 50% of the habitable land around the world is used to produce food and while conventional crop production degrades soil health and causes erosion, meat and dairy farming contribute some 14.5% of the global greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.
So, food is a problem while zero hunger is the second UN SDG, good health and well-being is the third, responsible consumption and production is goal 12, climate action is 13, and life on land is 15. We need, therefore, not just a solution that addresses the goal of zero hunger but one that tackles each of these related and inter-connected objectives, at the same time meeting SDG 9 Industry, innovation, and infrastructure. Is “HOP fuel your future” the answer – at least in part?
HOP (www.hopbar.co.uk) is a University of Surrey spinout venture launched in May 2018 by Dr Geoff Knott, Matthew Mundroina, and Afsheen Fallahi, supported by Juan Girones, a Nutritionist. All are graduates of the University and all are active in sport and outdoor pursuits. Their idea is to set up a business based on the consumption of edible insects, something common in the Far East but novel in the West. Not only do edible insects, particularly crickets, grasshoppers, and locusts, but also provide considerably more protein than meat, chicken, or eggs they are more efficient feed converters than animals, produce few, if any, greenhouse gases, require far less water, and are drought resistant and they reduce the risk of such diseases as bird flu, mad cow disease, swine flu, etc., that are transmitted by animals. indeed, when compared with food from animals, every 100 g of HOP Cricket flour saves 1500 litres of water consumption, 200g of CO2 emissions, 550g of animal feed, and 12 m2 of land use. These are the sort of statistics they provide in their FAQs at https://www.hopbar.co.uk/faqs.
The idea makes sense, or it does to the founders. However, in addition to having to develop the prototype, from cricket powder, dates, walnuts, cocoa, coconut oil, rice snaps, etc, they have had to overcome what they call the “disgust factor”. So, apart from product development, they have spent much time talking – educating people about edible insects, which is one of the key activities of the venture.
Once the prototype, a protein bar, was developed, they validated it with people in sport and took it to market via established retailers such as Amazon.com, Musclefood, and The Scout Store. They then started to look for funding and were finalists in the “Berlin Falling Walls” Competition and the UK “Director of the Year” Award, Geoff winning the Young Director of the Year Award. In May 2018 they received seed funding under the University’s Business Entrepreneurship Student Support Scheme and incorporated the business as New Foods Ltd, selling their first products towards the end of 2019.
Their mission is not just to sell protein bars that are healthier and more sustainable than other brands, however, but to change nutritional and cultural trends forever, by allowing consumers “more control over long-term health and Wellbeing”. To do this they engage in research on edible insects in partnership with both the UK and international universities and by so doing are helping to better understand how the human body metabolises insect food sources. In January 2021 they had their first research paper “Encouraging Sustainable insect-based diets” published, and are supervising a joint Ph.D. student with Reading University, funded by the Food Biosystems Doctoral Training Partnership.
Clearly, Geoff and his colleagues are creating a commercial enterprise that is founded on innovation and the principle of responsible production (SDGs9 and 12). It is a social enterprise addressing two social problems, namely hunger eradication and good health and well-being (SDGs 2 and 3). It is also an example of ecopreneurship as its activities are helping alleviate the problems of global warming and climate change as well as life on land (SDGs 13 and 15). It is a venture that integrates or harmonises economic, environmental, and social entrepreneurship and focuses on a triple bottom line of profit-people-planet.
Although the Human race has been eating insects since prehistoric times, do you find the thought of eating insects distasteful?
Do you believe entomophagy (the practice of eating insects) is the way forward?
© Professor David A. Kirby and Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org (2021). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Professor David A. Kirby and Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.