HAVE you ever tried crickets as a valuable source of protein?
Well now you can thanks to WA business Grubs Up.
With 69 per cent of protein per 100 grams, crickets are highly nutritious compared to beef which produces around 24-27pc per 100g.
Insects are high in folate, iron, vitamin B12 and they have all nine essential amino acids.
They are also high in omega 3 and omega 6 and are quite a sustainable food source, according to Grubs Up entrepreneur Paula Pownall.
Ms Pownall completed an agribusiness degree at Muresk in 2011, then worked on mosquito management with the City of Mandurah for four years.
“After four years I felt burnt out and I went on maternity leave,” Ms Pownall said.
“After coming back from maternity leave I didn’t feel like I was worth anything at work and it was a struggle to have a young sick child and full-time work, be a mum, have a family and have a property.
“I had a gut feeling that I wanted to explore the idea of insect farming, but I didn’t have the confidence to talk to anyone about it.
“But I did know one thing – I was worth more than going to work full-time and not feeling any good about it.”
Ms Pownall said she did what more people should do.
“I threw in the job and had no income,” she laughed.
A few months later, in 2016, the Waroona bush fires impacted a lot of area around her property.
“We were lucky the airfield is close to the farm and I spent three weeks of the bush fires loading water bombers,” she said.
“After three weeks and watching parts of Waroona burn, farmland burn and Yarloop burn down, I decided that life couldn’t get any worse but there are a lot of people worse off than myself, so let’s start talking about insect farming.”
On her small property, 1.5 acres (0.6 hectares) Ms Pownall questioned what type of farming she could run successfully.
“Well I can farm insects,” she said.
“The advice given to me was to just start and if you kill a million insects well then you have learnt something.
“So I did and I killed millions.”
Ms Pownall’s friend, Amanda Abou Rjelly, decided to come on board as a business partner after a few months, with her business, finance and economics background benefiting the business greatly.
They questioned whether insect farming was commercially viable in Australia with the cost of production and the cost of labour being particularly expensive.
But Ms Pownall learnt not to accept no for an answer.
“I wanted to commercialise it as an animal feed source for aquaculture, poultry and piggery industries,” she said.
“Within six months I had emails and phone calls about where could the general population buy insects.
“I decided that every reply of no we don’t sell insects was a profit being turned away from our business.
“Even though it wasn’t where I really wanted to go with the business, we needed the cash input to get to where we wanted to go.”
So Ms Pownall decided to get human food approval for her crickets, something she initially struggled to get.
But in August 2017, Grubs Up received human food approval and on the same day Ms Abou Rjelly became an equal business partner.
Currently the crickets are housed in commercial egg cartons from local bakeries and fed recycled fruit and vegetable waste.
“Hatching to harvest is around eight weeks and it is quite a quick turn around,” Ms Pownall said.
“A cricket egg gestation period is seven to nine days.
“In 2050 there will be around nine billion people to feed, over 35 billion livestock to feed – that doesn’t include domestic animals.
“There are a lot of mouths to feed globally and they all need a source of protein to survive.”
Currently 30pc of Australian cereal crops are fed to animals.
“Thinking of 2050 can we afford to keep feeding human food to animals or can we replace animal feed sources with insect meal?”
Grubs Up’s vision is to supply a sustainable food source for all humanity for generations to come.
“We believe it’s not just about human food but about animal feed and everyone has the right to a sustainable food source around the world,” Ms Pownall said.