Science and entomophagy meet in Hobart / by Jess Miller

What happens when an entomologist and Tasmania's first insect farmer get together in a Hobart pub to talk about the realities of eating and growing insects? Snacks, facts, ant infused gin cocktails and cricket tacos that's what.

Last month Tasman Quartermasters hosted a Science Week event featuring our insects on the menu, myself on the speakers line up and Hobart based science communicator and UTAS Phd candidate entomologist Shasta Claire-Henry to bust some myths about entomophagy. While partaking in four course taster of our Tasmanian farmed insects.

The tasty plates served up by the chefs at Tasman Quartermasters all contained insects being grown by R.F.T. Including the crowd favourite of cricket tacos, and the ever popular eggplant chips coated in woodie batter, followed up with a corn and mealworm fitter that had all the pop and sizzle  some  paired dipping sauces. Other things served up on the night included the clear message of the need for some consideration and care when developing a new farming business growing insects. Particularly the need to be farming in an ethical way that delivers a truly sustainable protein source that value adds to the Tasmanian food and farming community.

There are many claims about the nutritional value of insects, in particular crickets. What we have found from our research and development work over 2017 is that the taste, nutritional value and health of insects is dependent on what they eat, and how they are grown. Which any farmer worth their salt will tell you is a No Brainer!

We are what we eat. This goes for the little herds we are dishing up as well. Growing an insect that is destined for peoples plates requires a high degree of care in how you are looking after these little creatures. Starting from their egg phase, to their final day, and eventually to how they will be eaten.

This is why we are focused on growing insects that have been fed a nutritious diet from local farm and food waste, are comfortable during their lifespan, and are brought to peoples plate quickly and cleanly.  Delivering a nourishing and tasty addition to any meal.

This flies in the face of industrial agricultural systems that use factory made feed pellets that often contain high ratios of corn, soya and palm oil products sourced from global supply chains. The discussion about food miles in a sustainable food system is a conversation for another time.

A significant aspect of making sure that our insect farming is sustainable is to address where the electricity is coming from that powers the temperature control systems. Thankfully here in Tasmania we have a strong renewable energy mix, even through our mains power. That said we are researching what renewable energy options are scalable to fit out to our growing sheds. So many options to consider, frankly it is a bit overwhelming!

Deciding to farm insects in Tasmania was a big decision, and based on a few factors. First among them is that I live here, and love it here. Second is that our state has a deserved reputation for growing and producing clean, green and clever food. We are working hard to live up to that, and set the standard for the best insects, purpose grown for people to eat and enjoy...and have a bucket load of fun while we do it.

Now to get on and do it, and get these bugs ready for public plates in 2018.

Rebel Food Tasmania Cricket Tacos.