An Israeli start-up has introduced an intriguing potential solution to world hunger - fruit fly larvae. The company, Flying SpArk, co-founded by Eran Gronich and Yoram Yerushalmi in 2014, uses fruit fly larvae to make a protein powder (in regular and low-fat varieties) and oil, both of which are odorless and flavorless. These products can then be used to make everything from substitute meat patties to pasta, cereal, and even bread.
Fruit flies have a lifespan of only six days but multiply up to 15 times in that time, making them easy and cheap to farm and harvest. There is virtually no waste created in the process, as all parts of the larvae are used. This gives them an edge over conventional protein sources like poultry or cattle, but also over insects like grasshoppers or crickets, because they have no legs, wings, antennas or eyes. And while, Flying SpArk doesn't believe its fruit fly powder can completely replace meat, the company hopes that by becoming a part of human diet, it can at least reduce our negative impact on the environment.
"The larvae protein has no 'bad' stuff inside such as antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, cholesterol, gluten etc.. It is highly sustainable, emits no greenhouse gases, and (there is) hardly any water or land consumption," Gronich told From The Grapevine.
"Animal protein as we consume it today is harmful to our health and destructive to the environment," Gronich adds. "Livestock farming uses huge amounts of water and land and produces enormous amounts of waste. Oceans are being overfished. In addition, animal protein is full of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides (bad for human health)."
Yoram Yerushalmi said that another important advantage of fruit flies is that their nutritional value can be influenced by their diet.
"Those guys can eat a variety of fruits and sugary vegetables, like carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and stuff, so we think and know that the nutritional values of the larvae themselves that we process into the powder actually are being influenced by what they eat," Yerushalmi told the Jerusalem Post.
Flying SpArk knows that convincing consumers to get past the ick-factor of eating fruit larvae is a big challenge, but the high demand for insect-based foods in recent years suggests that it can be done. Besides, his is just larvae powder, not actual larvae, which should make it easier to swallow.
"We are selling white powder that looks like flour, we are not selling the larvae in its original form. When you come to think about it, it looks much better than a dead chicken," Eran Gronich said.
"Feedback has been good, and the flavors are very good," Gronich said, adding that younger generations have been especially receptive to their product. "Millennials want to create a more sustainable world, to make it a better place for all of us, and they are willing to add insect flour to their food to help achieve this goal."
Flying SpArk has caught the attention of corporate giant Ikea. The Swedish company has created a start-up accelerator program called Ikea Bootcamp. The mission of the program is to encourage start-ups that are working to solve some of the world's most pressing problems.
"We are excited to join the IKEA accelerator and to have the opportunity to learn how to work with a giant retailer like IKEA," Eran Gronich said in a press release. "This will completely enhance our product development and how we progress. IKEA will mentor and work with our team toward eventually collaboration between the companies to develop a product and hopefully to launch it at IKEA's restaurants."
The United Nations estimates that of the 7.3 billion people on earth about 1 in 9 is suffering from chronic undernourishment. The most affected areas are in the developing world, and 51 million of the victims are children under 5. **** With the global population projected to reach 9 billion by 2040, hunger is one of the world's most pressing issues, and fruit larvae powder could be a solution.