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Insects to Feed the World – Episode 32

© BrooklynBugs

This month's episode focuses on the use of insects to feed the world – both as food for humans and feed for livestock. With food prices soaring and global agricultural productivity slowing, we face some tough questions about the future of food. Fortunately, there are some intriguing and innovative ways out there to meet these challenges – including using insects to feed the world. So in this month’s episode, we’re bugging out and turning our attention to the wonderful world of edible insects.

Dr Eric Smaling kicks off this episode with an introduction to edible insects. We then speak with Dr Sevgan Subramanian about harvesting wild insects, and Antonio Rota shares some exciting prospects for the future of the industry. Chef Joseph Yoon of Brooklyn Bugs and Shobhita Soor of Legendary Foods Africa talk about the culinary, cultural, nutrition and business side of things. Lara Gilmore, co-founder of Food for Soul, returns to discuss the connections between food waste, nutrition and sustainable food systems, and we have the second instalments of our Global Donor Platform and Impact Assessment mini-series.



Episode Contents


Dr Eric Smaling calls for better – and buggier – diets

Dr Eric Smaling

Dr Eric Smaling is a food systems expert at Wageningen University and the lead author of IFAD’s yearly Rural Development Report. He’s also a big fan of edible insects.

Dr. Smaling introduces us to the topic by laying out some basic facts about insect consumption around the world.


Dr Sevgan Subramanian on harvesting insects from the wild

Dr Sevgan Subramanian

Dr Sevgan Subramanian is the Head of Environmental Health at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology. With over 150 publications and nearly two decades of experience, he’s well-known and well-versed in the edible insect sector.

We spoke with him about how insects can be harvested from the wild and how best to consume wild insects.


A culinary perspective on edible insects, with Chef Joseph Yoon

Chef Joseph Yoon

Joseph Yoon and his organization Brooklyn Bugs are at the forefront of the movement to integrate insect products into Western diets. He believes that insects are a crucial part of the sustainable future of food, and he uses his culinary expertise to help people overcome their reservations.

Our conversation touched on everything from sustainability to how to start incorporating insect products into your cooking. It all started with him posing a simple question: Why shouldn’t we eat bugs?


Insect-based dishes from around the world, with Antonio Rota

Antonio Rota, Senior Livestock Specialist at IFAD

While IFAD doesn’t currently invest in any projects related to edible insects, our senior livestock specialist Antonio Rota has plenty of personal experience and professional insight from decades of development work around the world.

Our conversation with Antonio gave us a taste-test of the industry side of edible insects. To get us started, he shared some stories of eating insects in rural places around the world.


The high costs of the edible insect industry, with Shobhita Soor

Shobhita Soor

Insects are already being produced on a large scale, but right now, it’s mostly for aquaculture and pet food. Many entrepreneurs are eager to widen the market, but they face prohibitively high production costs.

Shobhita Soor is acutely aware of these high costs. She’s the CEO of Legendary Foods Africa, a Ghanaian company that grows and sells palm weevil larvae. Shobhita took us back to the basics with a rundown of her business model. 

Check out Legendary Foods on Instagram.


Lara Gilmore on community empowerment through food

Lara Gilmore

Food for Soul is a project founded by the three-time Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura and his wife Lara Gilmore. It aims to shine light on the potential of people, places and food to facilitate community empowerment.

Lara explained to me how the idea of Food for Soul was born, and how it connects nourishing people and making food systems more sustainable.


The Power of Donors, Part 2: Carin Smaller and Ammad Bahalim

Carin Smaller and Ammad Bahalim

This mini-series is all about connecting with leaders in the Global Donor Platform to hear about the issues that matter to them.

In this second instalment, we speak with Carin Smaller, Director of Agriculture, Trade, and Investment at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and Ammad Bahalim, Senior Program Officer in Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Research and Impact Assessment Series, Part 2: Romina Cavatassi

Romina Cavatassi, Lead Economist for IFAD

In this mini-series, we dive into the world of Impact Assessments – where we get to make sure we’re learning as much as we can from the way we work and getting development right for the communities we work with.

This month, we spoke with Romina Cavatassi about what we’re doing to help small-scale producers in Tajikistan.


Summing up

Thanks to our producer Francesco Manetti and everyone else who’s worked on this programme. Many thanks also to Brian Thomson, our five-star director.

But most of all, thanks to you for listening to this episode of Farms. Food. Future., brought to you by the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Next month, we’ll be talking about building resilience in the face of famine and rising food and fuel prices. Plus we have two new big names from India who will be joining our Recipes for Change family of chefs.

Remember, we want to hear from you – what you think about our stories and the issues discussed, and who you want us to be talking to – so please get in touch at podcasts@ifad.org.

Send your voice or text messages to that address and we’ll be happy to play you out in the next show.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast via your favourite podcast platform – and please rate us!

We’ll be back at the end of June with more news, fresh from the farm.

Once again, we’ll be trying to be Good for You, Good for the Planet and Good for the Farmers.


Similar episodes to enjoy

  • In Episode 30, we discussed putting nature at the heart of farming.
  • In Episode 27, we explored the innovations driving the future of agriculture.
  • In Episode 22, we discussed the future of food systems.