By 2050, there will be 9,8 billion people in the world, who will consume 70% more food than today. Since food is, above all, the most fundamental human need, as well as a human right, we need to start asking some questions. Let’s look at two of them, which are not trivial: will the planet have enough food for everyone? How can we sustainably feed a growing population? Never before has innovation been able to play its part in this field as today.
Especially since according to the World Economic Forum, we can achieve this, but only if we "reconfigure the future of food" through a new vision of agriculture and food security.
«Food needs a great revolution», according to Davide Meguzzato, a 19-year-old talent who, together with Ulviya Afet, has founded Cocoon, an innovative start-up in the food innovation sector, taking the challenge that our planet is about to live seriously.
«Our idea», Davide explains, «was born about a year ago, when we discovered that insects can be eaten and are exceptional, both as side dishes and in the main courses».
As a report by FAO, Edible insects for food and feed security, reminds us, there are more than 1,900 species of edible insects, some of which are very nutritious and suitable for human nutrition, others which are more suited to the diet of animals. Insects also «reproduce much faster and consume a penny of the necessary resources compared to other farmed animals».
Cocoon's team, now made up of four people with technical and specific skills, works «to turn this great potential into an entrepreneurial project». Last April, the start-up's 2-million-euro business plan received an important award at the Festival dell'Economia Civile (Festival of Civil Economy) in Florence, having been selected among the ten most generative projects in the field of socio-environmental innovation
«There are two business models that we are developing together», explains Davide. One is dedicated to insects for human use and one to the animal feed sector.
A path towards circular economy
«Regarding the insect for human use scenario, we have chosen to develop the studies and research on the cricket (acheta domestica), already consumed and considered a real delicacy in many parts of the world. Crickets are as nutritious as beef and first-rate fish fillet, and the fact is that we can produce 1kg of cricket meat and consume less than a litre of water and 1kg of feed, while to produce 1kg of beef, you need 15,000 litres of water and 9kg of feed respectively».
From the point of view of the animal diet, the use of insects in feed production could be «the missing link in a perfect circular economy system». Cocoon is betting on breeding hermetia illucens, or black soldier fly.
Already today, Davide explains, «we have a system that can transform 10 tons of organic waste every day into a super nutritious and healthy product», a product capable of turning waste into resources.
While the road may be downhill in terms of feed production, for human nutrition, at least in Italy, «the challenge is cultural, even if our production of super energy cricket bars has started to create interest especially in the world of competitive sports».
Mali: a testing ground for the future
On the other hand, the founder of Cocoon explains, «there are 2 billion people in the world who already consume insects». And this is where the third area of the Cocoon project, an area that is based on food security, comes into play. «We have started a project in Mali, where cricket consumption has always been part of traditional diet». Mali today is facing a serious food crisis and the problem is also the fact that insects are harvested, not bred.
«It's clear that picking insects rather than farming them carries a lot of risks: they could be contaminated with toxic substances in the air or in what they eat. Farming, on the other hand, allows you to have the insect available even during seasons when it may not normally be present in nature. If the business model we conceived were to work well, we could expand the system to other contexts and situations and be able to reach millions of people with our protein bars made from cricket flour, fonio and dried fruit».
Technology 4.0 and food security
The question is what vision of the future inspires Cocoon's project. A project where innovation and community, tradition and modernization are fully combined. «Our vision for the future and for which we are already carrying out studies is to develop an automated cricket farm on an industrial scale here in Italy. The implementation of the blockchain artificial intelligence technology in the production chain of our products, will allow us, on the one hand, to have greater automation and safety in the production processes, on the other to guarantee quality and freshness of the products to the end consumer».
The consumer will also be able to check every step of the processing of the product and therefore follow the entire supply chain, which will be 100% transparent and reliable.
Thanks to blockchain technology, we will also be able to facilitate the work of control agencies. As insects are a new food, they will have to take all necessary measures regarding, safety, quality and health of the product.
Blockchain technology, Menguzzato closes, will not «simply be the key to the future exclusively in terms of insect-based nutrition, but it will be a very important part in the future food revolution.
Organic products, locally sourced, fair and sustainable, will be able, thanks to blockchain, to provide a very important guarantee to the end consumer. If we succeed in implementing this technology in the future, we can make it available to other companies involved in the food industry. This is our challenge».