Since late 2017 I am working on a book in Swedish about edible insects. In January, after taking a trip to Finland meeting up with bug chef Topi Kairenius and designer/PhD Fellow Saara-Maria Kauppi, I decided I had to do a trip to Denmark and the birthplace of the modern western edible insects movement: Wageningen, the Netherlands. The idea transformed into a tour: The Bugtour. A trip travelling by climate friendly train and meeting up with great entopreneurs and entousiast in Europe! Here is a sample of all I experienced, and the people I met during the tour.
I really want to thank all the people that great people that I met and gave me both their stories, and great product samples!
Day 1 – Copenhagen & Aarhus, Denmark
I arrived early in the morning at Copenhagen Central station, took a coffee at a nearby café and walked the thirty minutes distance to Nordic Food Lab where I met up with the director Michael Bom Frøst.
We talked about their culinary insect projects and in my notepad I wrote: Use insects for their taste, don’t hide them. Favorites: wood ants and bee drone larvae!
Next stop Aarhus! There I was meeting up with Lars-Henrik Lau Heckmann, at Danish Technological Institute.
Above you see Lars in the test lab where they try out new prototypes and ideas. Here you also find their (at the moment) small scale Black soldier fly farm:
In the larger lab that is certified for rearing mealworm and black soldier fly for food they mainly produce mealworms. Look at Lars explaining how much mealworms they can produce in the future.
In the evening (after checking into my hotel) I met up with Lasse Hinrichsen, one of the founders of the insect food company Enorm.
Enorm produces snacks, crispbread and protein bars. But Lasse also had some big news: Enorm is setting up a big Black Soldier Fly farm under the name Enorm Bio Factory. The ambition is driving down the pricepoint and make insect protein cheaper and more accessible. Lasse believes that BSF can’t just be used as feed but also as an ingredient in food. One future product could be pasta with BSF protein.
Enorm has already proven this by making this limited product:
Enorms plans are really enormous ;) and I was really impressed to know that the company has 8 people full time employed (3 at Enorm foods (lead by Lasses original business partner Jane) and 5 at Enorm Bio Factory). The farm is set up in Flemming (south of Aarhus) where they have bought an chicken farm that is now converted. I am sure we will hear a lot from Enorm in the near future!
Day 2 – Travelling through Germany to the Netherlands
The second day I travelled from Aarhus at 9:30 by train to Hamburg, then Duisburg, and finally arrived in Ede-Wageningen Netherlands. There I met up with Saara -Maria ”Sassu” Kauppi who had arrived on a plane from Norway. Sassu showed me some packeging that her design students had created:
Good to be in the Netherlands. Just met with @sabassu who just arrived from Norway. She showed me some of her students work on packaging for mealworm snacks. Interesting how many ways you can market the same product. Now time to go to sleep. More exciting stuff tomorrow! #bugtour #edibleinsects #eatinsects #design #packeging #mealworms
Day 3-4: Ede-Wageningen – the Symposium!
As I have covered the entoscene since 2014, and read a lot of papers and books referring to Arnold van Huis and his colleagues it was a great experience meeting these people live. In his keynote Arnold made a great summary of the status of the edible insect industry and how much research that has been done the last couple of years. It was an honor seeing that Arnold used Bugburgers list of entopreneurs as a reference in his keynote!
Above a photo of the living legends Arnold van Huis and Marcel Dicke. I did an interview with Arnold regarding the work on the famous 2013 FAO report, and got to talk a bit with Marcel. Have you seen Marcels great TED talk from 2010? If not, see it here >>
We will see a lot of uses of insects in the future. Not just for food and feed but we might also see the use of components like chitin. Domenico Azzollinis made a really interesting presentation on how to process insects and make different products.
Never forget: insects are not just business. They are also culture! I loved Marcel Dickes talk on how he sees insects in everything. For instance in art. Above you can see the painting Acrocinus Obesitas by Gurt Swanenberg. The painting obviously makes you think about burgers… and in my case the alternative to the unhealthy mac-diet: bugburgers ;-)
Professor Vincenzo Fogliano wanted an alternative viewpoint for his panel talk on ”Insect processing and value chain development”, and invited me to join the distinguised professionals on stage. I defended insects as an culinary experience and that we can’t just focus on making products of insect fractions and make ”stealth products” that people don’t associate with insects.
It was great hearing Jonas House later the same day presenting his research on consumer acceptance of edible insects. After this presentation I am convinced that we have to make insects as food accepted before trying to sell them as anonymous ingredients in meat replacement products.
It was also great seeing Saara-Maria Kauppis presentation of the project she has done with students at Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. What do you think your package should communicate? Packeging is an important part of conveying the right message.
Saara-Marias project is done together with the Norweigan company Invertapro. Alexander Solstad Ringheim was at the symposium and told me that Invertapro has a mealworm farm in Voss and will sell their food products under the new brand ”Larveriet”. Since a couple of months they have sold a fertiliser for pot plants called ”Bløme” made of mealworm frass. Mjølmums is their upcoming product, an natural mealworm snack. Thats the product that will use one of the designs made by Saara-Marias students. But its really hard chosing. Alexander told me that they probably would make a vote on their Facebook page.
It was great being at the symposium, and I am a bit sad I didn’t take more photos of the people I met. For instance Meinrad Koch from Switzerland that had just started a new position at the Swizz meat company Micarna. Since May last year its legal in Switzerland to sell food made from three species of insects. On Meinrads business card it says: ”Product Developer Insects” and the goal is to make food products with insects. Great to know that meat companies diversify, and look at more sustainable alternatives!
”Where are the insects?”, was Meinrad and my reaction when we saw the menu at the symposium dinner.
Fortunately one of the dishes did contain insects. On a sign (which I didn’t take a photo of) it said that it was made with ”silk worms”, but it was a dish with mealworms sprinkled on top. This was surely a great disappointment. The only disappointment of the whole symposium.
Next time hire a proper insect chef who knows how to cook with bugs! There must be someone in the Netherlands? If not here are a few ideas from abroad: Topi Kairenius (Finland), David George Gordon (USA), Shoichi Uchiyama (Japan), Roberto Flore (Denmark), Nina Askov (Denmark) or Ola Albrektsson (Sweden).
Day 5: Meeting up with entopreneurs in Copenhagen
At seven o’clock in the morning on Friday the 23rd of March I left Ede-Wageningen. Five trains later I arrived in Copenhagen at nine in the evening. Waiting for me at Mandela café were Malena Sigurgeirsdottir, Kamil Lewinski, Nina Askov and Ninas husband Theo Askov.
Nina Askov professional alias is ”The Bug Lady”. She has been an advocate for eating insects in Denmark since 2014. Written a book (in Danish), gives lectures and maintains a great blog (buglady.dk) with a lot of great bug recipes. Malena Sigurgeirsdottir, one of the founders of Wholi Foods (formally known as Dare to eat) that have three classy insect snacks on the market. The snacks are the first step, the goal is making meat replacements, and she told me that they are working on an ”Insect tofu” that will be called ”Manna” that hopefully will be ready in November. The third entopreneur was Kamil Lewinski from Ento.nu who has a cricket farm and is just starting to sell both frozen whole crickets and cricket powder made in Denmark! We had a really great evening and it was really wonderful getting more info on the Danish ento community.
Day 6: Ento shopping in Copenhagen
I asked Nina for advice on how to buy insects in Copenhagen. Unfortunately Kalu in Copenhagens ”Meat packing district”, Køttbyen, was only open between 6-8:30 in the morning (they mostly sell to restaurants). So I went to Irma at Vesterport railwail station. And they really had the insects on display! Kalu distributes conbuggies frozen insects: grasshoppers, meal worms, wax worm and buffalo worm that are farmed in Belgium. They also sold Ninas book ”Insekter på menuen” and the first Danish insect cook book (if you don’t regard Nordic Food Labs ”On eating insects” as Danish) called Insectivore.
As you can see eating insects is quite expensive. Between 50 and 55 Danish kronor for 80-150 grams of insects. The woman behind the counter wondered if I have tried eating insects before. She hadn’t, and she wasn’t sure how much insects they sold.
I bought a pack of Wax worms (haven’t tried them frozen before), packed them together with a package of frozen broccoli to keep them cold and went to the train station.
There I met up with my ”cricket dealer” Kamil who generously gave me a pack of crickets put in a freezer bag and a packet of cricket flour. Ento.nu have just become certified and ready to sell insects for human consumption. The idea is to complement the frozen insects from Kalu (which don’t include crickets). 50 g of locally produced frozen crickets costs 59 Danish kronor.
They also make their own cricket powder: 309 Danish kronor for 100 grams.
Thanks Kamil for the delivery! I will have to get back the freezer bag to you someday!
At 14:20 I left Copenhagen central station by Swedish train. On the trip I read Nina Askovs book:
Great having a new book about eating insects when traveling for six hours by train between Copenhagen and Stockholm. @buglady.dk book (written in Danish) is a really good introduction to the topic (including tips on farming at home and a lot of recipes) and an entertaining account of her own discoveries along the way. If you can read Danish: buy it! #bugtour #eatinsects #entopreneurs #edibleinsects
Back home in Stockholm I immediately took out the frozen goods. Wax worms I bought at Irma and Kamils crickets from Ento.nu. I think they survived the trip and will survive another week or so in the freezer before I invite people for insect tacos!
And here is a photo of all the great gifts I received on the trip. Almost all. Some of the products I had to eat on the way to survive the long train journey ;-)
Thanks for a great Bugtour!