A SECRETIVE cavern lurking in the Scientific Park of the University Miguel Hernandez in Elche is now home to an enormous collection of insects being nurtured for food and research.
Crickets are the critical creatures for new company Insect Side who use them as live bait, natural fertilisers, and as meals for various animals and pets.
Concha Cuenca, executive director at the innovative firm, claims the concept was borne of a need to ease the nutritional deficit that is the scourge of many pets, who have “too much” rubbish in their diet. “We thought of crickets as an ideal ingredient because they are high in protein and we went to work with the acquisition of 43 specimens,” she said.
The growing demand for exotic animals such as chameleons, frogs, and snakes, has seen Insect Side dedicate itself to the sale of live bait with Cuenca noting, “In the province there aren’t any insect farms supplying it, so we took the first step”.
From humble beginnings in Concha’s own basement at home, Insect Side now has over 20,000 specimens in its facilities and is hoping to increase that number to an incredible three million in 2016, and will soon begin online sales through its website.
Their excrement is also being investigated as a crucial source of agricultural fertiliser while international scientific research is under way to analyse the potential of insects to provide an important source of food for human consumption.
The key challenge is convincing western consumers of the value of eating insects, long a staple dish in other cultures, for both health and environmental reasons.