Non Technical Summary
Low Crawling Fruit: High Quality, Clean, Sustainable Protein Created From Insects Food reserves are the lowest they've been in 40 years. As the human population grows, it is ever more important to sustain rather than increase our levels of consuming and harvesting materials from the earth and its ecosphere. Animal based nutrients, specifically protein, are critical for health, yet already about 70% of agricultural land, and 30% of the total land on earth, is used to raise livestock. Amid the ever expanding human population and demand on natural resources, the market for protein is exploding. The global market for protein products was over $15 billion in 2012 and growing by 30% in 5 years. Fortunately, insects provide a fantastic solution to meet the world's nutritional needs. In contrast to the large land footprint required to create other sources of protein, insects can be grown in small, clean facilities. Additionally, insects require far less food and water per gram of protein produced while giving off much less greenhouse gas emission compared to traditional livestock. Insects are also a very clean and healthy source of protein rich nutrition. They are very high in complete, highly digestible protein, high in omega 3 fatty acids and low in unhealthy fats. Additionally, common food borne pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and Staphylococcus aureus have not been detected in US farmed insects to date. Best of all, consumers are interested. Media outlets, such as Fox News, Huffington Post, New Yorker and Washington Post have all published articles about this promising nutrition source. We expect that our project, and the overall success of insect-based foods, will revolutionize the food and agricultural industries while spurring economic development and job creation in both rural and urban communities.The current USDA SBIR Phase II project is intended to support the development of All Things Bugs LLC's patented processes for turning insects into a high quality protein ingredient that is substantially richer in nutrients than other alternatives at a comparable price. We will optimize the high quality protein product developed during Phase I and address barriers to market. This project will address several critical aspects of All Things Bugs LLC's insect-derived ingredients toward addressing customer, regulatory and industry interests including: 1) shelf-life of insect powder as well as food products containing it, 2) performance of insect powder in the context of multiple end products and formulations, 3) improving insect powder production efficiency and cost, 4) food safety aspects such as allergen, microbe and toxin content and 5) improving overall insect powder ingredient quality (texture, functionality, etc.). These (powders, pastes or liquids) have a very wide range of commercial applications in the human food, animal/pet feed and nutraceutical industries including: fortified dry goods, fortified protein supplement powders, high protein fortified porridges and cereals, "meat" substitutes, chitosan (nutraceutical derived from chitin), high protein beverages, protein fortified bars and powders for athletes as well as numerous types of snack foods. Synergy between our high quality insect-based food ingredient research and our marketing strategies will overcome market barriers, both cultural and technological, to the utilization of insects as a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable protein source. These innovations by All Things Bugs LLC will incentivize the growth of an entirely new area of agriculture in the US: farming of insects for human consumption.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories
Goals / Objectives
The primary goal of this Phase II SBIR project is to refine methods from Phase I toward providing a clean, healthy and sustainable high quality protein food ingredient derived from farmed insects. Providing high quality sources of protein derived from farmed insects at a price that is competitive to other protein sources is truly "game changing" for the food and agriculture industry. In contrast to the large environmental footprint required to create other sources of protein, insects can be grown in small, clean facilities.Previous attempts by others to produce protein powder from insects required high heat and significant post processing to achieve a dry powder formulation. Our novel process developed (and patented) during Phase I uses minimal heat in order to maximize nutrient content and overall product quality. This process allows us to deliver product at comparable prices to other sources of protein. Our high quality protein powder is substantially richer in nutrients than other alternatives such as peanut butter, soy or dairy. To achieve our goal in Phase II, we will optimize the high quality protein product and methods (patented) developed during Phase I and evaluate aspects of product quality, functionality and safety. Elements of the product and production methodologies to be optimized and evaluated include: 1) Shelf life, 2) Microbiological risk mitigation, 3) Application performance in various food and other end products, 4) Insect processing efficiency, 5) Raw material sourcing supply chain, 6) Production cost, efficiency and sustainability, 7) Product reproducibility, 8) Additional product lines (whole mealworm powder and reduced chitin cricket and mealworm powders, etc.) and 9) Overall product sensory quality (taste, aroma and texture). For Phase II we plan to evaluate at least 4 types of insect powders (whole cricket, reduced chitin cricket, whole mealworm and reduced chitin mealworm). Below are the primary objectives and the questions they seek to address during Phase II. Our goal is to address barriers necessary to achieve robust market potential for insect-derived protein ingredients for human food products.1. Insect Powder Production Process Engineering Optimization and Produce Powder: · What is the baseline foodborne pathogen load of insects from various US insect farms?· What steps can be taken to mitigate microbial risk, if any, in farm raised insects?· Can cricket/mealworm powder with/without chitin production be made more efficient?2. Insect Powder Shelf Life Evaluation: Sensory, Color, Texture, Rancidity and Microbiological.· Over what time period does insect powder resist rancidity and microbial growth as well as maintain a suitable color, aroma and texture?· Does the presence of chitin affect/improve the shelf life of insect powder?3. Insect Power Safety Evaluation: Mycotoxins, Allergens and Heavy Metals.· What, if any, mycotoxins are present in powder made from farm raised insects?· Are any known allergens from diet of farm raised insects present in processed insect powder?· What is the heavy metal content of powder made from farm raised insects?4. Product/Application Performance Evaluation for Insect Powder: Evaluate 5 different mainstream food products when standard animal protein ingredients are replaced with insect powder · What are functional properties of insect powder (oil, water binding, etc, with/without chitin)?· What are the maximum levels of insect powder which allow optimal acceptability (texture mixability, color, flavor and firmness) as an ingredient in: baked goods (protein bars, cookies), pasta, and tortillas (both fresh and tortilla chips)?· How do cricket and mealworm powders compare (with or without chitin)?· Can insect-based ingredients be improved using standard additives and processing methods?5. Shelf Life of Products Incorporating Insect Powder: Rancidity, Sensory, Texture and Color· Over what time period do food products containing our insect powder resist rancidity and microbial growth as well as maintain a suitable color, aroma and texture?· Does the presence of chitin in food products containing our insect powder affect/improve the shelf life of insect powder? If so, how?
The current USDA SBIR Phase II project is focused on application-driven technological advancement of Dr. Aaron T. Dossey's methods to produce high quality, clean, safe, healthy and sustainable insect-based food ingredients. The overall success of this project will be determined by scientific data demonstrating that the methods generate safe, high quality, healthy and widely useful insect-based food ingredients. This will incentivize the food industry to consider these ingredients for their existing and planned food products, thus realizing the health and environmental benefits of insect-based foods. Use of these ingredients in mainstream food items will also improve cultural acceptance of insects as a food ingredient in the US as well as help build a synergistic industry and supply chain network to market insects as an alternative protein source. Input and feedback from our existing and potential customers will guide this Phase II USDA SBIR project as well as our company's R&D and business activities. In fact, these were already taken into account when formulating the original proposal for this Phase II project.Ultimately the company's success will be determined by sales. In addition to the magnitude of sales revenue, we will evaluate the diversity of the customer base, diversity of the applications our products are utilized in and the size of our larger customers. We will seek to develop a large, diverse customer base utilizing our products in as wide a variety of food applications as possible. Additionally, we plan to have at least 1-3 large major national brands as part of our customer portfolio. We believe this will result in a robust company, a secure revenue stream and maximum potential for growth. The technological goals of this project will be achieved through the following activities and methodologies:1) Insect Powder Production Process Engineering Optimization and Produce PowderPowder Production for Project Research and Sale: To date, we have produced and sold about 3,000 pounds of whole cricket powder. However, for reproducibility and reliable batch-to-batch production quality, we need to repeatedly evaluate and refine each step for each of our current processes. The following batches of insect powder will be produced to evaluate the efficiency of Dr. Aaron T. Dossey's patented production methods (developed during Phase I), generate material for additional experiments for the project (described below) and also for sale: 1) 500 pounds of whole cricket powder with chitin, 2) 20 pounds of reduced chitin cricket powder, 3) 500 pounds of whole mealworm powder and 4) 20 pounds of reduced chitin mealworm powder. Baseline Microbiological Tests on Raw Insects: We will establish baseline levels of common foodborne pathogens in samples of raw crickets and mealworms from US insect farms. Three different samples will be ordered at least 1 month apart from each of 5 major US insect farms for microbiological testing. The following tests for the presence and level of common foodborne pathogens will be performed: 1) Total/Aerobic Plate Count, 2) Coliforms, 3) Salmonella sp., 4) Escherichia coli, 5) Listeria sp., 6) Staphylococcus aureus and 7) Clostridium botulinum.2) Insect Powder and End Product Shelf Life EvaluationIt is critical to understand the shelf life of any product, particularly foods and food ingredients. Our customers have all asked "What is the shelf life?" so they know: 1) how to store it and 2) how long it will last so they can determine how much they can order over what period of time. A longer shelf life means larger orders and thus greater total sales. Thus, shelf life determination on the following will be conducted: 1) whole cricket powder (currently being sold), 2) reduced chitin cricket powder, 3) whole mealworm powder and 4) reduced chitin cricket powder. Additionally, we will conduct similar shelf life evaluations on prototype food products developed in section "3" below.The products will be tested initially for Moisture, Hexanal, Water Activity (Aw), Fat by GC to obtain the Fatty Acid Profile, Protein, Moisture Isotherm to understand the critical moisture, Particle Size Analysis, Aerobic Plate Count (APC), and Yeast & Mold. The products will be stored at the following conditions: 0°F (with ambient RH) to provide the sensory control, 70°F with 38% RH to simulate how the product will be stored and obtain real time shelf life evaluation, Summer Warehouse (70°-90°F cycle every 12 hours 65% RH) and 100°F with 20% RH to simulate extreme temperatures the product may be subjected to and to obtain accelerated data to use in modeling the shelf life of the powders. Samples will be pulled periodically and evaluated for Sensory (aroma, appearance, flavor, and texture) by a trained sensory panel, Moisture, Hexanal, Aerobic Plate Count (APC), and Yeast & Mold with Particle Size being evaluated at each condition endpoint.3) Insect Powder Safety EvaluationA major goal of All Things Bugs LLC is to provide safe and high quality food ingredients made from insects. We will evaluate our insect powder ingredients based on reasonable risks which exist in similar food ingredients (powders, flours, proteins, etc.). For example, the feed utilized by insect farms contains commodities such as wheat, soy and corn. Some of these ingredients contain known allergens (gluten from wheat for example) and possible mycotoxins (aflatoxin etc.), yet it is unknown if insects break these down or if they are present in insects consuming them. Thus, we will test our products for presence/levels of the following common foodborne allergens/toxins: MYCOTOXINS: 1) Aflatoxin, 2) Vomitoxin, 3) Zearalenone, 4) Ochratoxin, 5) Fumonisin; ALLERGENS: 1) Egg Allergen, 2) Gluten Allergen, 3)Soy Allergen; OTHER TOXINS: 1) Heavy Metals (including antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury). Additionally, we will evaluate the microbial and pathogen content of each batch of powder. The following tests for the presence and level of common foodborne pathogens will be performed: 1) Total/Aerobic Plate Count, 2) Coliforms, 3) Salmonella sp., 4) Escherichia coli, 5) Listeria sp., 6) Staphylococcus aureus and 7) Clostridium botulinum.4) Product/Application Performance Evaluation for Insect PowderThe primary goal of this task is to identify and refine applications for insect based ingredients for the Food Industry.a) Application Development: We will evaluate at least 5 types of finished food products containing insect powder. These will include: baked goods (protein bars, cookies), pasta, tortilla (both fresh and tortilla chips). We will start with standard industrial formulations for these products and determine the maximum levels of insect ingredients for optimal acceptability. These formulas will be optimized to showcase the benefits of utilizing insect ingredients and used for shelf-life studies in section "2" above.b) Functionality Testing: The basic functionality of the insect powder ingredients will be quantified: protein solubility, water holding capacity, oil binding capacity, emulsifying capacity. Since functional properties of different proteins can be influenced by parameters such as processing temperatures, and the protein exposure to different acids, salts, it will also be important to establish base line functionality of the ingredients.c) Improved or New Ingredient lines: We will further refine the insect ingredients in ways such as: use of mealworms in addition to crickets, reduction of chitin, modification of functional attributes through modified processing or additive, adjusting processing parameters such as temperature, pH, utilize enzymes, emulsifiers (lecithin, mono-di glycerides) or other additives and/or explore the effect of hydrolysis on functional advantages for the finished insect-based ingredients.