Yes, there is a market for insect farming in Australia …and it’s growing.

Yes, there is a market for insect farming in Australia …and it’s growing.

Cricket powders and protein balls are just some of the ways insects are being made more palatable to Australian tastes.

It may surprise you to know, there are 14 insect farming businesses in Australia.

Eating insects is fairly common in other countries (including those in Asia and Africa), but Australia is still… well, developing an appetite for it.

Insects are high in protein and insect production can be more environmentally friendly than conventional livestock production — with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

So what does this emerging industry look like?

The main insects being farmed for food in Australia include crickets and mealworms. And in recent years, some producers have turned them into protein bars and powders to make them more palatable.

You can also find cricket nut butter, cricket falafels and taco toppings, as well as specially made insect crackers on the market.

But, it’s worth noting that most of the insect farming businesses in Australia (10 out of the 14) are actually producing animal feed for industries such as aquaculture, poultry, and pet food.

Most of these insect producers are SMEs or startups, and a handful are more established product manufacturers.

Above figure taken from the AgriFutures Emerging Industries report: Catalysing a $10m Australian Insect Industry.

However, new research by our team at AgThentic, commissioned by AgriFutures Australia, has found that the industry is poised for growth.

Globally, the United Nations believes the insect industry could be worth $1.5 billion in just three years.

In Australia, AgriFutures identified insects as a high potential emerging industry, which has the ability to reach $10 million in farmgate output within a few years.

And there are strong signs that this is already happening — insect farming startups such as Goterra and Beyond Ag have recently attracted funding from the venture capital world.

What are the market opportunities for insects?

The humble insect is expected to play a major role in our global future food system because of its potential to address global challenges, such as climate volatility, a growing population, and pressures on natural resources.

But even if you’re in the “I’ll never eat bugs, you can’t make me,” camp — insects have other functions in the food system.

Globally, including in Australia, the use of insects in waste-management, fertilizers, biofuels and pharmaceuticals is currently being explored.

And, Australia is well-placed to capitalize on these markets (we have some insect bragging rights that go beyond just our bull ants and giant moths). For example, there are some unique strains of insects here which are likely to perform better than their overseas counterparts in terms of food and other products.

Also, seasonal conditions enable Australian farmers to grow insects year round, whereas it’s too cold for most European farmers. Plus, Australia’s strict biosecurity laws means the country is relatively disease-free.

But there are some big challenges to overcome first.

Put simply, it may be hard to convince some Aussies to eat bugs.

Western diets are unaccustomed to ‘insects as food’, so there’s a concern about the size of the domestic market and how to change community perceptions.

Beyond this, there are several other challenges facing insect farming as an industry.

Firstly, there is no established blueprint on how to successfully raise insects under Australian conditions. Consequently, individual farmers are doing things differently at each step of the insect supply chain.

There are also very few commercial scale insect farms in Australia, with only 35% of the industry having more than 3 employees.

And while insect farming is attracting venture capital — it has the downside of farmers and entrepreneurs being reluctant to share industry knowledge.

To overcome these challenges, we worked with the Insect Protein Association of Australia to develop a roadmap — focusing on three key areas:

  • A United Industry Voice

Just like when all the crickets sing in unison at night… the insect industry needs to find its own “voice”. There needs to be more collaboration — so industry events, resources and research bodies can be established to start building that collaborative culture.

  • Developing National Industry Guidelines

The industry also needs to develop national guidelines on how to best farm insects — including biosecurity, OH&S, food safety and insect welfare.

This will make it easier for Australian producers as well as increase confidence for domestic and international investors, and downstream industries (e.g. livestock feed).

  • Research

In such a new industry — there needs to be research into what is actually working and what the benefits are. A successful insect industry needs solid data on the nutritional value of insects and what other types of markets they could be used in (pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, etc.).

Finally, there’s that big cultural challenge of “consumer acceptance” — will Australians eat insects?

There needs to be research into perception and marketability. The report also suggests sensory research, such as blind tasting, to better understand customer feelings and decision making.

See the insect industry roadmap below:

Above figure taken from the AgriFutures Emerging Industries report: Catalysing a $10m Australian Insect Industry.

Check out the full industry report, Catalysing a $10m Australian insect industry, written by Sarah Nolet and Georgia Pugh.

Yes, there is a market for insect farming in Australia …and it’s growing. was originally published in AgThentic Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Yes, there is a market for insect farming in Australia …and it’s growing.