As we welcome more human beings to the world, the demand for food production also increases. In fact, The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) estimates that animal protein consumption will increase by 52% between 2007 and 2030. The World Resources Institute predicts a 60% gap between supply and demand for protein by 2050. The race for alternative and sustainable proteins is on.
Shouldn't we just start producing more food then? Together with reducing food waste, the short answer is yes, but where? In Denmark alone, more than 60% of our total agricultural land goes to feeding and raising livestock, and this affects the climate and biodiversity.
In addition to the lack of space, agriculture is already one of the biggest greenhouse gas-emitters when we talk about methane, fertilizer, irrigation, feed, processing, deforestation and transport.
Vertical Shelves - The Future of Farming
So, we need to produce more food, using less land. And important to mention that the more nutritious this food is, the better. That's why we at Hey Planet, have turned to one of the most nutritious ingredients that requires very few resources - Alphitobius Diaperinus, better known as the buffalo mealworm. Buffalo mealworms are super effective at turning feed into more body mass (protein that we can eat) and coincidentally they love being cultivated in small spaces and they do not mind being stacked in shelves.
We have turned to the Netherlands, where we have a partnership with the world's first and largest vertical farm; Ÿnsect. The buffalo mealworms are reared in a high shelving system, taking up very little space compared to conventional farming which uses fields. The facility is fully operational and can deliver enough protein to feed a small city, all with a space of less than a parking lot.
Ÿnsect leverages forty years of insect breeding and rearing research and development.
In Europe, the climate is best for smaller insects such as mealworms and lesser mealworms (buffalo worms are another tasty name for them). Mealworms’ natural habitats are small dark spaces, which are perfect for constructing space-efficient farms.
The benefits of controlled farming
Sustainable or climate-efficient food can be understood as getting the biggest amount of calories using the smallest amount of land and harming the ecosystems as little as possible.
Insects are incredibly nutritious and require very little land, water, and feed, they are considered to be a very sustainable food source (see FAO’s report on Edible Insects, 2013 for details).
Most people in the world, who eat insects today, get them from the wild. Crickets, grasshoppers, locusts, and beetles, for instance, are collected via nets that are waved through the field or simply by your hands to pick up the bugs. Although insects from the wild are often contaminated with pesticides from the crops, this is an excellent way of getting tasty and nutritious food on the table on a small scale.
However, for insects to be sustainable food on a bigger scale, it is necessary to farm them in a closed environment. This makes the production more efficient since their feed can be controlled and it increases food safety.
Sustainable Feed – Circular Production
The secret to effective breeding, apart from the facility, is the feed. The buffalos are fed on vegetable streams. These streams are in large part made up of spent grain, a fancy term for waste from breweries, solving yet another climate problem - food waste.
Okay, Vertical Farming is Great, but What's the Catch?
Although there are many amazing environmental benefits of vertical farming, we can not run from the fact that there are still some challenges. The most important one is energy consumption, which is used to keep light and heat running 24 hours a day. That being said, we are constantly seeing development in technology, including also of LED bulbs, and there are constantly new models that use less power and emit less heat.
We are proud to work together with Ÿnsect, who are constantly looking for ways to optimize their production.