05.08.2015 – Aspire is a social enterprise that uses the commercialized production of insects to address food insecurity around the world. Rich in protein, iron, and calcium, insects are already eaten by two billion people, 140 million of whom live in urban slums.
“People have been eating insects since the dawn of humanity,” says Gabe Mott, COO. “But the idea of commercializing it was a new one and we thought we could do it better than anyone else.”
Who knew that the answer to food insecurity could be whizzing under our nose?
After winning the 2013 Hult Prize, the largest competition for budding social enterprises worldwide, Aspire established farms in Mexico, Ghana, and the United States. The business model is simple — Aspire sells insects to businesses that already make insect based products. However, each country’s farm is catered to the kind of insect they breed, from imitating its natural environment and food to using the insects to address different problems.
In Oaxaca, Mexico, Aspire farms chapulines, grasshoppers with six times the amount of iron found in beef. Mott hopes to make these insects more accessible to families like those in Oaxaca, who are at a high risk for anemia.
The farm in Ghana breeds the palm weevil, whose high fat and protein content renders it a close mimic to the nutritional content that the UNHCR currently provides to refugees.
And with cricket farms in Texas, Mott hopes that by providing nutritional alternatives to the country with the largest consumption of meat per capita, it can set the trend and increase global consumption of insects significantly.
Aspire’s greatest challenge is improving farming techniques to lower the price of insects and offer them as staples in communities.“There’s this misperception that insects are ‘food for the poor.’ I’ve eaten insects in half a dozen countries and I’ve never seen insects for less than the price of beef or chicken,” Mott says.
Before commercialization, the difficulty in catching grasshoppers in the wild made them an expensive product. In contrast, chicken and beef farmers have refined their strategies over thousands of years, enabling them to significantly drive down the price of these livestocks. This investment in research and development has not been as extensive in the insect industry, Mott says, though he is confident that their efficiencies will continue to improve.
About the author
Alya Omar is currently a student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, happily studying International Relations Global Business with a minor in Digital Studies. She recently returned from a month northward of the Arctic Circle, researching and writing policy recommendations regarding issues of climate resilience and adaptation strategies for industries in the region. She is interested in learning about creative solutions to global problems and hopes to learn about inspiring social enterprises. In any spare time, Alya enjoys unicycling and going to concerts.