In a box-like building on an out-of-town industrial estate in Burgundy, trays of Alphitobius diaperinus – otherwise known as the lesser mealworm – are being fattened up by robots, then cooked, dried, and turned into protein-rich powder and oil.
This is the headquarters of Ÿnsect, a French company that is building the world’s largest insect farm, to open at the end of the year in preparation for what the French company believes will be a large increase in demand for a healthy alternative to meat.
Today, most of the oil and protein powder it produces outside the town of Dole in the Jura is used in pet and fish food. However, since the European food agency (EFSA) gave its provisional approval for mealworm-based protein for human consumption earlier this year, some is being turned into “insect burgers” or used in cereal bars, protein shakes, pasta, granola, and other nutrient-rich foods.
“It can be made to look like minced beef and even turned into sausages,” says Antoine Hubert, the co-founder of Ÿnsect. “It’s ethically good, it’s good for the planet, and it also tastes good.” Ÿnsect – the dots over the Ÿ are meant to represent insect antennae – says its new 480,000 sq ft, a 120ft-tall farm outside Amiens in northern France will begin production early next year and will turn out more than 200,000 tons of insect-based ingredients a year.
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