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C-fu FOODS brings a new approach to protein that comes from a more sustainable source, insects

November 16, 2016 By: Muska Ulhaq

The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) are proud to announce the 2016 RBC Impact Entrepreneurs who were showcased at the 9th annual Social Finance Forum. The Social Finance Forum is the best place to engage and profile leaders in Canada’s diverse social finance scene and to capture advancements from the world stage.

In March 2014, I was studying food science at Cornell University. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations had just published a report extolling the potential of edible insects to improve feed and food security. The report was downloaded over 7 million times–clearly there was a lot of buzz. Around this time, I wrote a paper for a food chemistry course on the science of surimi—a restructured fish protein ingredient used in many imitation fish and seafood products. While you may not have heard of surimi, you’ve probably eaten it at least once. It’s potentially one of the most impactful food ingredients ever created because it created a new use for low-value and often wasted fish species.

Bugs are very similar to shellfish. They’re both arthropods, evolutionary cousins. They’re small, they’re considered  ugly, but they’re an excellent source of protein. With that in mind, I began tinkering in a homemade lab, and successfully made cricket surimi. I called up my brother, and in March 2015 we  founded C-fu Foods.

At C-fu Foods  we recognize there is a growing protein gap and it’s only getting wider as the population booms to a projected 10 billion by 2050. Meat demand is set to double and we’re already running out of fish. Meanwhile meat production is one of the largest contributors to climate change and one of the biggest consumers of fresh water. That’s where bugs come in. For the same amount of protein, bugs consume as much as ten times less feed, emit 200 times fewer emissions, and require up to 2000 times less fresh water than beef. And believe it or not, they can be pretty tasty. Insects are staples and delicacies for over 2 billion people worldwide and creeping onto Michelin starred restaurants. They offer a new, sustainable, and diverse world of cuisine. One who’s variety dwarfs all the foods we already eat! 2000 species are documented as edible and the real number could be closer to 2 million.

We’re inventing the next generation of ingredients that will enable chefs and brands to create gastronomical bridges. Using food science, we’ve created high quality protein powders that work just like common ingredients. These will help introduce insects into a wider range of foods than is currently possible – like the growing market of sports nutrition beverages.

Apart from protein, this means new economic opportunities for microranchers and processors worldwide. Building on the principles of surimi that helped us make better use of often discarded fish, we’ve created “textured insect protein” (TIP), a meat, dairy, and egg alternative made from restructured insect protein. TIP has as much protein as ground beef but half the saturated fat, 1/3rd less cholesterol, and when made from crickets as much as 3-times the blood boosting vitamin B12—an essential nutrient that’s only found in animal products. It’s an exciting new ingredient that can reduce our dependence on conventional livestock while creating a pathway to explore a completely new gastronomy!

Getting people to eat insects is a challenge but we’ve seen a huge shift in the two years since we founded C-fu Foods. Consumers are enthusiastic to have new options and excited for the positive impact insects can have on our food system. By creating quality ingredients that mimic the taste, texture, and function of meat we’re enabling growth for a new food sector—one that could inspire real and positive change for the planet and the palate. I hope you’ll bite too and sample what insect cuisine can offer. It’s an exciting new world of food rich in nutrition and potential. Bon apetit!

By: Josh Domingues, Founder and CEO, C-fu Foods