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SWAP (Silkworm as Protein)

The challenge

Feeding the world is a huge challenge as the population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050. Increasing income, in addition to improved living conditions, is seen as a driver in the rise of animal protein consumption worldwide. The rate of meat consumption is increasing swiftly in developing regions, namely Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. To meet the growing demand for animal protein in 2050, in developing countries, production has to double. Land area is limiting the ability to meet the demand of increasing meat consumption. Other problems associated with increased animal-protein production are environmental impact and spread of infectious diseases from animals to humans. Hence there is an urgent need to find an alternative protein source. India is the second largest country by population in the world and home of the highest number of malnourished children. A potential solution to this problem is the practice of eating insects, known as entomophagy. Even though insects and their products have been consumed by humans since ancient times, the practice is still considered taboo except in North eastern states of India. India, a country hosting more than 300 edible insect species, is still lagging behind in awareness and consumption of insects as food and feed. Insects are mainly reared for their products, silk, honey, carmine and lac and as biocontrol agents. Meanwhile, undernourishment remains a key problem in India, especially among children: thirty-eight percent of children under age five are stunted, 21 percent are wasted, and 36 percent are underweight. To reduce malnutrition and poverty through a sustainable protein alternative is essential for the further development of the country

The solution

With the platform of ‘rethink protein’ we aim to introduce entomophagy to battle malnutrition in India. The approach is through utilizing by-product of silkworm industry (pupae) as a food supplement. India is the second largest producer of silk. After reeling, pupae are usually thrown away and sometimes used as fertilizers or as poultry feed. Only in north eastern states of India silkworm pupae are eaten. In other parts of India, highly nutritious silkworm pupae, a by-product of silk industry, get wasted or sometimes used as fertilizer or poultry/fish feed. The cost of silkworm pupae is much lower than more conventional sources of protein, making it easy for people to have access to a protein rich food. 100g of silkworm pupae contains 55g of protein, 8.5g of fat, 6.5g of fiber, and 25.43g of carbohydrates. Silkworms are also rich in essential amino acids and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. They furthermore contain notable amounts of iron: around 7.3 mg/100 g pupal fresh weight and around 23.5 mg/100 g in dry pupae. With these properties, the consumption of silkworm pupae can contribute to combat Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA), for which India is among the countries with the highest prevalence in the world. Hence, the aim of the project is to utilize silkworm pupae for food or food supplement and to increase food security in villages by providing access to protein rich food whilst reusing an agricultural by-product and reducing pollution caused by dumping of excess pupae. We work together with an educational institution, a government organization and private companies in planning this project, golden triangle for a successful innovation. We have also used concepts of SHARP (Sustainable, Healthy, Affordable, Reliable, and Preferable) in the project. As one Japanese proverb says, “none of us are as smart as all of us”; we as a team are aiming for the entomophagy revolution in Southern India to reduce the rate of malnutrition.


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