Quebec's first large-scale edible insect farm to open in Mirabel this fall

When you think of Quebec produce, crickets and mealworms probably don’t come to mind. But that could change when a large-scale edible insect farm opens this fall in Mirabel, with the help of a $210,000 investment from the federal government.

Protein-rich insects more efficient to grow than cows and pigs

Insects can be ground into a protein powder that's also high in iron. (CBC)

When you think of Quebec produce, crickets and mealworms probably don't come to mind.

But that could soon change. A large-scale edible insect farm is set to open this fall in Mirabel, with the help of a $210,000 investment from the federal government.

The farm is being built by Umamize, known until recently as Tottem Nutrition. Established in 2017, its goal is to make sustainable, nutritious products from protein powder made from ground-up insects.

"You're not consuming little legs," says Brenda Plant, one of the company's co-founders, in response to the misconceptions many consumers have about edible insects — though she admits she and her family sometimes do exactly that.

"They have a nice crunch," she says.

The protein powder can be used in smoothies, pancakes, muffins and bars. Umamize says it's already received orders for ten tonnes of crickets from food manufacturers.

Mealworms are the larval form of the mealworm beetle and take about four weeks to grow. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC News )

Sustainable food

The economic appeal of edible insects isn't necessarily in the taste, but because, gram for gram, insect protein can be produced with a fraction of the resources required to produce protein derived from livestock like cows and pigs.

Plant says it takes only one kilogram of food to raise 900 grams of insects.  

The bugs are also fully grown in two months, while it takes more than two years for beef cattle to be brought to market.

Insects don't require vast fields for grazing, unlike traditional livestock, so there are environmental benefits, as well, Plant says.

She said the insects "breed best in high humidity."

Umamize crickets and mealworms are grown in three-square-metre, climate-controlled tents in Mirabel, north of Montreal.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is providing Umamize with a matching grant to pay for 18 months of research by the Mirabel Agri-Food Research Centre to investigate ways of growing insects more efficiently.

With files from CBC Montreal's Homerun

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