Nova Scotia

Dalhousie student aims to take mealworm flour to commercial market

Dalhousie Animal Sciences student Holly Fisher says eating bugs is the future of sustainable food.

Mealworm flour is highly nutritious, inexpensive, and sustainable

The mealworms take about four weeks to grow. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC News )

Dalhousie Animal Sciences student Holly Fisher says eating bugs is the future of sustainable food.

"Once they get over the initial yuck factor, they really like the product," said Fisher.

She's working with the provincial Crown corporation, Perennia, to produce flour made from meal worms, and plans to take the product to the commercial market. 

"At first people are like, 'ew I wouldn't eat a bug.' And then once you give them some sort of product with it in it, they love it. They realize that it's got a nice nutty flavour to it, so it's quite interesting."

Source of protein

Fisher says meal worms are a good source of protein, providing a daily dose in just 100 grams. They also contain iron, zinc, and vitamins A, E, and B.

Fisher says the flour is relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, at just $0.45 per kilogram. She's bred her own colony of beetles, which lay eggs that grow into larvae within four weeks.

It takes about 20,000 meal worms to make 1 kilogram of flour. Fisher says it's a low weight, high quality food source that is sustainable.

Looks like sand

Fisher feeds them kale from a local greenhouse and wheat bran, and keeps the bugs in a small container at 25 degrees Celsius.

Once they reach the larvae stage, Fisher freezes them and grinds them up into a flour that resembles the color and texture of sand.

Fisher says the flour can be used as a partial substitute for regular flour in baking, and can be added to protein shakes instead of whey.

Baking material

"You can add it to any food," Fisher said. "You can put it into cookies, you can put it into a breaded chicken, battered fish, whatever you want to boost the protein content and the nutritional value of the food you're eating."

Fisher says a commercial product is still at least a year away, but she's already heard positive feedback from two local markets, including the Masstown Market, which would like to carry the product.

She hasn't yet decided how much a bag of meal worm flour would cost.