We have interviewed Dr. Elisabetta Francescato, founder and owner of Entomon, a company that deals with issues related to insects and their impact on human health.
What are applications which Entomon operates in?
We operate in producing and marketing entomological extracts as basis for medical treatment, cosmetics and other purposes. Our therapy products for allergies prevention are certified and characterized by particular purity.
We also realize analysis on various entomological products, artificial insemination, we organize conferences and seminars, provide educational materials for schools, thematic events and entertainment.
Where do you find insects used in your productions?
Mainly we work with biting insects as bees, bumblebees and wasps.
I breed bees myself and we cooperate with beekeepers and their associations. We buy bumblebees from companies that raise them to be used in pollination. Wasps are instead captured in nature.
More recently we have developed partnerships with bumblebees breeders that can provide individuals from colonies in which the queen is dead, and that would otherwise be discarded.
So all your suppliers, including Nature, are italian producers.
But there is also a medical and scientific reason.
There is a long history about producing these insects extracts for therapeutical use in allergology, especially in the US; the fact is that we Europeans (for example) have mainly developed allergic reactions to insects species we find in Europe, so for Entomon is crucial to obtain extracts from european species.
If there were Italian farms specialized in large-scale production of insects you need, could they become your suppliers?
The fact is that we are the only Italian specialized company, and the only one also in Europe.
At the moment all our production is absorbed by a single customer, even though we are investing on our market expansion through new products.
So there’s not a potential market in this application for entrepreneurs who want to invest in this kind of insects farming.
I would say no.
Our company is placed in a really small niche and I do not see exponential increase in quantities of insects to breed for our uses. Also because bees and bumblebees farms are already operating, and it is not possibile to breed wasps.
For other medical applications, of course, it’s difficult to predict developments in the short term.
What do you think about eating insects?
I have personal experience since my son recently completed his studies at the Istituto Alberghiero and he is working to build a chef career. He is fascinated by all concerning research and experimentation in the kitchen, as by new ideas coming mainly from northern Europe countries, like Danmark with the Nordic Food Lab, for example.
He is also very interested in entomophagy and insects transformation into innovative dishes as well as alternative proteins source, and on this topic he has focused his final talk for graduation.
Personally I do not think that eating insects will become a common practice in a country like Italy, so rich in culinary traditions and food variety. Italians will certainly have the curiosity to try new flavors and maybe do a different experience, but I do not think this could be a part of our everyday cooking.
Surely there will be those who will integrate their diet with regular insects consumption. Something like the sushi-lovers community.
So, what do you think about insects farming development in Italy?
Skipping these culinary considerations, the use of insects as a source of protein and other essential elements is a central issue for our future.
It ‘clear that producing animal proteins for a growing global population needs with methods we are using today -the meat farms- is unthinkable and unsustainable. Edible insects’ amount that a global market might require could be really huge, so I think this sector could have significant developments.