Interview with Daniel Situnayake, founder of Tiny Farms
How did you get involved in the edible insects business?
Our team was exploring the potential for controlled environment agriculture to reduce the distance between people and their food. We noticed companies starting to design products around edible insects, but the insect supply was very limited. With our technology and design backgrounds, we saw the opportunity to make a contribution.
We know you’re patenting your ideas, but can you tell us a little more about?
Our company is an engine for developing agricultural systems for insect production. Our first project is a total rethink of the cricket farm. Starting from first principles, we’ve designed a system for rearing crickets that dramatically reduces labor costs – the big reason insects are so expensive today.
What’s the Tiny Farms-Network?
A lot of people want to raise insects, and we’re building a network of farms that use our technology. A successful agricultural system is robust, resilient and doesn’t have a single point of failure. That’s our goal.
Could these kind of networks be a part of the solution for the economic and hunger problems in the underdeveloped areas of the world?
Yes! Research from the UN FAO has shown that agricultural networks like the one we’re building help farmers in developing economies get better yields and make more money.
Three reasons (or more) why you think edible insects market (farming/food/feed/etc.) will have huge economic development…
- Billions of people eat insects, but they’re mostly wild-collected. Share the means to raise them and you share better food and more income.
- Fishmeal production for animal feed is killing our oceans, and insects provide an alternative that will be cost-competitive within a year or two.
- Insects can eat food waste, helping close the loop on inefficient systems.
You made a successful fundraising campaign. What’s the secret?
There’s no secret. It’s a lot of hard work. My biggest tip: don’t let people waste your time. If an investor doesn’t write a check within three weeks of making contact, they probably never will.
What’s the best marketing strategy to avoid the “yuk” factor?
The “yuk factor” is a distraction. One in four people think insects are gross and will never agree to eat them. Focus on the other three.
What’s the future of entomophagy in the western world?
First functional foods, then snack foods, then appetizers, then the main course.