Insects are adaptation-champions, and humankind should follow their example. The use of alternative protein will be necessary soon, and insects are strong candidates which should be taken into consideration. Plus, they are intriguing little creatures!
I got my graduation in Environmental Science at the University of Padua with a thesis on entomological biodiversity, then I had the opportunity to work in the Esapolis museum of live insects, where I found out that my two big passions, insects and sustainability, could be summarised in one word: “Entomophagy”.
Unfortunately not everyone is so excited about it: Westerners are not keen to see small eyes and little legs in their dish, thus insects are envisaged to be incorporated in the meals as flour or pure protein. I am now a postgraduate researcher at the Dublin Institute of Technology where I am working on crickets, mealworms and silkworms. My aim is to characterize both the flours and the protein extracts in terms of nutritional and functional properties. Protein in the food is important not only for its nutritional value, but also for its contribution to food structure: functional properties correspond to the behaviour of the protein in a food matrix, which is very important for the development of new food products. The capacity to absorb water or oil, to solubilize, to form foam or gel, to emulsify, offers many interesting applications. In the case of insect food products, obtaining appealing formulations becomes even more important in order to overcome the cultural barrier: investigations on consumers’ choices reported that awareness of positive implications of a food on sustainability and health is often not enough to drive the consumer’s decision, in fact the leading factor of choice remains its palatability.
I appreciate the opportunity to learn about food science and technology, and I have to say that protein science is challenging and fascinating. For me the only thing more beautiful than insect protein is… the insect itself! I still considerate myself an entomologist and I keep myself up to date on insect rearing. I’m also passionate about beekeeping and pollinators, as well as biological control.
I am very excited to start this experience at L’ Entomofago.