02/08/2022 – Innovation / Hargol FoodTech / Protein / Grasshoppers / Locusts
Hopping ahead – Grasshoppers as a commercial alt-protein
Locusts (grasshoppers) have made the headlines in recent years due to their destructive impact on arable farming operations – descending in swarms and decimating vast swathes of crops, to particularly devastating effect in Africa. However, as one of nature’s most efficient protein sources, these insects also offer an efficient solution to the mounting global food security challenge. Israeli innovator Hargol FoodTech is betting big on this prospect, having developed the world’s first commercial grasshopper farming operation. Here, co-founder and CEO, Mr Dror Tarir, describes Hargol’s progress in the field, alongside the remarkable nutritional and environmental benefits of this alternative protein source.
Q. What were the motivations for establishing Hargol FoodTech, and how has it developed since then?
Dror Tarir: “Hargol was established seven years ago when I learned about the global protein challenge and started looking for alternatives that would be better: Healthier for humans, healthier for the environment – and, most importantly, also taste better!
“I remembered a story from my childhood at Kibbutz Ma’anit. My grandparents used to tell me about the locust swarms destroying the crop – and while they were trying to save it, they saw Yemenite and Moroccan Jews coming to the fields to collect and eat the locust. From that story, I learned that locust (grasshoppers) are food for many people around the globe, and also that they are kosher.
“I started learning about locust and realised it is probably nature’s most efficient protein source, and also the most widely eaten insect – consumed by over one billion people across Asia, Africa and South America.
“However, as much as locust were in high demand, no one was able to farm them on a commercial scale. I therefore gathered a team of experts in insects farming and food regulation, and we set on a journey to become the first in the world to reach commercial-scale farming of locust.”
Q. I understand that Hargol’s grasshopper-farming is a particularly resource-efficient method of protein production. How does it square up against the environmental impact of conventional livestock farming?
“Grasshoppers are a superior protein source: Providing richer nutrient content with more protein and less fat, and a milder taste and flavour that makes them the perfect ingredient to be blended into a variety of applications And they are more efficient to produce, with a feed conversion rate of 1.3:1 [i.e., 1.3kg of feed to produce 1kg of locusts]. Weight for weight, if you compare grasshopper farming to beef production, the grasshoppers reduce by over 99 per cent the carbon emissions, water consumption, arable land usage and waste production.”
With the expected 70% rise in demand for animal source protein over the next decades and with existing animal source protein taking a big toll on the environment there is a need for an alternative – Both sustainable and affordable for populations around the globe.
Q. Could you describe the nutritional profile of Hargol’s grasshopper protein, alongside outlining how this compares to the nutrients found in conventional proteins?
“Our grasshoppers are a natural, unprocessed, nutrient-rich, complete protein source. They contain 72 per cent complete protein (all essential amino acids, rich in BCAA and essential micronutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins such as Omega 3 and 6, iron, zinc, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, vitamin B12 and vitamin B) – much more than you can find in any other protein source, animal-based or plant-based.”
Q. What kinds of product can Hargol’s nutrient-rich protein powder be incorporated into?
“The exciting aspect of Hargol’s powder goes beyond its rich nutrient content. It is its functionality: Hargol’s grasshopper powder enhances flavours and enriches texture, meaning that it makes products taste better and improves their texture. This is crucial, especially when we are considering the meat and meat replacement industries. By adding grasshopper powder to burgers, sausages and meatballs, we improve the experience of consumers. From the tasting tests we conducted, we learned that consumers refer to our meat products as better than meat!”
Q. And from which product segments do you see the greatest adoption of this innovative ingredient?
“Our main focus is on the meat segment, where we believe in a hybrid product combining animal-based and plant-based fresh and unprocessed ingredients, with Hargol’s grasshopper ingredient serving to bind them together and improve the products.
“We are also looking at sport performance nutrition and supplements, where our ingredient provides high-quality protein that is superior to traditional protein sources.”
Q. Through what kind of sales channels does Hargol FoodTech currently get its product to market?
“Hargol’s business model is B2B, and we are developing partnerships and joint ventures with food producers within the segment we have interest in. Our partners complete the development of new products, and manufacture and distribute the products globally.
“We sign MoUs and conduct pilots with leading food producers in North America, Asia and Europe, and we expect to announce a couple of strategic partnerships by the end of 2022.”
Geographically speaking, where are Hargol’s strongest markets today, and from where do you anticipate the strongest growth in demand moving forward?
“Based on our markets research, Hargol is focused on the USA market, Scandinavia in Europe, and several Asian countries. In each of these markets, we are focused on specific segments where we have identified best fit for the local market.”
Q. What are the firm’s upcoming plans, investments and strategy for future growth?
“Hargol is planning a funding round by the end of 2022 based on its commercial activity, and in order to support expansion of production and accelerate growth in sales. Funding will enable us to expand our business development activity and reach out to additional corporate partners.”
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