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Insect farming tutorial hopes to become permanent institution

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Insect Farming by Kat Grimmett

It takes the same amount of energy to raise a pound of meal worms as it does to produce a pound of pork.

February 25, 2015 / Volume XXXVII / Issue 2

The biology lab has gained two fresh and exciting kinds of life which students hope will stay at the school for years to come. The pioneering Insect Farming Tutorial brought 250 crickets and more than a thousand mealworms to their new home at New College of Florida. Initiated by Catherine Wooster, a second-year biology AOC, the tutorial is up and hopping.

Wooster cited her dad’s insect cookbook and Professor of Biology Elzie McCord’s entomology class as inspirations for the tutorial. Recalling a discussion from Professor McCord’s class on the topic of eating insects, Wooster explained her interest in the ecological factors of insect farming.

“[Insects] have a higher ratio of feed to protein, they can be held in very small areas with a low amount of waste, it’s just a very sustainable source protein,” Wooster said.

In Southeast Asia, insect farming, which is one of the suggested solutions for Vitamin A deficiency, could potentially hold the answer to malnutrition if done right on an industrial level. It could also provide an ideal foundation for studying genetically strong insects which could, in turn, positively affect declining bee populations.

The school had a lot to offer the insect farming tutorial including a biological control unit that stimulates day and night environments, and controls temperature and air circulation. The tutorial also received $200 in funding from the Council of Academic Affairs (CAA) to help buy insects, food and environmental stimuli.

Professor of Biology Sandra Gilchrist, sponsor of the tutorial, donated a couple of thousand mealworms which she uses to feed the fish at Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center. There are currently seven people involved in the tutorial. Gilchrist meets with the group once a week to facilitate discussion about the readings and the extensive academic outlooks that insect farming encourages.

“We’re looking at all sorts of aspects of insect farming, we’re doing anthropological stuff by looking at various cultures to see how they do this, environmental philosophy, what it means to be vegan, a lot of biology about how we can get the best results and learn from farming insects, even a little bit of business,” Wooster said.

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