Learning about edible insects from Skye Blackburn was life-changing. She taught me how important this practice is; for nutritional, environmental, cultural and historical reasons. She encouraged me to look into my own Chinese heritage, where we have been eating insects for thousands of years, which led me to create new dishes. What is so amazing about Skye is her exceptional ability to make this "taboo" subject so accessible. She is a natural teacher and her inquisitive, brilliant mind and genuine desire to share her knowledge with others is inspirational. - Kylie Kwong
Meet Skye Blackburn, founder of Edible Bug Shop
The next time you're craving a salty, crunchy snack, Skye Blackburn would love you to consider a handful of insects. Or crickets to be exact, which have a similar texture to "pork crackling" but are far more nutritious.
If the idea of eating whole insects is a little daunting – and Blackburn understands it is for many people – there are plenty of other tasty ways to add insects to your diet, including cricket corn chips or high protein cricket pasta.
"There's so many things to like about edible insects, I don't know why more people don't eat them," enthuses Blackburn, who founded the Edible Bug Shop in 2007. "They are really high in iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc, omega-3, as well as vitamin B12, and they've got a complete amino acid profile – so when you're adding the cricket protein to different things, you're actually providing your body with a whole food."
Blackburn's fascination with insects began as a child, when she was "that weird kid that had bugs on their desk at school". At university, she studied entomology before realising it offered limited employment options.
"At the time there was a shortage of food scientists so I thought, I'll just do a degree in food science so that when I finish uni I can get a job."
Blackburn first started a business farming insects for school programs. But it was a novelty idea to drum up interest that set her on the path to edible insects.
"We went on a holiday to Thailand and tried edible insects and I was really fascinated by them. When we came home, we were doing a pet and animal expo and I was trying to think of some unique promotional items to sell and I thought about doing some lollipops with real bugs in the middle," Blackburn explains.
The lollipops sold out and Blackburn was flooded with requests from people wanting to get their hands on her unique product. Blackburn sent the insects for nutritional testing so she could label them for retail and was stunned by the results. "I was actually so shocked that no one was eating them as food because they were just so high in everything and had a complete amino acid profile."
In 2007, she officially launched the Edible Bug Shop, selling novelty items such as chocolate-coated bugs. "The market wasn't ready for cricket pasta or cricket chips," she recalls. "People didn't understand the importance of a sustainable food system."
But with time, both attitudes and awareness have changed and today, Circle Harvest products (the consumer brand for products made by the Edible Bug Shop) are stocked in supermarkets across Australia.
"People are really more aware of where their food comes from and they've heard of edible insects and how they are going to be an important part of our diet."
Eating insects is not only good for you, it is good for the planet. The farming process uses food waste to feed the insects and doesn't require any water.
"If you replace one meat-based meal a week with a meal that uses insects as your source of protein, you actually save over 100,000 litres of drinking water a year," says Blackburn.
A change that is as simple as swapping Monday night's spaghetti Bolognese for cricket protein pasta with Neapolitan sauce – or making nachos with cricket corn chips.
"The reality of having insect-based food is it looks and tastes like things you would normally have but it's a better-for-you version."
Introduction by Kylie Kwong, words by Joanna Hunkin.