The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Could aphid farms be the answer to world hunger?  (Read 3716 times)

Offline ErialSneider

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 7
    • View Profile
Could aphid farms be the answer to world hunger?
« on: 02/11/2013 21:54:12 »
For years the U.N. has been begging the world to embrace insects as a form of protein. The problem? Aside from the gross-out factor, they can be hard to catch, and when people do find a colony they rarely think to only take as much as the insects can produce, ensuring even those trying to take advantage of the protein we are literally surrounded by, canít. The solution? An easy and sustainable insect farm!

Now, having scoured the insect farm and algae markets, many designs either are too costly to see widespread use in third world countries(algae), or simply donít produce enough food for the space they take up(flies).

An overlooked source of protein, carbs and amino acids, aphids, or plant lice, are a potentially unparalleled food source. It was once said that if the offspring of ONE female aphid survive the summer, there would be enough aphids to stand in military formation circumferencing the planet several times. Thatís right, itís whatever million comes after quadrillion. Now, the beautiful part is that they not only feed on plants, but there is a type of aphid for literally almost every plant on earth. Currently, the only breed available to order online are pea aphids, which eat a variety of plants, most of which are very quick germinators and reach maturity in at most two months.

Imagine we could create a sustainable ecosystem, growing our quadrillion aphids, requiring only sunlight water, and backup plants. Simply knock off some aphids when your rice needs some protein, because the little green guys reach maturity in a week, producing about 50 to 100 eggs when they do, and for parts of the year they REPRODUCE ASEXUALLY, making the management of their population even easier. Additionally, there is an aphid breed for just about every plant in the world meaning we could pick the best pair for the production of organic matter.

Now, just as an example, imagine if we could get ahold of some bamboo aphids, which are commonplace in parts of the world, a pest, and remember that bamboo grows about three feet a day. Assuming that pair would be easily sustainable, think about the potential organic matter production.

What if we could create a sustainable food source that simply requires a temperate climate, sunlight and water, well, we could feed a lot of people. The distribution of seeds, plastic containers and the pests hardly even requires much infrastructure in-country to grow and distribute. On top of that, just think, protein that doesnít require large tracts of land, which is a major obstacle in many starving countries.

P.S. If anyone lives in Asia, I will pay to get some bamboo aphids.

P.S.S In America, the allowable number of aphids in hops is 2,500 per 10 grams, so if you are grossed out, or worried about health issues, beer is basically aphid juice.
« Last Edit: 24/12/2013 09:22:37 by chris »


 

Offline alancalverd

  • Global Moderator
  • Neilep Level Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4699
  • Thanked: 153 times
  • life is too short to drink instant coffee
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #1 on: 03/11/2013 01:02:01 »
Quote
What if we could create a sustainable food source that simply requires a temperate climate, sunlight and water, well, we could feed a lot of people.

Every society achieved that, about 20,000 years ago, and adapted it to local climate conditions by using rice, wheat, corn or potatoes as the primary foodstock, with chickens, pigs or cows as high-protein derivatives of the grasses that humans can't digest. The problem is that we then made too many people.
 

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #2 on: 03/11/2013 01:47:36 »
There are many things that one could eat.

Perhaps a good substitute for Klingon Gagh would be maggots.  It is quite possible that a feed lot could grow more maggots than beef. 

So, who gets the Targ Steak, and who gets the Gagh?

If we control the population, then everyone could eat the Targ Steak, and not need to choke down the Gagh.
 

Offline ErialSneider

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 7
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #3 on: 03/11/2013 11:50:32 »
According to backyardnature.net, ďEach of the many aphid species has its own life cycle, but there are some features uniting nearly all of them. One feature most species share is that they are incredibly prolific. Wingless adult female aphids can produce 50 to 100 offspring. A newly born aphid becomes a reproducing adult within about a week and then can produce up to 5 offspring per day for up to 30 days! The French naturalist Reaumur during the late eighteenth century calculated that if all the descendants of a single aphid survived during the summer and were arranged into a French military formation, four abreast, their line would extend for 27,950 miles, which exceeds the circumference of the earth at the equator!Ē

As far as their safety being in question, according to health.yahoo.net, ďif you home-brew beer, you might consider growing your own hops: The FDA legally allows 2,500 aphids for every 10 grams of hops.Ē

And if thatís not enough, heck, ants are even doing it. Hereís a BBC video:

The only previous attempts at farming aphids I could find online were to feed peopleís pet frogs, the concepts they used could be easily scaled up, and all were simply using pea aphids and pea plants, which is far from the best possible combination, in my opinion.

Another strength of using aphids as opposed to other insects, is that many aphids only can eat their host plant, meaning that the chances for environmental contamination from foreign species can be completely avoided, which is a major drawback to using insects to fight world hunger.

What remains for us is to figure out how to create a sustainable ecosystem for them to thrive in, plants that quickly produce seeds will be integral as ideally we will choose a plant that either can survive under attack from the aphids for a prolonged period of time, about a month at least, or quickly produce seeds, allowing us to constantly renew their food source, the key here is maximum amount of organic matter produced. This is why bamboo was my example, though I have done no tests myself. There are numerous options, Wisconsin fast plants(fatsplants.org) are an intriguing option, as they are genetically modified to reach maturity, (producing seeds) in thirty days, among the fastest rates on the planet. Basically the only thing to left to deduce is what plant do aphids eat that can keep up with their unbelievable reproduction rates. And remember, as they reproduce asexually much of the year, they are going to be constantly harvested, leaving a small breeding population which will quickly balloon in size will be no problem, and will allow us to harvest some of them for food every week, which is a spectacular rate.
« Last Edit: 03/11/2013 13:51:04 by ErialSneider »
 

Offline alancalverd

  • Global Moderator
  • Neilep Level Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4699
  • Thanked: 153 times
  • life is too short to drink instant coffee
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #4 on: 03/11/2013 15:00:47 »
Asexual reproduction = clones. How are you going to persuade the sort of people who won't eat irradiated strawberries, to eat cloned insects?

I intend to start insect farming in the next year or so, but only as a controllable step towards ranching wild insects, of which there are plenty, already fully adapted to their environment.     
 

Offline ErialSneider

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 7
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #5 on: 03/11/2013 17:34:23 »
What's wrong with clones? Most of the living organisms on this planet reproduce through asexual reproduction, you  could easily argue we are the evolutionary offshoot. It doesn't matter if some people won't eat them, didn't those irradiated strawberries feed at least a couple people, even if most turned them down(which just a few countries did in reality). I don't care if 99% of the world turns up their noses at aphid farms if 1% who would otherwise die, don't.
« Last Edit: 03/11/2013 17:36:36 by ErialSneider »
 

Offline evan_au

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4101
  • Thanked: 245 times
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #6 on: 03/11/2013 20:01:35 »
The problem with releasing aphids onto your rice crop is that the aphids suck the juices out of your rice plants, reducing rice yields.

After releasing the aphids, you then have to collect them again. At least the rice plants sit there waiting to be harvested.
 

Offline ErialSneider

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 7
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #7 on: 03/11/2013 20:24:20 »
Wow, I didn't even think of also getting to harvest the host plant potentially, that could be your whole diet in the space one crop takes up! Wow.

The idea is to have a enclosed environment, ideally sitting on a windowsill, which is not is not subject to the elements, and is easily accessible so you can monitor the health of your 'phids. Clip cages are commonly used to study leaf dwelling insects, and could be easily made, or replaced with something that encapsulates the entire plant. I strongly believe building a set-up that can be inside is a must, as it would expand the "growing season" of our aphids, as well as the portion of the globe they could feed.
 

Offline alancalverd

  • Global Moderator
  • Neilep Level Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4699
  • Thanked: 153 times
  • life is too short to drink instant coffee
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #8 on: 03/11/2013 20:44:18 »
Assume your insect is 100% efficient at turning plant material into fat and protein. Now you need to eat about 100 gram of protein and 20 gram of fat per day. So your windowsill needs to supply 120 gram of nutrition to the bugs, plus at least that amount of water, every day.

As I recall, most aphids excrete a lot of carbohydrate, so we are looking in practice at a minifarm producing at least 250 gram of nutrients and the same quantity of water, every day. Plus at least 500 gram of starch, if you don't want to feel hungry all the time, and at least 200 gram of green veg or fruit if you don't want your teeth to fall out.

It is generally reckoned that you need 1000 sq m of vegetation to support one human with green crops and seeds like rice, soybeans and lentils (root crops are slightly more efficient but poorer in protein) and at least 10 times as much if you use cattle as an intermediate.. Rather a large windowsill, even if it is smaller than a cow pasture! 
« Last Edit: 03/11/2013 20:46:35 by alancalverd »
 

Offline distimpson

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 118
    • View Profile
    • Kansas Meteorite Museum & Nature Center
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #9 on: 03/11/2013 21:22:44 »
Topic: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
-
Interesting topic, this is a bit off the aphid subject but it's always been my impression that "world hunger" is not due to a shortage of food but instead due to the tendency of the greediest self serving humans to create social structures with themselves and like minded cronies at the top and the rest of the population viewed and conditioned as a resource to glean. Food and other commodities are tools to control. My first question is: are we (humanity) really not able to produce enough nutritional food to feed everyone without using bugs? Living in the wheat state makes this hard for me to believe as the government pays to keep land out of production. Certainly if the population keeps increasing we could get to a point where eating bug burgers might be a real treat. In a blind taste test how do insects do? My dogs/cats love cicadas so possibly use in pet food.

Just curious, anyone know how vegans view bugs as food source?
 

Offline alancalverd

  • Global Moderator
  • Neilep Level Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4699
  • Thanked: 153 times
  • life is too short to drink instant coffee
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #10 on: 03/11/2013 22:18:32 »
Quote
Living in the wheat state makes this hard for me to believe as the government pays to keep land out of production.

Much the same in Europe - "setaside" payments for not growing food, payments to windfarmers for not generating electricity, denaturing wine, "intervention buying" of butter and wheat, killing small fish instead of selling them, reduction of health and safety standards to promote a single market, privatisation of rain....pretty much every definition of evil you can think of in a hungry world.

 
Quote
In a blind taste test how do insects do?


Locusts and crickets are delicious - remarkably like the shrimp they resemble. I haven't yet tried swamp fly cake, which is quite a celebratory dish in parts of Uganda.

Quote
Just curious, anyone know how vegans view bugs as food source?

No, but I have a parallel question. "Laver bread" is a Welsh delicacy - an edible seaweed fried in fat and served as a delicious part of a traditional breakfast. Now aside from the bacon, sausages and black pudding (never mind all that cholesterol nonsense - this is a cold, wet island and we need to eat rocket fuel in the morning) which definitely aren't, is laver bread kosher? If you wash all the little barnacle and shrimp larvae out of it, it just tastes like glue, so the answer is "yes, as long as you don't enjoy it".
« Last Edit: 03/11/2013 22:32:14 by alancalverd »
 

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #11 on: 03/11/2013 22:39:05 »
Aren't aphids pests?

One of our issues is that we may only eat 10% of a crop.

Grow wheat, and harvest the seeds, and waste the stocks.  Unfortunately the aphids won't like being fed only straw.

There are now methods to start capturing some of the straw, such as burning it for energy, or bioreactors. 

I wonder how much one nutrition one could recover from releasing a storm of locusts.  But, what about the ones that get loose?

Anyway, we need to find methods to capture the "waste" portion of the crops, while preserving the food portion.  And, also make sure our methods are safe from causing more damage than they solve.
 

Offline distimpson

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 118
    • View Profile
    • Kansas Meteorite Museum & Nature Center
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #12 on: 03/11/2013 22:51:28 »

Locusts and crickets are delicious - remarkably like the shrimp they resemble. I haven't yet tried swamp fly cake, which is quite a celebratory dish in parts of Uganda.

I admit being intrigued by locust, my little pal buddy (a chiweenie) and I have similar tastes and he swears by them.

Quote
"Laver bread" is a Welsh delicacy - an edible seaweed fried in fat and served as a delicious part of a traditional breakfast. Now aside from the bacon, sausages and black pudding (never mind all that cholesterol nonsense - this is a cold, wet island and we need to eat rocket fuel in the morning) which definitely aren't, is laver bread kosher? If you wash all the little barnacle and shrimp larvae out of it, it just tastes like glue, so the answer is "yes, as long as you don't enjoy it".
I don't know Laver bread but will look for a source and a new experience. Grew up eating black pudding as a treat, can't get it much in the middle of Kansas.
 

Offline alancalverd

  • Global Moderator
  • Neilep Level Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4699
  • Thanked: 153 times
  • life is too short to drink instant coffee
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #13 on: 03/11/2013 22:52:47 »
CK:

That's why I'm interested in harvesting wild locusts. They eat the entire crop, converting it to fat and protein and doubling their weight in about 12 hours - compared with several weeks for a chicken and a couple of years for most mammals. Far and away the most efficient protein sources on the planet, chewy, delicious, easy to catch and cook, and nobody else wants them. A small swarm contains about 1000 tonnes of meat.

Distimpson:

It's easy to make black pudding. http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/popular-cuisines/british/black-pudding-recipe is a good start. Most of the shop stuff is packed in sausage skins but to my mind the best is sold in slabs like cake. I'm sure you have pork butchers in Kansas!
« Last Edit: 03/11/2013 22:57:39 by alancalverd »
 

Offline ErialSneider

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 7
    • View Profile
Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #14 on: 04/11/2013 12:19:25 »
One of the key strengths of aphids as an introduced food source, is that many only eat their host plant. This means the chance for environmental contamination can be zero is we are careful.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Re: Solving World Hunger with Aphid Farms
« Reply #14 on: 04/11/2013 12:19:25 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums