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Entoview with 4ento

Not many of us can say that we played a significant part in the start of an idea or concept that shapes the way the world works. Even for those in the right place at the right time, such as for the web innovators of Silicon Valley in the 90s, the next leap forward is often an unexpected one. As many are now beginning to realise, global population growth and food security issues have forced us to the cusp of a new agricultural revolution – only this time, everyone sees it coming.

4ento is a company like no other. Founded by the ever-present and much-loved Ana C. Day, its role in the industry is two-fold: to educate and advocate edible insects through its 4ento Food & Feed resources; and to help develop and nurture the development of entomophagy businesses.

EBF: How did you become interested in entomophagy?

Ana: I didn’t really. As most of us, I was repulsed by the idea of putting an insect or a worm in my mouth. I frankly entered this sector attracted by the positive impact on the environment that insect-meal could have over fish-meal and the potential for income and job creation.

Entomophagy grew on me little by little! The food start-up teams’ energy and activity used to keep me on my toes while dealing with the lethargic feed industry ways, as it moved forward! This is not meant as a criticism, but I feel they could use one or two “Afterworks” a month 😉

It took me almost a year to walk my talk and be able to eat my first insect! Surprise, surprise – it was actually good, and ever since…! (this is why I tend to be so patient when visitors approach the Edible Insect pavilion at food shows).

Being and feeling more and more comfortable about eating insects triggered an extra round of energy that I have invested in the field of insects as food. It has been fulfilling and rewarding !!! Great partnership and accomplishments achieved, great new friendships to celebrate !!

What are your roles as an Ento-Ambassador?

These play an important part in our not-yet Ento culture, both with consumers and stakeholders.

We try to develop and deliver content; activities and programs that provide consumers, visitors and participants with the opportunity, resources and knowledge necessary to learn, to adopt and to effect change.

Using the tools, information, and skills developed and encountered during conferences and workshops, facilitated by Universities and NGOs, we try to lead efforts to implement and educate colleagues and future consumers about the environmental and sustainable practices of the sector …. we team up with peers and fellow companies to exchange ongoing resources and support !

How has 4ento impacted the insect-eating community since it was founded in 2013?

I do believe that our support and commitment towards the insect-eating community has been positive & highly appreciated, BUT since our main focus has always been to preach, reach and engage the non insect-eating community, I suppose I could also say that our work has helped to enlarge the community and increase its possibilities to achieve higher grounds as a movement and as a trend.

Every person that walked out from our stand, did so with softened corners and a different perspective about edible insects !

What are the current goals of 4ento?

To be able to survive and overcome all the barriers that our industry has been facing lately.

The Novel Food application is not as simple as it appears. France just closed its borders to insects (at least in large volumes) and until it is said otherwise, we will not see an insect on the Swiss market until early next year. So what do we have left?

As 4ento’s founder, with marked concern for the welfare of our planet, I aim to be able to continue side by side with actors and players to be able to reach safe and fertile shores, in order to flourish !! And, of course we are trying to raise some funds in order to do so.

4ento offers services to businesses in the field. Can you tell me an example of a success story?

We have hundreds of success stories to date, but unfortunately, simply impossible to translate into cash. We are proud and certain that every B2B C2B introduction we have made has or will have a positive outcome, whether it was then or will be tomorrow, short- or long-term.

We also have a collection of thank you letters from teachers & students from all over the world, all those will one day become fruits to be harvested.

We have tried to put to work two different business models: the Pavilions and the Blog, both very welcomed and appreciated, but still a little bit to early to be able to capitalize on.

What are the greatest challenges for entomophagy right now?

One of the biggest challenges (in any sector) will always be to manage and control some of the predictable “left turns” that come from certain human behavior, like greed and dishonesty, mainly due to the lack of accountability when it comes to irresponsible implementation that puts in danger the safety of the consumer and the industry’s reputation. Last but not least, there is the lack of action from some public entities that are failing to help us succeed due to a different and unilateral prioritization…

We need to nourish and protect the unwritten agreement between industry and consumers, because this is an important factor in determining their attitudes and behaviors.

We need to agree on industry standards such as ISO (the International Organization for Standardization).

In many European countries, regulations on edible insects aren’t clear. What advice does 4ento give companies who want to enter the European market?

The European market is more complicated that it seems. Regulations are just a matter of complying with the local authorities – this will become clearer sooner or later. The biggest challenge goes beyond that. We still have to work on having Insects included in the Codex Alimentarius for the sake of import/export. Furthermore, consumer attitudes vary considerably between countries. You won’t necessarily be successful in London applying what rocked in Paris, so beware!

There is one peculiarity happening with these varied feelings and interpretations among the EU country members regarding insects as food. Those who have proven to have little to no tolerance towards our industry are facing a major leak of talent that is moving to friendlier business environments ! But, on the other hand, the arrival of pioneer ento-products to the markets of those friendlier countries run the risk of alienating the local entrepreneurs and sometimes create resentment and suffocate a bit the offer vis-à-vis the demand (when compared to the low current demand). But that seems to be the price to pay for a free market environment.

While the EU takes its time and plays the security card, countries all over the world are giving more incentives, privileges and facilities for getting ahead. The consequence of this will be that once the EU finally opens its markets to insects, it will feel the pain of having pulled down its domestic ento-economy development and will be invaded and overrun by foreign products, with very significant competitive advantages, both with the consumer and the industrial infrastructure.

What other challenges is entomophagy facing right now?

The lack of funding to create pedagogic and promotional material, workshops, and R&D, which are fundamental for creating awareness and driving home the issues the World faces and our potential contribution; the difficulty to keep a constant cash flow; the extreme industrial secrecy; the slow industrialization of production circles to increase offers to be able to compete or even be considered.

But I am very optimistic about it. We are currently on our way to teaming up and continuing to support RNA (Robert Nathan Allen) founder of the first US non-profit for insects as food, Little Herds, to tackle each and every challenge at all levels, LOCALLY AND GLOBALLY. Don’t be a stranger – WE NEED YOUR HELP and support too!!

Many people are against the current terminology for insect-eating. What do you think?

Entomophagy is an accurate technical term, and as such has its role and cannot be changed within a technical setting. However, as in almost every other industry, more colloquial, comfortable names have evolved; hopefully this will happen with ours.

The words “ento” and “entomo” have become favorite prefixes in our industry jargon, so lets not fight about that, please !!!

Where do you see 4ento in 5 years?

Our mission statement emphasizes our goal to act as a catalyst in this emerging industry. This includes at a given moment in time participating actively and profitably in various facets of the business, from capital formation, combining of forces, to commercializing products. Given the reality of the moment we have concentrated our efforts on trying to contribute to breaking the logjams the sector is facing, for all the rest to be possible.

Given our ecocentric beliefs, I see ourselves working hand in hand with movements with similar values and interests, like zero waste, safe water, organic recycling, stopping overfishing, carbon footprints, etc.. We share their concerns, and we are an intrinsic part of the solution they need. Lets work together and profit from each others strengths and share the collateral benefits !!!!!

So much to be done! So much to create and educate!

Our industry might not have a sufficient track record just yet to come up with proven trajectories to create big reports, to be able to make projections, but if we adopt the numbers of some of the demand for our sister industries’ protein commodities, and the buying power for meat keeps increasing in the developing countries, it feels like the potential for business and positive impact is great!

Find out more about 4ento here, read their blog, like them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.