It takes just one square foot and a colony of 1,000 meal worms to make enough mealworm flour for a family of four. Adding this protein rich powder to meals can vastly improve nutrition for those in residing in urban food deserts. MealFlour makes it possible.
In cities, access to protein is limited. Meat can be prohibitively expensive, requires ample space, and is environmentally unsustainable. One pound of beef requires 2,000 gallons of water to produce, and livestock and agriculture account for 9% of greenhouse gas emissions. Sufficient protein in the diet is critical for proper development. In developing countries, 40% of preschool children are anemic from lack of protein. Existing programs import supplements into cities make beneficiaries’ reliant on external organizations. An effective solution to increasing access to protein in cities must be environmentally sustainable, space efficient and address the related problem of poverty.
Why our solution will solve the problem:
Compared to beef, raising mealworms requires 2000 times less water to produce the same quantity of meat; the animal sector releases 40% of global methane compared to mealworms which release 0 methane. 80% of the world eats edible insects. Mealworms contain all essential amino and fatty acids, are 22% protein, and mealworm farms are a square foot around and can be stored under a table or the corner of a room; ideal for urban settings. We provide people with the skills to produce their own low-cost and environmentally sustainable source of protein to improve their health.
Our solution's stage of development:
Our target outcomes:
MealFlour increases access to protein, moves the site of food production into cities, and introduces income generating opportunities by training communities how to build mealworm farms. The program benefits families in food insecure areas in Guatemala, with the potential for global expansion, and reaches them by partnering with organizations already working in these communities; collaborating to adapt the training materials to their context. The introduction of a home-grown source of protein will lead to lower rates of malnutrition as measured by rates of stunting in children.
How we will measure our progress:
The populations we will benefit initially:
The regions we will benefit initially:
The countries we will benefit initially:
The technologies we employ:
Why our solution is unique:
MealFlour uses edible insects to move the site of protein production into cities. Amongst edible insect programs, we stand out because we scale the process down and collaborate with participants to design farms so that they can raise mealworms at home instead of on a commercial scale. By teaching people how to make the mealworms into a powder we make it easy for them to incorporate the extra protein into the foods they already make, without having to change their dietary habits. This powder is also easy to transport and sell as an additional source of income.
Why our solution is human-centered:
Mealworm farms can be built with a variety of materials, including upcycled plastic containers found in Guatemala and around the world. In each community, we collaborate with participants to design a mealworm farm that is best suited to their climate and uses locally available materials. Because we collaborate with communities at each stage of building and maintaining the farm and creating the mealworm powder, the new farmers are self-sufficient as they improve their family’s nutrition and increase their income. In Guatemala, we work with two local NGOs to make sure our whole program is designed around communities’ needs.
How people will access our solution:
Our long-term plan is to partner with NGOs and organizations already working to reduce malnutrition in communities in need. We have already spoken to CEDNA in Peru, MIGHTi in Zambia, and Concern Worldwide. They will provide the resources for the program because our solution is more sustainable and cost-effective than giving out nutritional supplements, and we will work with them to adapt our trainings to their particular context. The ultimate beneficiaries will not have to pay anything and we will be able to reach new communities by tapping into existing networks.
Technology-Readiness Level:1-3 (Formulation)
Where we are located:Guatemala
How we will sustain our team financially:
As we prove our solution and its long-term impact we will solicit grants and donations to support MealFlour. After we have shown the impact and scalability of our solution we’ll work with existing groups who will hire us to help them implement a MealFlour program. MealFlour will work with USAID or the WFP who have the infrastructure and resources to roll out a program on a global scale. The mealworm farms operated by former MealFlour participants will be environmentally sustainable, and they can expand their farms to sell mealworm powder to fund this expansion.
The factors limiting our success:
If people are not receptive to the idea of mealworm farming, our program will not succeed, which is why it is critical that we focus on education around the importance of protein and that we partner with local organizations that already have connections and trust with communities. It is also possible that the temperature and humidity could affect the viability of the mealworm farms, but we have seen in Guatemala that there are a variety of ways to adapt the mealworm farms to different climates.
How long we have been working on our solution:1 year
How long it will take to develop a pilot:12-18 months
How long it will take to scale beyond our pilot:3-6 months
Our expected annual budget:
How much of our budget we've secured to date:
We're looking for partners in these fields:
Why we're applying to Solve:
We are excited to meet others who would be interested in piloting mealworm farming within their communities as well as connecting with experts who can help us design and implement an impact evaluation and help us scale our solution for maximum gains.
Our current partners:
We are working with two NGOs in Guatemala, Primeros Pasos and PEILE, to introduce MealFlour to new communities. We are also collaborating with MIGHTi to implement a mealworm farming program in Zambia to show the global scalability of mealworm farming.
- Gabrielle Wimer Co-Founder, MealFlour