The Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM today launched VEXo, an insect and plant protein created by Bug Farm Foods, at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi in their native St Davids.
The innovative VEXo can be used in a similar way to minced meat, whilst reducing saturated fat by over 80%. Nearly one-third of 2-15 year olds are overweight or obese, with obesity costing the NHS in Wales around £73 million.
VEXo has been developed by husband and wife team chef Andy Holcroft and entomologist Dr Sarah Beynon, who between them have also founded the UK’s first full-time edible insect restaurant Grub Kitchen and the multi award-winning research centre and visitor attraction Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm.
Launching VEXo, the Minister said: “In today’s climate it has never been a more important time to innovate in food production and simultaneously tackle environmental, sustainability and social issues.”
The edible insect industry has grown at a staggering rate across Europe and North America over the past few years, fueled by an expanding human population demanding new, more sustainable sources of protein.
“Insects are exceptionally nutrient-dense and environmentally sustainable to produc”,” says VEXo co-inventor Sarah: “Many insects contain weight-for-weight a similar amount of protein to beef and they can contain all nine essential amino acids. Insects can be farmed in high-welfare farms while requiring very little feed, water and space and emitting hardly any greenhouse gases”.
Bug Farm Foods were tasked by Welsh Government and Innovate UK under the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) project to find a way to harness the nutrients contained in insects and deliver them in a form that is acceptable to our western palettes.
The Bug Farm Foods’ current range includes Cricket Cookies, Buffalo Biscuits, insect powders and whole insects, which have been stocked recently by Selfridges. “Up until this point, we have concentrated on the gifting sector as a great way for people to try insects for the first time”, says Sarah: “However, we feel that people are now ready to take this new food to the next level: in order to really harness the protein and other important nutrients contained in insects, they need to be included in affordable, healthy main meals.”
Bug Farm Foods built a research and development facility on their farm in St Davids in order to develop VEXo alongside innovating more insect-based foods. The facility was also officially opened today by Lesley Griffiths AM, and is the only facility of its kind in the UK dedicated solely to the innovation and development of food made from insects.
VEXo will now appear on school menus in Pembrokeshire for theme days this term while Sarah and Andy work alongside Pembrokeshire County Council and individual schools to phase VEXo onto the main school lunchtime menus after Christmas.