Matt MazzarratiMatt Muzzatti, a PhD student in Biology is researching edible insects in collaboration with Entomo Farms, North America’s largest cricket company.

Muzzatti points out that food security is a major concern for the future, and our current agricultural model is not positioned to feed our growing population. “Insects are a sustainable and nutritious alternative protein source, and a potential solution to this problem.”

“I am interested in biological mechanisms behind variation in body size, and how external factors such as diet and pests can influence body size in a mass rearing environment,” explained Muzzatti. “I am currently investigating the key dietary nutrient requirements to maximize growth of Gryllodes sigillatus.

Muzzatti’s interest in this research piqued during the summer of 2017 while organizing an entomology-themed community event during his master’s degree at the University of Guelph called Guelph Bug Day.

“Through this event, I connected with Entomo Farms and Crickstart, two cricket-protein companies, and they donated a ton of free samples to give out,” said Muzzatti. “This really sparked my interest in insects as food and feed, and it was an area of research that I wanted to contribute to.”

Insect protein products are more expensive than conventional forms of protein due to supply-and-demand.

“If my research can help to increase cricket farm yields without increases in labour, then price reductions may make insect protein products more accessible,” shared Muzzatti.

Due to COVID-19, Muzzatti has conducted most of this research from the comfort of his own home. “I reared several hundred crickets in my living room, tracking body size and weight gain in crickets fed different diets.”

cricket

So far, Muzzatti’s research has shown some promising preliminary results to guide future diet research.

Muzzatti’s research is co-supervised by Dr. Heath MacMillan and Dr. Sue Bertram both from the Biology Department.

“Sue and Heath are incredible mentors and are just so supportive of anything I’m interested in investigating,” shared Muzzatti. “They encourage me to take time off and step away from work every now and then and are very mindful of the work-life balance that so many of us find difficult to achieve.”

Muzzatti aims to remain as a research scientist in the insects as food industry. “There are over 100 recorded edible insects, but we only know how to mass rear a few,” explained Muzzatti. “Ultimately, I dream of becoming a professor of entomology.”

Check out this CBC story about Muzzatti and his research.

Monday, April 26, 2021 in ,
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