• The Scapsipedus. icipe cricket is widely farmed across Kenya and was discovered by the Centre in 2018 as a new species in science.

• ICIPE studies have shown that the cricket is significantly rich in crude protein and fat, which, respectively, make up 57 percent and 36 percent of its dry body weight mass.

Cricket-fortified porridge contains more vitamins than commercially available brands, and also has the three essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Cricket-fortified porridge contains more vitamins than commercially available brands, and also has the three essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Image: International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE)

You can now have porridge made from crickets.

The cricket-fortified porridge contains more vitamins than commercially available brands, and also has the three essential omega-3 fatty acids.

Researchers from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) have used insect nutrients to transform African porridge

"From a basic, often low-nutrient meal, into a super-food that meets and exceeds micronutrient requirements for people," the researchers say in the study published in Foods journal.

The porridge, according to the researchers, has twice as much protein, three to four times more crude fat and double the amount of iron and zinc.

Nelly Maiyo who was involved in the research as part of her MSc studies at ICIPE, while registered at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, said the porridge has a combination of edible African cricket, finger millet and amaranth

“We tackled this challenge from two angles. First, we fortified finger millet with high-quality nutrients from an edible African cricket known as Scapsipedus icipe; and the grain of amaranth, an indigenous vegetable that is widely grown across the continent,” said Maiyo.

She said the S. icipe cricket is widely farmed across Kenya and was discovered by the Centre in 2018 as a new species in science.

ICIPE studies have shown that cricket is significantly rich in crude protein and fat, which, respectively, make up 57 per cent and 36 per cent of its dry body weight mass.

“The insect is also rich in essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins, with 88 per cent of its nutrients being digestible by the human body. Often cultivated for its leaves or grains, amaranth is known for its high levels of vitamin C and pro-Vitamin A, as well as iron, zinc and calcium. Its grains are also rich in protein, lysine (an essential amino acid) and calcium,” she said.

In the findings, the scientists observed that although the predominant African porridge cereals, like sorghum and finger millet, are rich in carbohydrates, they are extremely low in energy and nutrient densities.

This according to the researchers, is partly because they contain anti-nutrient compounds that block the absorption of certain essential nutrients in the body.

Maiyo further said that the cricket-fortified porridge contains up to 17 times more vitamin B5, almost one and a half times more vitamin B9; and twelve times more vitamin B12; than commercially available brands. The product also has the three essential omega-3 fatty acids.

Chrysantus Mbi Tanga, ICIPE scientist said the recommended daily protein intake and energy in children aged between one and three years is 13 grammes per 100 grammes; and 400 kilocalories per 100 grammes, of any food consumed per day.

The cricket-fortified porridge surpasses these requirements, with its protein ranging between 15 –16 grammes per 100 grammes; and the energy from 408 – 414 kilocalories per 100 grammes.

Segenet Kelemu, ICIPE Director General and CEO said the aim was to develop a nourishing product that is acceptable, appealing and accessible to a wide range of consumers, and this goal has been achieved.

“Due to its wide availability, ease of preparation and popularity across the continent, porridge is an ideal food for biofortification. Moreover, the Centre has provided a model for harnessing indigenous resources in combination with scientifically validated processing methods, to address the malnutrition challenge, not just in Africa but in other low-and middle-income countries as well,” said Kelemu.

“Africa, and other developing regions, are endowed with a rich diversity of animals and plants, many of them underutilised. For example, insects have traditionally been consumed across the continent. They have superior nutrients that are digested equally well by our bodies. But until now, insects have not been aptly mainstreamed into food-to-food biofortification.”