03 December 2015

3 December: Insects as alternative food

Sustainable food systems

Afton Halloran is a PhD Fellow at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports. Together with international researchers that comprise the group GREEiNSECT, she offers insight into how insects for human consumption can provide alternative livelihood strategies in rural regions of low- and medium-income countries in the tropics.

Photo: The European Parliament: Christmasized by Kenneth Veilling Johansen, SCIENCE Communication

Afton Halloran has a passion for research, field work and international agriculture. Although she already had experience from working in different organizations on issues related to food security and agriculture, she felt a strong calling back to research:

“Being a researcher allows me to delve into some of the complex issues that might otherwise be outside the scope of an NGO or international organization.”

Food for thought

Together with other international researchers, Afton Halloran and her colleagues have started GREEiNSECT. The researchers work side by side in order to study the different aspects of how insects can provide nutrition, income and environmental sustainability to countries which lack natural resources:

“I have been fortunate enough to work with the amazing group of interdisciplinary international researchers that comprise GREEiNSECT, the research project that my PhD project is a part of.”

In many low income areas and tropic climates, farming can be quite a challenge, and alternative opportunities for production and nutrition have to be taken into account. If insects can be nutritious and environmentally friendly as a product, why not eat them? Afton Halloran's PhD project deals with these aspects from different points of view and involves a broad field of studies – from Agriculture and Environmental studies to Food and Nutrition:

“My research looks at the current and potential socio-economic, environmental and nutritional impacts of cricket farming in Thailand and Kenya.”

Field work is hard work

Research on cricket farming involves long days of field work and travelling to farmers who are scattered throughout rural villages. Although working in the field can be quite challenging and time-consuming, especially when being in different countries, Afton finds it essential as a researcher. Working in two different countries is very hard work, but she finds that it pays of well and helps move her PhD project forward:

“Field work is my favorite part of research. Although it takes extreme amounts of energy to plan for carrying out research in two different countries, working together with the farmers keeps me going and fuels my passion for research.”

Inspiration across borders

The diverse and international working environment is also something that characterizes Afton Halloran's project. Besides working with farmers in an international setting, her colleagues represent an important resource as well. Afton would not be without it as this collaboration is essential to the development of her project:

“Working alongside my various colleagues who are experts in their respective fields provides me with both the inspiration and the encouragement to move forward with my work”.