Edible Bug Shop founder Skye Blackburn. Photo: Megann Evans.
That crunch in your chocolate bar might not be peanuts one day if the startups backed by food giant Mars are anything to go by.
The confectionery and pet food producer has chosen six food-focused Australian startups for its inaugural Seeds of Change accelerator, developing ideas ranging from edible bugs to plant-based cheese and meats to fermented foods.
The six were chosen from 15 finalists amid 224 applications nationally. They each score a $40,000 grant alongside taking part in the four-month accelerator, which is designed to tackle their specific issues, from branding to product development, market intelligence, sales or supply chain.
The six are:
Spiralz Fermented Foods, from Tuggerah NSW
Michelle Amor and Tracey Rochford create gourmet fermented foods. They use traditional methods to ferment without the use of any starter culture or preservatives. The range is organic, vegan, free of gluten, dairy and nuts. Their products are widely sought after for their probiotic and gut health benefits.
The Australian Superfood Co, from Oakleigh Vic
Hayley Blieden and Ralph Wollner produce a range of food products from Australian native bush foods such as native fruit powders, herbs and spices, fruit and granolas.
They source their ingredients from indigenous communities and local growers to enhance respect for Australia’s indigenous culture, increase access and affordability and foster the local food movement.
Edible Bug Shop, from Sydney NSW
Skye Blackburn runs Australia’s first and largest commercial edible insect farm and manufacturing facility producing insects such as ants, crickets and meal worms.
The insects are made into ‘invisible’ ingredients manufacturers can use to enrich everyday food products with safe and nutritious ingredients to feed more people, more sustainably.
Your Prep, from Brisbane Qld
The focus of Matt Boyce’s business is to bridge the gap between nutritious, healthy meals and anxiety and depression. There is a documented link between gut health and mental health, and his business provides dietician-designed, chef-prepared, cooked meal components direct to the customer to help maximise family time and human connection via easy-to-access nutrition.
Grounded, from Melbourne Vic
Veronica Fil and two-hatted chef Shaun Quade have produced their first line of plant-based cheese products using all-natural ingredients without preservatives or additives.
They are allergen free and lower in fat than traditional and vegan cheeses. Using the same cultures and processes as traditional cheese-making, they taste exactly like real specialty cheese such as Camembert and Roquefort.
Plant-based Meat, from the Sunshine Coast Qld
Michael Fox is focused on producing plant-based meat products that are healthy, environmentally sustainable and difficult to distinguish from the real thing.
Using shredded shiitake mushroom stems as the base ingredient, the product is healthy, sustainable and superior in taste and texture to other vegetable protein products.
The versatility of the shiitakes is such that Fox has developed slow-braised beef and pulled pork products from them.
“Using mushroom stems as the base ingredient makes the product very healthy and, because they are a by-product of the mushroom production process, we can source vast quantities in a sustainable way,” he said.
“I’m hoping to launch in a few months’ time, and then looking to scale up, so the opportunity to connect with people experienced in the food industry to help me do that is invaluable.
I need to fill some gaps around product and recipe development, distribution locally and internationally, and even with things like labelling laws. Now I’ll have access to the right people who can help me in each of those areas.”
Food scientist and entomologist Skye Blackburn is the expert chef Kylie Kwong turned to when she wanted to put bugs on the menu at her acclaimed Sydney restaurant Billy Kwong. Blackburn launched the Edible Bug Shop in Sydney in 2012 and has been educating people about the value of insects as an eco-friendly alternative protein.
She’s the young lady who knows why she swallowed a fly.
“You don’t just have to eat bugs if you are stuck in the bush and have nothing else to eat. When prepared properly, and you get over the initial ‘yuck’ factor, bugs are very tasty and are also good for you,” she said.
“I’ve developed robotic technology specifically for use in insect farming and implemented processes to extract nutritional ingredients from insects. We turn food waste which would normally go to landfill into delicious and highly nutritious food products that can feed more people with less resources more sustainably.”