China’s Solution to Nutrition & Food Waste : ZILLIONS of AI COCKROACHES | DIFFERENT CHINA (ep 8)
Cockroaches…? Yes Zillions of Cockroaches, driven by AI Technology….
Although the occasional news on the nutrition benefits of insects consumption to solve world famine and lack of nutrition regularly appears in various media around the world, there does actually not seem any structural, integrated approach or action from industry or governmental authorities to proceed to reality, except for the few small scale entrepreneurs developing their own insect-based artisanal bread, noodles or snack bars.
The Remarkable BOOM in China’s Cockroach Production Capacity to BILLIONS
First of all I like to get a general misconception out of the way, although the Chinese cuisine and food culture is generally slightly more open-minded in the variety and cooking of different flora and fauna, most Chinese people also shiver by the idea of eating insects, especially cockroaches. Only in traditional cockroach cultivation regions, you will find the insect occasionally on the menu, deep fried of stirred.
Cockroaches have been cultivated since ancient times in China for their medicinal values. The potion (or cockroach milk) extracted from cockroaches is considered an extremely valuable remedy for among others respiratory, gastric and stomach inflammations or ulcers and skin irritations or wounds. The potion is integrated in numerous Traditional Chinese Medicines (of which many Chinese people not knowing the actual cockroach origin).
In the past 5 years, there has been a remarkable boom of cockroach production capacity in China, from approximately 100 farms with a total annual capacity of tens of millions of cockroaches in 2013 to 400-500 farms today with a total estimated capacity of 10-12 billion cockroaches per year.
The rising demand of medicinal cockroach potent with application in Chinese traditional medicines has strongly increased the capacity as well as the professional and high-tech level of cultivation. Shandong Province has traditionally been the stronghold of cockroach cultivation but the largest state-of-the art production is located in China’s southwestern city of Xichang in Sichuan province. A two-story building, owned by Gooddoctor Pharmaceutical Group is home to 6 billion cockroaches anually bred to be transformed into ulcer-curing drugs.
Gooddoctor Pharmaceutical Group established a high-tech and secured environment for the cockroach breeding and processing. Millions of cockroaches are breeding in four huge dark, damp rooms packed with rows of stacked cupboard squares with optimal breeding and processing conditions. The whole process is managed by AI technology which constantly collects and analyses more than 80 categories of “big data”, including humidity, temperature, food supply and consumption as well as monitoring changes such as genetic mutations and how these affect the growing rates of individual cockroaches.
Upstairs in the factory, giant extraction tanks connected to the breeding rooms by pipes kill 6 tons of cockroaches at a time with heat and extracts the potent essence from the cockroaches, a fully automatic process without human intervention. In an aseptic sealed environment, more than 600,000 bottles of the healing potion are filled each day.
The company is planning to open a second breeding center next year which it says will be three to five times the size of the current one, as well powered by artificial intelligence and big data.
Brief Cockroach Introduction
Cockroaches are believed to have been around since the dinosaurs, surviving extreme environmental conditions that brought extinction for most other species. Mother nature has done its job and cockroaches are in the top of the total flora and fauna list to be resistant to extinction.
Cockroaches are full of proteins, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, most species lay eggs in short cycles for fast reproduction. The species Pacific Beetle Cockroach (Diploptera punctate) births live babies instead of laying eggs although very different from the way mammals give birth. The embryos are inside eggs that are themselves inside the uterus - in this case, a membrane called a brood sac - in the mother’s body. However, the eggs, usually about 9-12 in number, don’t have sufficient nutrients to feed the embryos. The mother secretes highly-nourishing liquid crystals — which can be called “milk”, Cockroach Milk. Cockroach milk holds more than three times the energy and proteins compared to cow milk and most other mammal milks.
Cockroaches can be considered as an ignored TOP SUPERFOOD with immense reproduction and extraordinary medicinal values and huge opportunities for global food and nutrition issues.
The favoured species used for cockroach cultivation in China is the American Cockroach (Periplaneta Americana)
Kitchen Waste and Superfoods
Growing commercial enthusiasm for cockroaches and a more open attitude to the insects is driving more Chinese people into the market and fueling new ideas for their use. For example, after extracting the medicinal potent for medicine, the protein and nutrient rich ‘waste’ is used for chicken and other animal feed.
Another amazing benefit getting more and more attention lately in China with regards to cockroach cultivation is the food waste pollution business. At a cockroach production facility in Shandong province, 3 billion cockroaches are consuming 15 tons of kitchen waste EACH DAY, an ideal environmental-friendly process to get rid of mountains of discarded food all over the world. Cockroaches devour virtually everything, and can consume food weighing up to 5% of their own weight each day.
Besides the medicinal values, cockroaches can be considered superfoods with unique levels of proteins and nutrients with a high and easy reproduction.
Different companies in China are investigating how to integrate cockroaches in daily health and nutrition foods. Cockroach flour can be used in a variety of breads, processed meats, snacks and other nutrition foods. It is a sensitive marketing process to transform the human’s aversion against the consumption of cockroaches as these insects might solve global issues of famine.
Opportunities and Threats
I already hear your business brains cracking :-)…. ‘Getting paid for processing waste, which is at the same time free fuel for transformation into high protein and nutrient superfood and medicine (cockroaches)’
It is no wonder that cockroaches are impossible to extinguish, they are the inventors of the ideal recycling and creation value chain in nature.
More and more local governments in China are seriously paying attention and providing support to this unique cockroach business sector, especially for environment, waste recycling and nutrition improvement. The first large scale, high-tech commercial enterprises are now in operation and expansion and it is expected that the cockroach market and production scale will continue to boom during the next decade with China in the lead.
There are also threats to mention in this business sector. Just imagine an earthquake or production malfunction which would cause the escape of hundreds of billions cockroaches, swarming all over cities and consuming anything compostable what comes on their path. Do not forget that cockroaches have practically survived and made their way through anything since the dinosaur era. One can imagine that security and safety measure levels at cultivation facilities should be taken into account at levels of for example nuclear power stations.
Are you ready for a Cockroach Sushi made in China ?
Do not be surprised to witness huge global nutrition and waste recycling developments and evolutions during next decade with regards to the booming Chinese cockroach farming and food sector integrated with superior AI and Big Data technologies.
Control and Power on nutrition value and waste recycling.
Are you ready for a Cockroach Sushi or Cockroach Bread made in China ?
“Different CHINA” is a series telling different sides of China which are lesser known to the world. China is well known through many publications for its miraculous speed of developments and growth in technology, environment, commerce, social structures and international standing with Chinese people embracing innovation while keeping tradition highly valued. But this image does not do full justice as China is so much more in its diversity, culture, environment, people and initiatives. “Different CHINA” is part of 5iZ.