Mohammed Ashour. Mohammed Ashour.

On the east coast of the United States in the early 19th century, lobsters were considered a garbage meat that was fed only to the poorest members of society. Dubbed “the cockroach of the sea”, lobsters were nothing more than glorified bottom feeders. They were considered so awful, in fact, that indentured servants in one town in Massachusetts filed a lawsuit demanding that their owners feed them lobsters no more than three times a week. Any more than that was considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Everywhere we turn, we find countless examples of marginalised foods that migrated from the niches of societal appetites to the very centre of the mainstream dish. Twenty years ago, the idea of eating raw fish in most parts of the world was simply gross. Today, sushi has become near-ubiquitous — a fully integrated member of almost every global food culture.

The secret, in most cases, comes down to the three Es — education, economics, and enjoyability. At Aspire Food Group, we are convinced that the next major protein source that will find its way to our plates will be one of the most ancient, nutritious and clean sources of protein on Earth —crickets. Crickets are not just a delicious, highly nutritious and versatile ingredient, they are a much-needed hero in an increasingly grim future food system.

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Our world is growing and shrinking at the same time. Over the next 30 years, our population will soar to nearly 10 billion people. Two-thirds of the world’s population will be urban, living mostly in densely populated cities. Appetites —especially for animal protein — will grow enormously, thanks especially to the rise of the middle class.

This growth in population and appetite is coinciding with a major reduction in critical agricultural resources. The amount of land used for livestock and crop production today is equivalent to the entire continents of South America and Africa. It is estimated that 80% of the fresh water on Earth is used in agriculture, and food production contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector.

Our world desperately needs to rely on protein sources that are eco-friendly and resource-efficient. This is especially true if we will need to double our food production over the next 30 years. This is what makes crickets tremendously exciting.

Compared to the farming of traditional livestock, crickets require — pound for pound — a fraction of the amount of land, water and energy required and emit a negligible amount of greenhouse gas emissions. They are delicious, and consumed seasonally in 80% of the world’s countries.

While some consumers experience a psychological ‘ick factor’ as a consequence of being socialised in cultures that have not explored this protein source, we believe this can be overcome with the aforementioned three Es. If the cockroach of the sea could do it, surely, the cricket of the land can too.

A Forbes 30 under 30 honouree, Mohammed Ashour is the co-founder and CEO of Aspire Food Group, a global food-tech company based in Austin, Texas that develops technology to commercialise the cleanest and most ethical source of animal protein in the world: insects. Aspire was founded in 2014 after Ashour led his team to win the largest business prize in the world – the US$1 million Hult Prize presented by President Bill Clinton. Ashour is one of the speakers at the Global Restaurant Investment Forum, being held from March 12-14 at Palazzo Versace Dubai.