I have recently returned from my 5th trip to
Madagascar for the IPSIO and Valala Farms project. The wonderful staff at the Biodiversity
Centre make if feel as comfortable as a second home. Although the travel and
the workload are intense, seeing this project come to fruition energizes and
inspires us all in amazing ways. The project has now morphed from imagining how
we could make a difference, to realizing the changes and the difference that we
ARE making.

We’ve had so many great achievements so far, but the biggest
has been our Certificate of Consumption. Ours is the first group ever to get a
formal approval from the government of Madagascar to sell insect-based
products. This was our first time going through this year-long formal approval process
and we worked through some significant challenges along the way.

We have found our first customer to purchase and use the
product in some nutritional trials in schools in south Madagascar. This school-based
famine-relief project provides lunches for students who would normally not have
any food for midday. Edible insects will be a major part of this lunch program
so we will be able to gauge acceptance, test recipes and measure the impact
that edible insects have on nutrition and health.

We also accomplished 3 other main goals with this visit:

1: We improved yield by refining the rearing protocols,
further adapting the process we use in Canada to better suit the local cricket
species being raised in Madagascar;

2: We shared our extensive food safety knowledge with the
kitchen staff, making sure they are fully trained and helped them adapt the
processes we use at home to work in the local kitchen. I’m happy to report that
the staff there are fully compliant with all safety protocols and doing an
amazing job!

3: We headed down to Toliara in south Madagascar, to meet
with another community that has shown interest in our project.  We reviewed the insect diversity to look for
cricket species that could work for cultivation in that environment. We wanted
to do some research on these species to analyze if they would be good
candidates for ta rearing facility. 

The next trip is already lined up, and I can’t wait to see
what the next adventure brings.

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