Palmer food start-up banking on the beetle

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A Palmer food start-up is putting its fate in the hands of a beetle.

Soon, Manna Foods, a business with a goal of producing darkling beetles to be used for consumption, will be heading to Thailand to further develop its technology.

“These insects are an incredibly sustainable source of protein,” said Lucas Wright, the original founder of Manna Foods.

Wright starting researching the darkling beetle as a protein source.
Now, his goal is to produce beetles on a large scale for consumption.

“They are processed into a fine, flower-like substance that is used for things like baking,” Wright said.

Eventually, Wright co-founded Manna Foods along with a long-time friend, Eli Fouch, and business partner Kyle Fox.

“Production of protein is actually very demanding to the environment,” Fox said. “So this method allows us to get the protein that we need in a sustainable way, a much more sustainable way.”

Manna Foods said that the sustainability of these insects is why a business incubator and accelerator program in Thailand chose Manna Foods to participate.

On Monday, most of the group's members will be leaving Palmer to go to the program in Thailand where they will further develop the technology that goes into developing and raising the beetles.

“With exploding population and urbanization in those areas, in Asia, these guys are really a solution to those problems as well,” Wright said.

One obstacle the team is facing is the stigma behind consuming insects.

“It’s a perception thing,” Fox said. “When you think of eating cows, we don’t think of eating cows, we think of eating beef. So in these terms, we’re not eating beetles we’re eating protein.”

The team expects to be in Thailand for about six months.

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