Is that a fly in my salad?

The boiled and dried grasshoppers and silkworms are a bit crunchy on the tooth when you munch them.

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"They taste good. Something between crackling and fishmeal," says Mr Morten Vestenaa, one of the students invited to try insect snacks by Copenhagen University's science faculty.

Edible insects are the new trend in Copenhagen, New York and Parisian gourmet restaurants, and the faculty, together with the Nordic Food Lab, is doing a project to see if insects can be a future source of protein for animals and people.

Most insects are collected from the wild, but if they can be systematically farmed, production can be increased considerably.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, insects have many benefits - they require less water and space than conventional domesticated animals and are more effective in converting feed into meat. They can also live off organic refuse, compost and slurry and transform such waste into valuable protein.

"Insects can be a cheaper alternative to meat, milk and fish, and can improve nutritional intake," says researcher Nanna Roos, who with support from the Danish aid group Danida has researched developing supplements based on spiders and termites as well as developing systems to raise crickets in Kenya.

The first commercial enterprises are developing. EnviroFlight in Ohio, for instance, farms black soldier fly larvae as feedstuff for fish. In South Africa, AgriProtein uses waste water as nutrition to produce up to 10 tonnes of protein from fly larvae per day.