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Biochemist Turns Insect Hobby into Successful Research Business with USDA Funding

Posted by Matt Browning, Senior Public Affairs Specialist, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Research and Science
May 18, 2023

Dr. Aaron Dossey has taken what began as a Facebook hobby of photographing insects and turned it into a successful research business, thanks in part to funding from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA’s) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

After learning about the concept of insects as a sustainable food source, Dossey, a lifelong insect enthusiast with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biomedical Science, set out to develop a sustainable, eco-friendly food product made from insects to alleviate malnutrition in children from famine-stricken areas of the world. Thus, was born All Things Bugs LLC, which works to develop insect-derived food products and biologically active chemical compounds for use in agriculture and medicine.

Dr. Aaron Dossey holding the product beside a vat in a facility

Since its founding in 2011, All Things Bugs LLC has grown and diversified into every area of the insect industry, from farming technology to food product development to even genetic engineering. The goal of Dossey’s research is to capitalize on the chemical and biological diversity which exists among arthropods for a host of applications including drug discovery and how insects might contribute to a more sustainable human food supply. The company has developed and successfully patented Griopro® cricket powder, which can be used as a protein ingredient in recipes such as protein shakes, pastas and baked goods. In 2016, Dossey and his colleagues published “Insects as Sustainable Food Ingredients: Production, Processing and Food Applications,” with contributions from a variety of international experts.

Dr. Aaron Dossey holding the product beside boxes

Since 2013, Dossey, through All Things Bugs LLC and in conjunction with the University of Florida, has received eight awards totaling $2.7 million in SBIR funding from NIFA. Funded projects include providing a new opportunity for small farmers and improving food security through mechanized, high-density mealworm farming; adding value and sustainability to the food industry through mealworm protein powder; reducing cost, improving efficiency and productivity of farming crickets as food ingredients; using insects as therapeutic food products to alleviate malnutrition in children; and creating high-quality, clean and sustainable protein from insects.

SBIR offers competitively awarded grants to qualified small businesses to support high-quality research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits. Learn more about NIFA’s SBIR programs.

Category/Topic: Research and Science