Alex Curtze spent his semester with a few thousand edible critters. They came prepackaged in a crunchy exterior.
This year, Curtze, a Penn State senior studying environmental resource management, became a cricket farmer. As part of an internship with the Penn State Student Farm, he studied how to maximize their growth because crickets, he believes, could provide a cheaper way to feed the world.
“Meat production, for example, requires a lot of resources, especially in feeding the livestock,” he said. “Crickets could be a more sustainable food source.”
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, almost a third of the earth’s unfrozen land is involved in livestock production. In feeding, processing, then transporting that meat, the costs pile up quickly.
On Wednesday at the State College Municipal Building, Curtze and several other enterprising students showcased their projects as part of the Campus and Community Sustainability Expo. The projects brought together students with local government to address needs in the area.
Crickets, for instance, can be ground into a protein-packed flour that can then be used in baking. Curtze, who has tried them before, said they’ve been used in protein bars and cookies.
And the taste?
“You can’t tell the difference,” he said.
But businesses and governments, he added, will notice a difference in price. It could provide a more efficient alternative to current standards.
A poster over, John Boujoukos shared how other critters could help grow kale. Microorganisms such as protozoa can act as a probiotic for plants, especially when molded into the right mix. Boujoukos created his own special brew, called “compost tea,” to spray on the plants at the Penn State Student Farm, and the recipients drink it up. Compost tea, he said, can provide both nutrients to the plant and defend it against pathogens.
Other projects focused on outdoor engagement, increasing diversity in the local government and bicycle and pedestrian safety.
“Over the course of this semester, Penn State students and faculty have surveyed residents, they’ve researched successful case studies and acted as consultants to the borough,” State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said.
Fountaine added that in working with the students, the borough also received information on coordinating emergency services and other avenues for sustainability.
Denice Wardrop, the Penn State Sustainability Institute director, said there is a wide range of challenges facing the area, but the projects presented Wednesday illustrate the diversity of solutions available.