There are now over 7 billion people sitting on the same floating rock in the middle of space.
With these gigantic numbers comes serious challenges in sustainability. Those challenges are the very reason that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN launched a campaign in 2013 to encourage people to eat insects as a regular source of protein. That’s correct, the United Nations thinks we should be eating bugs every day.
The result of this campaign spurred the growth of edible insect farmers in various countries, but an even more exciting by-product of this bug revolution is that it may be a fantastic way to fertilize marijuana crops.
First and foremost, bug poop is called “frass” in the scientific community. It has been found to be a fantastic option to grow lots of vegetation, including our favourite one.
“Frass refers to [bug]droppings, and in the frass, you have a fair amount of insect exoskeleton,” says Darren Goldin, one of the founding partners of Entomo Farms, the largest edible insect farm on the Western Hemisphere.
Goldin went on to add that frass has been an incredible fertilizer for many varieties of crops, but has not been utilized on a large scale until now because our consumption of bugs is still in its infancy.
Another industry that is still taking baby steps is of course cannabis, and Goldin was quick to praise the correlation of the two sectors growing together symbiotically. “There are large amounts of [frass]available now and people are starting to understand it better.”
Goldin revealed that his operation has been visited by at least “two or three” of Canada’s Licensed Producers who are now conducting grow trials with frass. “One of our investors has got some connections to some of the medical producers, and we asked if he could mention [frass]to them. He did, and all of them got very excited.” Goldin went on to add that the cannabis growers were already familiar with the fertilizer and eager to do tests.
Some of the anecdotal evidence that has been found about frass is very promising. Not only does it have significant levels of what fertilizer needs — high compounds of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous — but insect frass has something other fertilizers don’t.
“The other aspect of insect frass is that it has lots of chitin in it, which is [pieces of] the exoskeleton of the insect. What the preliminary research is suggesting is that when a plant’s root system comes into contact with chitin, the plant thinks it’s being attacked by insects. It has a natural immune response to that stimulus, which is to increase root growth, bark and flower sites.” In the case of cannabis, that means bigger, fatter buds than if one were to employ traditional fertilizers.
Goldin also said that marijuana producers have tested frass before, and they had very positive results when it came to enhancing the terpenes of various strains. “What some of the marijuana growers that used the insect frass early on said, was that [traditional] fertilizers impart a very specific flavour into the pot. What that does is it makes all strains have a very similar flavour. But insect manure is so neutral, that when some of these growers were using it and entering their buds in competitions, they were winning because the flavour of their bud was superior.”
As the cannabis industry grows in popularity, so too will the demand for bug droppings. The jury is still out on whether or not insects will be able to feed humanity into the next millennia, but at the very least, we should all have enough to enjoy a good smoke.