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Words Kelly Bryan

Photography Gavin Li

 

Sponsored by MPB

Entomology - A Sustainable Appetite

Using Entomology – A Sustainable Appetite to feed a curiosity, Gavin Li explores a potential solution to the world’s food and climate crisis. Li uses stark imagery to document the insect farm Entocycle and the interesting individuals that aim to make insects a part of the worldwide everyday diet.

Please could you explain what your project Entomology – A Sustainable Appetite documents and why you became interested in exploring this narrative?

I would say that I’m a foodie and enjoy a good meal now and then. Over lunch with a friend, we discussed the system of food production and livestock. We questioned what would be the most sustainable way to feed the world’s growing population. The idea of insects came into mind as they can produce at a rapid rate and don’t require much to farm. I wanted to discover how entomology could become a solution to the climate and food crises we currently face. If you’ve seen Blade Runner 2049 it begins on an insect farm in a dystopian version of LA and this could be echoing our future.

It will be a while until we have insects as part of our mainstream diet in the western world. However, an insect farm called Entocycle are producing sustainable protein for our livestock. The soybean products that are being fed to cattle, chickens and fish causes 40% of deforestation in South America. Entocycle is hoping to reverse the climate damage caused by traditional protein and replace it with a more natural and sustainable protein from insects.

Entomology - A Sustainable Appetite ©Gavin Li
Entomology - A Sustainable Appetite ©Gavin Li

Your images are beautifully stark. What camera equipment did you use to create such interesting photographs?

Entocycle is situated under converted railway arches that house a number of sustainable workspaces. The environment was varied being both a farm and their operating headquarters. Navigating around an active and controlled space meant that I had to simplify my gear. I shot with a single flash head and switched between a wide angle and macro lens on my camera for most of the time. Photographing small flies in a technical facility made the stark lighting fitting, as I wanted it to look clinical in some way.

This series includes a range of portraits. Can you tell us a little more about who you photographed, their relationship to the project and how you built a relationship with these people? 

Most of the members from Entocycle came from an engineering or science background and I learnt quite a lot from these short portrait sessions. I have so much respect for them, as each person was doing their part in saving the planet and I admire their innovation.   

Keiran who is the founder was traveling the world as a scuba diving instructor. He witnessed the damages caused by global food production on the tropical beaches of Thailand, Malaysia and Cancun. He set up Entocycle to help create a sustainable way to make food without destroying the planet.

I met Stephanie who was an entomologist. She was leading experiments and finding ways to increase insect fecundity. I was shown the different diets she was conducting for the fly larvae to achieve the best protein outcomes. In her free time, she was trying to make a recipe for insect burgers but there is still a long way to go.

Paul and Sul were the mechanical engineers and they had more of a technical side. They created 3D printed parts that were unique for building a sophisticated and automated system that would farm the insects.

Entomology - A Sustainable Appetite ©Gavin Li

Please can you talk us through the sustainable topics Entomology – A Sustainable Appetite covers.

This project covers topics on food production and how we can create a more efficient way to create sustainable protein by recycling our organic waste. It shows how important the role of entomology, engineering and technology has today and the possibilities of urban agriculture. 

Entomology - A Sustainable Appetite ©Gavin Li
Entomology - A Sustainable Appetite ©Gavin Li

Did you intend to raise awareness of sustainability through your project? If so, how do you hope your project will help?

I started this project out of curiosity and wanted to educate myself. The insect farm is contemporary science and something that could be from a sci-fiction novel.

I want this project to be a discussion point and widely shared. We need more sustainability ventures to be known and they need to be funded. Imagine the benefits of insect farms in every town. I hope this series of images will get people’s attention and inspire them on making sustainability inventive.

Has the development of this project impacted how you view the importance of sustainability? If so, how?

I’ve always thought that sustainability was crucial and that everything we do has an impact on our planet. While photographing this project, I have found that there will always be new ways to fight the climate issues we face. I’ve become impressed by the ingenuity, creativity and drive of passionate movements that can come from these uncertain times.

Entomology - A Sustainable Appetite ©Gavin Li

Did you face any challenges when creating Entomology – A Sustainable Appetite? 

I didn’t have many challenges but finding the time and getting availability to shoot at the insect farm was something I had to juggle with.

If you had control over the interpretation of the project, how do you hope it would be received? 

I hope that my project changes our perception of insects and not see them as just pests. The soldier fly can become nature’s up-cycling machine and a solution to the food crisis. They consume rejected food waste, require less space, water and have a smaller carbon footprint.

I do believe that we will be seeing more insects in our diet as an alternative protein. Our relationship with food can change, as lobsters were once the “poor man’s” food, yet they are now considered a delicacy. If you think about it, we eat shrimps and prawns which are like bugs of the sea.

Entomology - A Sustainable Appetite ©Gavin Li
Entomology - A Sustainable Appetite ©Gavin Li

How do you see the project evolving in the future?

At the time, I didn’t have access to some parts of the farm as Entocycle were developing technology that was yet to be patented. They have been expanding their sites and it would be great to revisit and photograph their new developments as well as the new faces that have joined the farm.

Do you have any future photographic plans and are you currently working on any projects?

I have two projects that I have planned which are very different from each other.  They are quite personal and I’ll be keeping them quiet for now until they’ve started. At the moment I’m balancing my life while working on commissioned work.

Kelly Bryan

Kelly is a Design Executive at The Smarty Train, a Learning and Design consultancy helping unlock talent around the globe. In her free time, you will find Kelly managing her freelance writing business, exploring East London where she is based and taking good care of her plant babies.

Gavin Li

Gavin focuses on the practice of portraiture to visually tell stories.
His subjects are often individuals with creative backgrounds and
unconventional lifestyles, some being street casted subjects. The
camera is a tool for him to get behind closed doors and document the
intimate lives of others.

Sponsored by MPB

MPB transforms the way that people buy, sell and trade in photo and video kit. An online platform for used photography and videography equipment, MPB is a destination for everyone, whether you've just discovered your passion for visual storytelling or you’re already a pro.

MPB has always been committed to making kit more accessible and affordable, and helping to visualize a more sustainable future. We recirculate more than 350,000 items of used kit every year.

ISSUE 13

Sustainability permeates every aspect of our lives and is now a necessity, not a choice. Human innovation, determination and persistence is more important than ever and will ultimately decide the fate of our planet. In this issue, through photography and writing we explore insect-based protein, space colonisation, childfree people, the importance of payphones, the world’s largest blanket bog, support for artists, sustainable photobooks and Universal Basic Income.

Only £7

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