Ted 2017: The woman who wants China to eat insects

Image source, Ryan Lash/Ted
Image caption,
Matilda Ho is a Ted Fellow, an award given by the conference to young entrepreneurs making a difference

A Chinese entrepreneur is promoting edible insects and online farmers' markets in a campaign to improve eating habits in the country.

Matilda Ho spoke at the Ted (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference about the need to spread the message about healthy eating.

She is backing a range of start-ups, including one that offers protein made from silkworms.

China has a growing problem with obesity and diabetes.

"China has 20% of the world's population but only 7% of land is arable," Ms Ho told the BBC.

"One in four diabetics is now Chinese and one in five obese people."

Ms Ho began tackling the issue with an online farmers' market which now supplies 240 types of new produce from 57 farmers.

It has gained 40,000 subscribers since it was launched 18 months ago.

"I wanted to use technology to shorten the gap between growers and consumers," Ms Ho told the BBC.

"It is a right to know where your food comes from and it empowers consumers."

The food is delivered to customers via electric vehicles and in biodegradable boxes to keep the carbon footprint low.

China has a rapidly rising middle class and a culture where it is polite to over-order food for guests in restaurants.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Could silkworms serve as a source of protein for humans?

Ms Ho realised that one online start-up was not enough and has now launched an accelerator to promote a range of food tech firms.

It includes a start-up that uses silkworms as a sustainable source of protein.

"In China, silkworms are by-products of the textile industry so they are affordable and accessible," explained Ms Ho.

"They also don't sound like a bug so it doesn't sound as yucky as an insect. As kids we raised silkworms at school."

There is a history of insect eating in China but silkworms are the only insect currently legal in China to use as an ingredient in food.

There is a push to legalise crickets too but that is likely to take three to five years to become law.

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