ILLYA SUMANTO, 29, Insect Farmer
Jumpsuit, GP & J Baker X H&M; earrings, Illya’s own.
The wild and adventurous, Illya Sumanto is a ball of energy who works on an insect farm. From her thunderous cheerful laughter to her no-f***s-given attitude, Illya is a breath of fresh air, as she shares the benefits of consuming insects, for our health and the world (and how she got slightly obsessed with them!). Having come from a variety of industries, the multi-faceted Illya also discovered the meaning of connectedness, and what it means to live more consciously, responsibly and more lovingly.
What inspired you to be an insect farmer and how did you get started?
I’m currently working with a bio-tech startup company in Johor farming Black Soldier Fly larvae (BSF) for animal consumption and worms for humans to eat. I fell in love with the larvae after getting involved casually with an experiment on the farm last year. Watching them move was super therapeutic for me. For most people, insects remind them of dirt, decay, and death. But they bring out the intuitive nurturing nature in me. I found the beauty of motherhood through insect farming.
What are some of the benefits, personally and environmentally, of consuming insects?
Insects are a sustainable superfood that offers a high-energy source for protein and minerals. In comparison to a serving of meat, insects have less than 5 grams of carbs and 0 gram of sugar. My sahur staple for Ramadhan this year was just a date with worms (pun intended) and that helped me sustain my energy the entire day working on the farm.
Diversifying our protein supply with insects helps improve the planet as farming them does not require a lot of water, feed, and space. Not only that, insects produce far less greenhouse gases than equivalent livestock production.
In large parts of the world, insect-eating is a smarter choice and absolutely normal. Some schools in thailand serve insects to their students for energy as they are aware of how vital protein is for the children to maintain focus to study.
What would you say have been the biggest changes you’ve implemented on your farm since you’ve been farming? Do they correspond with what you think the biggest changes have been in the industry during this time?
I started raising my own BSF as pets for our outdoor kitchen to feed on my leftovers and we began to see the potential of having domesticated BSF in households as the most efficient organic composters. Just within a day or two, the larvae could turn food waste into a nutritious fertilizer for plants!
Food waste management is a disconcerting crisis globally. 15,000 tons of food and kitchen waste are generated daily, in Malaysia alone, with recycling rate of less than 5%.
What I mean to say is that once we learn to eliminate our insect prejudices, there are many ways we can fully utilise the symbiotic relationship Mother Earth has offered between us and insects.
How do you see your role in the community?
Apart from the capacity to reduce food waste, insect farms like Protenga are able to provide an alternative to animal feed is local, sustainable, natural, and safe from toxins & antibiotics for your pets, fish, and chickens.
What does being empowered mean to you? Why?
Being joyful. Men are afraid of joyful women. Women are afraid of joyful women. Because women who have found joy within themselves are strong, wild, and unstoppable. Being joyful is an art, a work in progress which takes persistence to master. Keep it going. Play. Forgive.
What is the must-have thing that you’ll carry with you wherever you go? Why?
My diary—to collect blessings.
What is the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year? Why?
The power of connectedness. Within the self, human communities, spirits, and the environments in which all must coexist. Learning this has gracefully trained me to live consciously, responsibly, more lovingly, and most importantly—without fear.
Imagine yourself in five years. Tell us where you would you like to be and your accomplished achievements.
Own a farm and live with a community of healers, makers, farmers, and gurus.