As part of its Women4Climate Mentorship Program (W4CTO), the City of Toronto has selected a specialist in Artificial Intelligence (AI) “urban insect farms” to guide the next generation of environmental entrepreneurs. 

On Tuesday, a press release detailed the 11 local women selected to participate in the program “to help mentees advance their climate-related projects or business start-ups.” 

One of the mentors funded by the city is the CEO of Bug Mars, Natalie Duncan.

“(Her speciality is in) precision agriculture for urban insect farms using AI-enabled technology to sustainably produce nutritious alternative protein foods, while reducing food miles and reusing waste heat from facilities to offset GHG emissions,” the press release states.

According to her biography, Duncan is a “cricket farmer” with an interest in “sustainable foods.” 

“‘Bug Mars’ initiative is to circularly produce nutritious alternative proteins in abundance by moving alternative protein production to urban areas to reduce travel while reusing waste heat from buildings/data centres to off-set GHGs and prepare cities for urbanization,” reads Duncan’s bio. 

“I would often playfully say, ‘starvation is a pretty motivating factor.’ However, as urbanization and population growth increases, and crops are heavily impacted by climate change, my playful tone has shifted to one of unwavering sincerity.”

The W4CTO program has received the endorsement of Toronto Deputy Mayor, Jennifer McKelvie as well as Chief Financial Officer, Heather Taylor. 

“Through Women4ClimateTO, the City of Toronto is following through on its commitments to climate action and equity, while supporting a growing network of emerging leaders who are working to make our communities more sustainable,” said McKelvie. 

“With access to mentorship, expertise, and other tools, we are investing in diverse ecosystems that advance the City of Toronto’s strong climate action plans and I look forward to seeing what this year’s cohort will build.”

Last year, a London, Ontario cricket processing plant began its operations. The plant is operated by Aspire Food Group and is expected to produce 13 million kilograms of crickets per year.