Alison Kirk-Lauritsen is a lot of things – an entrepreneur, an advocate, a doggo-mum – but above all, she’s inspiring.
After spending the past eight years working on and off in the Antarctic and seeing the climate impact firsthand, Alison decided to make a difference.
“Of course, the climate is changing everywhere but it was just really stark to me in this pristine, remote wilderness that is largely untouched by humans,” she said.
“It’s actually not untouched by humans because what I am doing at home is having a huge effect on the landscape and animals.”
A few years and a lot of research later, she is the proud owner of Feed for Thought – a sustainable pet food company, making dog treats out of insect protein, based right here in Canberra.
Her zero-waste business model is simple: she breeds larvae, feeds them organic waste that would otherwise go to landfill and uses their protein, rather than meat products, to make dog treats.
All this to combat the 22% of greenhouse gas emissions caused by organic waste in landfill and animal agriculture.
“If you think about the protein in dog food, often it is mixed meats from what humans don’t eat,” she said.
“In that sense it is kind of sustainable but in my dream world we would be eating less meat and chucking out less meat.”
Alison’s insect farm works like this: Larvae have a life cycle of around six weeks, two and a half of which are in bug form and eat all their nutrients.
They sit in a substrate lined with coffee grounds (picked up from a local café) and eat a mixture of 60% solid organic waste and 40% water.
Once transformed into a fly, they have a lifespan of about six days.
Alison uses fellow local business, Goterra, to supplement her larvae when she doesn’t have enough bugs.
She then dehydrates the insects and uses them as the main source of protein in her dog treats, which contain other wholefoods including rice, potato and rosemary extract.
Also adopting compostable packaging, Alison’s customer focus is the love for your dog as well as the environment.
“I am not going for a person who wants to buy bulk treats at the cheapest price because I can’t produce these for that; I am literally hand-making them at the moment,” she said.
“All dog foods are going to say they are good for your dog so that is almost lost in the white noise.
“When someone puts two brands up against each other and they are both good for your dog, but one is good for the environment too – that’s what I’m going for.”
Alison also uses brewer’s yeast, a by-product of the beer brewing process that would otherwise be thrown out, to bind the treats together.
The best part – her personal taste tester and beautiful German Shepherd, Max.
Alison’s end goal is to create a sustainable, insect protein-based kibble which she hopes to come in the next nine months.
“Treats are discretionary, not everyone gives their dogs treats. A dog whole food reaches a much wider audience,” she said.
“For those who wants to go and buy a dog food that is really good for them and is really sustainable, that’s what I want to offer.”