Deni Ghifari, Jakarta – Food insecurity has become one of the most talked about issues on the global stage as the staple food supply chain continues to be disrupted by the war in Ukraine. Experts argue that tempeh and cassava could be the answer to the problem.
Speaking at the Global Food Security Forum, a Group of 20 Summit sideline event held by the United States think tank the Atlantic Council, Indonesian Tempe Movement cofounder Amadeus Driando Ahnan-Winarno said the fermented soybean block could help tackle food insecurity.
"In terms of nutrition, tempeh contains similar amounts of energy, protein and iron compared to beef. It has significantly higher levels of fiber and calcium and significantly lower levels of salt and saturated fat," said Amadeus on Sunday.
Furthermore, tempeh could produce the same amount of protein as beef with four times less energy consumed and twelve times less emissions released, at an eight times cheaper price, which translates to a greener solution for food production.
Amadeus said that the food, which originated in Indonesia 300 years ago, was very versatile when it came to the basic ingredient, despite not many people knowing it.
"Tempeh is a fermentation process that we can apply to almost every grain except for legume beans. Here I have mombin tempeh, kidney bean tempeh, black bean tempeh and almond bean tempeh. It's a process," Amadeus said.
"My grandpa used to eat tempeh made using the tofu industry by-product okara in the form of tempeh gembus because he couldn't afford the whole bean tempeh," he added.
"Tempeh is just one out of so many foods in which the R&D [research and design] process has been done by our ancestors years ago that are waiting for us to dig into as treasures, as the future foods that we need to feed the people, to feed us, to feed the planet in most sustainable ways possible."
As well as tempeh, the forum also addressed the importance of cassava, as spoken about by Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto who said: "Cassava will prove to be the savior crop of the world."
Prabowo said that cassava was the most efficient crop as it could produce 250,000 calories while only needing 65 cubic meters (cbm) of water per tonne, which was far less than rice, which needed 1,139 cbm, wheat needing 954 cbm and maize needing 815 cbm.
"Indonesia can become the foremost producer of cassava. [...] Cassava is now a strategic food crop," said Prabowo.
He further revealed that Indonesia was currently producing instant noodles and pasta from cassava.
On top of that, he continued, cassava could also be processed into bioethanol, alcohol, vitamins, bioplastics, glue, explosives and cattle feed while being 100 percent gluten-free with a low glycemic index, high in iron and calcium.
Speaking at the forum, agricultural technology professor at the University of Jember, Achmad Subagio, said that cassava could offer a solution to replace rice as Indonesia's staple food.
"[Cassava] is very, very efficient in photosynthesis, two times more [efficient than] corn, and also is better than [many] other crops, including wheat," said Achmad.
Indonesia has a population of 273 million and, Achmad said, that was a lot of mouths to feed, with the country requiring 45 million tonnes of carbohydrates per year.
Achmad said Indonesia did not have enough land to fulfill this need if it only resorted to rice, as it needed a lot of water and fertilizer, among other requirements.
"[We can't grow rice on just any land] but we can grow cassava very well on sub-optimal land," Achmad said, pointing out that with current technology, Indonesia could alter the prejudice against cassava being the "food of poor people" by mixing it with other ingredients to produce desirable food.
"I think for [the next] 10 years, we need to grow about 5 million hectares of cassava [so] we can provide a lot of food for the people," said Achmad, before adding that the plant could also end up in bioindustry development as it contained sugar that could be used for monosodium glutamate, sorbitol and lecithin production.