Have you met... Gonçalo Costa?


Gonçalo Costa is a biologist and entrepreneur with a long-time passion for insects and phylogenetics. During his career, he has worked as a consultant and as a researcher both in Portugal, Morocco, Guinea-Bissau, and the Netherlands. He opened a business called Cricket Farming Co with the mission to include bugs in both animal and human diet. At the same time, he visits the most exotic places on Earth searching and identifying new insects, contributing to the expansion of humanity's knowledge.


When did the passion for insects begin?

I remember from when I was little that I already played a lot with spiders, flies and beetles. The turning point was when I was 14, I went to a pet shop and a friend - now deceased - offered me stick-bugs. I started to care for them and identified them (even though my mom didn’t like it much). Then, I was quick to add spiders and butterflies to my room's bug community, and I haven’t stopped until now.


How did the opportunity to go to Wageningen (NL) appear and how important it was to your career path?

During my undergraduate studies, I studied the potato beetle where I met my mentor Conceição Boavida. One of the parts of the work was in the Wageningen University, in the Netherlands. It was one of my first contacts with the insect-based human diet research and that brought me a lot of vital contacts.


How did the consultant opportunity arise and what were your responsibilities/tasks?

During my Master’s thesis, I had the opportunity to work in CoBIG², a phylogenomics and bioinformatics research group at the Faculty of Sciences of Lisbon. During a lab meeting, Filipa Monteiro presented her work in Guinea-Bissau. This presentation opened a lot of opportunities for me including working on her project with cashew crop management. Back then, that location was full of unknown cashew pest species waiting to be identified and I wanted to be part of that. Being there was life-changing because we can’t count on anything and I learned to be more self-sufficient.

I had to register all the pests I observed and report them (to attest to their potential as invasive species). This is because one of the goals is to eliminate pesticide use due to possible ecological disasters. And also educate the population about proper agronomical practices.


At the moment you are a National Geographic Explorer. Was this a dream you had when you were a child while watching nature programs?

Yes, it was something I dreamt to achieve since I was a child. One of the reasons that got me into phylogenetics and taxonomy was because I saw that profession’s name in a footnote of a National Geographic program when I was a child. The researcher was standing in the middle of a lush forest and grabbing an insect he said it was a new species. I've been hooked ever since!

How is the current daily life of a National Geographic Explorer and what are your obligations?

It is a very exciting life. For now, my obligations are to coordinate the National Geographic Portuguese hub and to dynamize the work of the 64 Portuguese National Geographic explorers.


You are also an entrepreneur. How did that project appear?

After I finished my master's I was a bit lost because I didn’t feel inclined for a PhD yet. I subscribed to an entrepreneurship program offered by the government for unemployed citizens with an idea to use crickets for the human diet. I got a business partner in the process. And here we are!

How much of your daily time is given to the business part, what are your responsibilities?

It depends on the day. Sometimes I dedicate myself more to science and other days I work more in the administrative part. The administrative part includes talking to potential clients, budgets, and troubleshooting. When I start my PhD I believe this will have to change of course and I will have to delegate more.

Did you take any additional courses to learn how to run a business? If not, are you thinking of doing that? 

The entrepreneurship program I was part of offered some education on how to start and run a business, but I think in the future I would like to explore that a bit deeper.

Is the business the long-term plan you intend to take?

Yes, I believe social entrepreneurship will always be a part of my life, especially after my experience in Guinea-Bissau, I am sure I would like to use entrepreneurship to make a positive impact. My goal is to have my business working at a steady velocity for me to have more free time to explore exotic locations searching for new insects. I don’t see myself depending on the scholarship system that currently Portuguese researchers depend on.

Who is running a business and doing a PhD at the same time? Tell us everything in the comments below :)