Unconventional kitchen appliance breeds insects for food

Katarina Unger
© Katarina Unger

As global meat consumption and demand continue to rise, it's clear that there will be increasingly severe environmental impacts associated with the growing demand, from using arable land for growing animal feed to the release of potent greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide. While some may say alternative diets like vegetarianism maybe the answer, in her proposed kitchen gadget University of Vienna grad designer Katarina Unger turns to an unlikely -- and possibly unnerving -- untapped source of protein: insects.

© Katarina Unger

Unger's Farm 432 is a small-scale fly incubator that fits on your kitchen counter, which "enables people to turn against the dysfunctional system of current meat production by growing their own protein source." In particular, Unger focused on black soldier fly larvae as her research showed that they are the most efficient insect converters of protein at 42 percent, plus a lot of calcium and amino acids.

© Katarina Unger
© Katarina Unger

Here's how it works: fly larvae are dropped into the machine's top chamber, where they develop into adults and move into another, larger chamber, where they mate and reproduce. These new larvae drop down into a "kindergarten" area, where they are matured and harvested through a removable cup. Some of these larvae are re-introduced in the machine, starting the cycle again. A video of the prototype:

Farm 432: Insect Breeding by Katharina Unger from Dezeen on Vimeo.

While the idea of eating insect larvae may leave some squeamish, there are numerous cultures where insect-eating is not so unconventional. Unger tells Dezeen that black soldier fly is but one of 1,000 edible insect species:

The larvae I bred have a very distinctive taste. When you cook them, they smell a bit like cooked potatoes. The consistency is a bit harder on the outside and like soft meat on the inside. The taste is nutty and a bit meaty.

With my design I am proposing a new lifestyle. It's about a potential new western culture of insect eating and breeding... It is really about making people see that there is a great variety of food on our planet that we rarely consider.

© Katarina Unger

We say, why not. Culinary tastes are but a cultural construct, and with the right flavourings and ingredients (and in an adventurous spirit that you're doing some good) a lot of seemingly unpalatable things may actually become acceptable. So this bold idea might come to your kitchen counter someday, as Unger is now looking for manufacturers to collaborate with for further development. More over at Katarina Unger's website.

Tags: Food Security | Gadgets | Insects | Kitchens

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