In May, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report urging people to eat more bugs. Insects, the report says, are nutritious, plentiful, and more environmentally sustainable to raise than cows, pigs, and chickens. Now, Austrian designer Katharina Unger has created an appliance to let you cultivate these creepy crawlies right in your kitchen.
You can join the nearly 2 billion people around the world who already supplement their diets with insects. In Brazil, hymenoptera are popular, and in Laos, 21 species of edible insect are sold at the Sahakone Dan Xang fresh food market, the FAO notes.
While Unger’s prototype, Farm 432, has been tested with black soldier fly larvae, she hopes to expand to other insects. The machine consists of an incubation chamber and a large, transparent dome that allows users to watch and monitor as the bugs pass through different life stages until they’re ready to harvest, about 432 hours later.
“It's a lifestyle of choice to eat insects; using a home appliance for insect breeding as a decentralized way of food production is a statement,” Unger told Healthline.
Sustainable, if Unusual, Food
By crafting a design she calls “clean, friendly, and trustworthy,” Unger is attempting to turn insect-eating into something that's not just acceptable, but as ordinary as using a food processor. She believes that making bugs just another crop to grow and consume may help break down some Western prejudices.
“Once people see how the larvae can be grown, that they clean themselves before they are ready to eat, they become very curious and forget their prejudices,” Unger said.
The black soldier flies in Farm 432 are self-sustaining and don’t require any food. They feed on bio waste, and when the larvae are ready to be harvested, they simply fall through the incubation chamber into a removable harvest bucket.
“It is comparable with the backyard chicken movement or growing vegetables on your balcony. As people get more conscious about what they eat and where it comes from, the DIY food movement gains more importance,” Unger said.
Ideally, Unger says, Farm 432 will help build a network of insect breeders who exchange everything from recipes to pupae. Just your average group of home cooks, swapping recipes for insect tacos. (Unger is partial to larvae and tomato risotto, to which the larvae add a meaty, nutty flavor.)
The Next Great Source of Protein?
Eating insects won't just help prevent an environmental calamity: Eating them is also good for your body. On Unger’s website, she compares the nutritional value of 100g of insects to 100g of beef.
By weight, insects have one-third the calories and fat of beef. They also contain up to 42 percent protein, which is highly efficient for such a small package.
Not Ready to Try Bugs?
Hakuna matata—Healthline's recipes have got you covered. These dishes have about the same amount of protein as insects, with somewhat fewer wings.
Shrimp have nearly 24g of protein per 100g of meat, according to the USDA’s National Agriculture Library (NAL), and crustaceans are essentially the bugs of the sea. Try:
And salmon has nearly 27g of protein per 100g of meat, according to the NAL. Try: