As the population grows, so, too, will its hunger for meat. By 2050, meat production will need to surge by 50% to quell demand. The only problem is, producing so much (red) meat is already an environmental nightmare. And we simply might not have the resources to scale.
Meanwhile, Katharina Unger is planning to invite her friends over to an insect barbecue. (Really.) The University of Applied Arts Vienna grad has built a pretty impressive domestic insect-breeding concept called Farm 432. Over the course of 432 hours, with just a few food scraps, she can coax 1 gram of black soldier fly eggs into 2.4 kilograms of larvae protein. And if you listen to Unger long enough, her arguments are pretty convincing as to why we should all be growing fly larvae at home.
“Black soldier flies themselves do not eat, they just drink. And they do not transmit any disease to humans,” Unger explains. “Unlike normal house flies they usually do not sit on food and they do not sting or bite, either. They also fly very slowly, so in case one should escape it is easy to catch them.”
Over their eight-day lifecycle, soldier flies need space to fly around, mate, and lay eggs. In response, Farm 432 has a bulbous sphere at the end, connected to the “fly fun park” nozzles. These nozzles were designed after insect-attracting plants like the Rafflesia, and serve several functions. They waft in food waste from another chamber, convincing the flies that this will be a safe place for their offspring to thrive. And they provide a spot to lay eggs. Eventually, when the larvae hatch inside, they’ll fall through a hole to the food source below.
“There they feed on biowaste or whatever you feed them on and wriggle around for around 14 days,” Unger explains. “They then want to clean themselves and find a dry and secure place to pupate, that’s why they climb up the migration ramp. This is when they fall into the collection bucket for harvest.”
From here, it’s bon appetit. The larvae have a nutty, almost meaty flavor, Unger says, and her favorite dish is a tomato larvae risotto. But as tasty as it may be, and as well as Farm 432 may work, Unger admits that the design challenge is only part of making such an idea a success.
“With my design I am proposing a new lifestyle,” she says. “It’s about a potential new Western culture of insect eating and breeding. It’s about making people aware that there is a great variety of food on our planet that we rarely consider.”