INSECTS FOR YOUR LUNCH

What do you think about a kish with larvae? Or about a paella with silkworm? Katharina Unger is ready to bring edible insects in every home.

Austrian industrial designer Katarina Uger has invented FARM 432 – a device that produces 2,4 kilos of larvae – protein of a high quality – from just 1 gram of Black Soldier fly eggs. The process takes only 432 hours. In 2015 her project passed through Chinese accelerator Haxlr8r. It is truly a big step from the prototype to a real device available on the market.

Does the perspective of having caterpillar instead of steak on dinner bothers you? Come on, we actually eat about 500 insects every year. They can be found in your salad or chocolate. But it is not that bad! Insects are great source of protein. All you need is to change your mindset!

It is not a secret that world population is growing every day, so does grow the appetite. Today, one third of all available farmlands are used to produce fodder. At the same time, forecasts contend that by the 2050, world meat production is going to double! However, it is possible that even that amount won’t be enough to feed everyone. So, today the device for raising larvae may look like a joke, and tomorrow there may be a queue longer than for the new version of iPhone. 

CILANTRO: You are an industrial designer, not an engineer. How did you come up with idea ofFARM 432?

KATHARINA I grew up on a farm where we were raising chickens, horses and cows in the Austrian country side. Early as a child I wanted to become a vet. Later, I studied Industrial Design and went to work in Hong Kong, where I missed this early connection between myself and the nature. I also missed my simple comfort food. A great variety of cuisines are available in Hong Kong, but at the same time I felt its chaotic nature. This is how I have become aware of how complex our food system was. I came back to Austria and had to do my master thesis, so I started to research industrial meat production. This was when I started to look into alternatives and found out about insects. I wanted to develop a device that would empower people to become independent from the system and grow their own protein.

How much time did it take from your idea to the first prototype?

I had only 4 months from starting my research to developing the final first prototype.

What was the most difficult part of this work?

I was simultaneously learning how to breed insects, how to process them into food and also developing the device that would be able to grow them easily and efficiently. It was an overwhelming time.

 What is your target market? Will it be a devise for any typical household, or for restaurant and food industry?

We are actually currently working on both B2B version and a consumer device. All the details will be revealed later this year!

What could be the price for this device?

It will be in the range of a higher end kitchen appliance. We want to make it affordable for a lot of people, but at the same time it needs to reach certain quality and usability standards.

What was the weirdest reaction on your idea?

It seemed that people really got inspired by my idea. Some saw the device to be sent to space to nurture astronauts, others told me stories about their efforts in breeding frogs (the larvae could be eaten by frogs). There is also a funny video of a news channel in Miami that imagined the farm as a device from outer space.

Why have you chosen larvae?

They can eat anything, self-harvest and are nutritious. The lifecycle is very rapid and the fly does not eat, it only drinks. Therefore, they do not transmit any disease and are totally harmless to humans. 

I’ve seen your video where you eat different insects. Was it difficult to you? Is there any exotic food that you will never eat? What are your favorite cuisine and dish?

In the beginning, there was a bit of a barrier, yes. I have tried a lot of exotic foods. Something I would never eat is animal that is still alive! There is a dish in China, where the fish is only half fried, so it is still alive when it reaches the dinner table. To me, ethically, I cannot accept to eat this. I love the variety of Asian food, especially Chinese and Cantonese dumplings, but I also love the simplicity of Central European cuisine: potato dishes, lentils, beans and eggs.

I have eaten a silkworm in Korea. It was like egg white. Do larvae you use taste similar?

Their taste can be a bit starchy. Mostly, they taste relatively neutral. This makes them great for both sweet and savory meals. 

What is the best way of cooking it?

I love them in quiche!

Photo: Katharina Unger

 

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