Flies are usually considered unwelcome guests in the kitchen, but one industrial designer is aiming to turn them into a renewable food source. Katharina Unger's Farm 432 concept is a fly-breeding device for home use that continually collects fly larva as a protein source for less squeamish diners. As unappetizing as it may sound, the designer hopes that convincing the Western world to add insects to its diet could help increase the planet's overall food supply.
Unger, an industrial design student at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, devised her concept of a self-contained fly larva farm as an alternative to factory livestock. According to her research, meat production will need to rise by 50 percent before the year 2050 to accommodate the world's growing population, which could in turn put a strain on croplands and the Earth's climate. Since breeding insects consumes less resources while producing more protein and nutrients per gram, harvesting them for food could be a viable solution.
Out of all the potential insects that can be safely consumed, Unger settled on black soldier fly larva, since they contain 42 percent protein along with high amounts of calcium, amino acids, and other nutrients. Just one gram of black soldier fly eggs can yield 2.4 kg of protein over a 432-hour period, which is where the device gets its name.
The Farm 432 itself resembles an empty water cooler with a compartment on top for adding the initial batch of larva. After the larva have matured, the resulting flies migrate into the large, clear plastic chamber so they can mate and produce more larva. The bottom of the chamber contains several holes which provide either food, water, or a space to lay eggs. Any eggs that are laid in these spaces drop down into another chamber, where they hatch and grow. Once they're able to move, the larva instinctively climb up a short tunnel, where they are trapped in a collection bucket to be consumed later.
As long as some of the larva are set aside and put back in the main chamber, the cycle can continue indefinitely with just a little bit of food to sustain them. It's estimated that fly-breeding farm could yield 500 grams of edible protein each week, or enough for two meals. Speaking with Dezeen, Unger describes the larva as smelling like potatoes when cooking, with a nutty taste that can be added to many different recipes.
In the future, Unger plans to develop her farm further to support a greater variety of edible insects and possibly mass produce it as a consumer product. Of course, the most obvious hurdle for her fly-breeding device is convincing more people to eat insect larva, regardless of taste. That's a difficult concept for most Westerners to swallow under ideal circumstances, but especially when 500 grams of protein requires about 10,000 larva. On the other hand, insects do contain less calories than most sources of protein, so that could be a selling point.
The animated video below illustrates each part of Farm 432's cycle, from the fly chamber to your dinner plate.