Farm 432: Insect Breeding
by Katharina Unger


Graduate designer Katharina Unger has designed a table-top insect breeding farm that allows people to produce edible fly larvae in their homes (+ slideshow).

"Farm 432 enables people to turn against the dysfunctional system of current meat production by growing their own protein source," said Unger.

Farm 432: Insect Breeding by Katharina Unger

As part of the project, she bred and ate black soldier fly larvae in a prototype system, then designed a machine to replicate the process on a domestic scale. "I ordered larvae and built up my own fly colony to see if the process works," she told Dezeen. "It was very exciting to watch the larvae migrating up the ramp, new flies emerging, mating and laying eggs."

Farm 432: Insect Breeding by Katharina Unger

In her design for the farm, soldier fly larvae are dropped into a chamber at the top of the appliance, where they develop into adult flies and move to a larger chamber. Here they mate and produce larvae, which fall down into a "kindergarten" area, mature and become trapped in a harvesting pot, ready for consumption. A few of the harvested larvae are selected to be dropped back into the top of the machine and start the cycle again.

Farm 432: Insect Breeding by Katharina Unger

"Black soldier fly larvae are one of the most efficient protein converters in insects, containing up to 42% of protein, a lot of calcium and amino acids," the designer adds. After 432 hours, 1 gram of black soldier fly eggs turns into 2.4 kilograms of larvae protein, so Unger predicts that people could harvest approximately 500 grams of larvae a week, producing two meals.

Farm 432: Insect Breeding by Katharina Unger

"The larvae I bred have a very distinctive taste," she told us. "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."

Farm 432: Insect Breeding by Katharina Unger

Her favourite recipe with the insects so far is larvae and tomato risotto: "I like to mix parboiled rice with wild rice together with the larvae, put a lot of tomato sauce in it and a bit of parmesan cheese. A bit of parsley or basil on top and you have a perfect meal."

Above movie shows breeding of fly larvae in the prototype system

"With my design I am proposing a new lifestyle," the designer told Dezeen. "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."

Unger explained that by 2050 meat production will need to increase by 50 percent to meet population increase, predicting that because we already use one third of croplands for the production of animal feed, it will be necessary to develop alternative food sources and production methods.

Above movie shows cooking and eating insects

She added that her system so far uses just one out of 1000 edible insects in the world and she wants to develop the idea further in collaborations with manufacturers and researchers.

Above movie shows how the proposed appliance would work

Unger completed the project whilst studying Industrial Design at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, and was taught by Hartmut Esslinger of Frog and Fiona Raby of Dunne & Raby.

See more stories about food and design on Dezeen »

  • yummy

    I’m not 100% sure, but I think there are actually sources of protein other than animals.

    Why would we need to eat insects? Is it so imperative that we eat something that was alive that we will need to resort to eating insects, an idea I think the majority of the Western population consider a bit grim and a horrible challenge to be faced on a reality TV show. The thought of vegetarianism seems to be far more repulsive than chomping on some black solider fly larvae.

    Also, she points out that we would be using one third of cropland for animal feed. Roughly, for every ten parts of protein we feed livestock, we get one part back. If it is becoming such a huge problem, this shortage of crop land, how about we eat the protein we feed the livestock! Bypass the middle man! Or just eat insects instead.

    • Thanks for your comment! The point of eating this particular insect is that you can feed them crops that we don’t need anymore; biowaste for example. In that way we don’t have to waste any plants that we could (and in this point you’re right) eat on our own.

      • Nick Cachia

        I would love to buy one. The idea is great. Nick from Malta, EU.

        • sam from nyc, america

          I’ve been looking for something like this for months.

    • Emma Lilly

      To expand on what Katharina Unger has said, permaculture gardeners claim that black soldier fly larvae speed up the composting process and improve the quality the compost. I have heard claims of a three-day composting process, rather than the usual 1 month – 1 year time span normally expected.

      So the benefit of eating larvae over eating vegetable protein is that they also clear up our waste quickly and replace soil nutrients leached when growing vegetable protein. A larger scale integrated system could even provide an alternative to the environmentally damaging fertiliser industry.

      However, they aren’t native to the UK so it would be unwise to import them and run the risk of them naturalising here. Imported soldier fly larvae for pet food is supposed to be sterile at the moment.

      • Ugent

        Can you state this with any legal document maybe? About the importing sterile larvae? Thanks.

    • kat

      Are there sources of protein other than animals? Yes. Are they complete? Yes. However, it’s not just the protein.

      No human civilisation in the past prior to vitamin supplements in a bottle has subsisted on a vegan diet. Except maybe for some monks who ate manure-covered crops but even manure might not be vegan. Even vegetarian cultures still consume dairy and eggs.

      This is no accident, certain nutrients that humans need are either not occurring in plants like vitamin B12, hard to find like DHA Omega 3s, or harder to digest from plant sources like iron.

      Humans evolved to eat animal flesh and even our ape cousins eat meat now and then (except for Gorillas who eat their own feces for vitamin B12).

  • If only it produced honey instead of larvae.

  • James

    I believe the point is that other sources of protein either take up to much land in regards to the protein produced (as in the case with grazing cattle) or too much time to grow. This project solves both these points.

    There are not many other substantial sources of protein apart from some beans that do not come as a product of animals. I think this is a great project!

    • recon::decon

      The reality is that most people A: consume vastly higher quantities of protein on a daily basis than they actually need and B: fail to realize that complete proteins can be made simply by combining plant and grain sources in one meal and C: there are complete proteins that are not animal based – Quinoa for example is a complete protein.

      • youdwish

        Quinoa is a terrible example. On account of your bio-fads, demand has skyrocketed, pushing up prices and making it inaccessible to the local people in the Andes to whom it really was the ONLY complete source of protein.

        • Emma Lilly

          Off topic – but that newspaper story was absolutely not true. In fact the increased international market for quinoa has been a good thing for Andean farmers as they’re getting a higher price for the crop, there’s more places to sell it, which means a steadier market, and their standard of living is getting better as a result. Meanwhile, Bolivian consumption of quinoa increases every year.

      • KG

        Umm, most people eat far too little protein, actually. Sure, you can survive with 0.8g/kg, but the reality is that if you exercise (which you SHOULD), you’ll need at least 1.2g/kg. If you exercise hard, or are trying to lose weight or put on muscle with resistance training, you might need 1,5g/kg or even 2,5g/kg (Olympic athletes etc).

  • Also, an insect farm would likely be able to produce in more climates, year round, and take up less space than a bean farm.

  • James Mackie

    Who in their right mind would throw a load of bugs on an otherwise tasty looking pasta? What is wrong with nuts, lentils, cheese, beans, eggs? I personally like a good steak, but if I had to give that up bugs would not be the next option on my list.

    • smack

      That’s you, but by no means is the kneejerk “ew gross bugs” reaction common to everyone. Some cultures eat insects. This is just a simple fact.

      Plus if you eat peanut butter you’re eating so many bugs you don’t even know haha.

  • Thanks for the comments! Eating plant protein directly is indeed more sustainable than eating meat. Black soldier fly larvae can eat anything though, crops us humans cannot consume anymore or biowaste. In that way, we don’t have to waste precious crops that can be used for human consumption. And then, it is all up to the talent of chefs and the braveness of people. It actually tastes really nice.

  • bonsaiman

    It seems obvious the real barrier for this project is cultural. I confess I would have difficulties eating larvae that looks like larvae. What about turning them into hamburgers or meatballs? At least half of the problem would be solved.

    Also, it is known that many Asian countries have long established habits of eating bugs and maggots, so maybe this product would have a greater chance in these market niches. Great project anyway.

    • Mary Anne

      It’s not only Asian countries, it is a great deal of the entire world that has and still continues to enjoy insect eating. Mexico, Central America, indigenous people of Australia, Africa, and even native North Americans were known to eat insects. It’s really nothing new, nor specific to one region.

  • goober

    Phew! Lucky she did not use bees. Tomas Libertiny would be on her back.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Fly larvae. AKA maggots.

  • Jess

    Wow, this is amazing! Katharina is there a possibility for this to be available to the public in the near future?

  • Y-Marketing

    Find the right name and it will sell. “Maggo-Chicken” for example…

  • Leiurus

    There’s something I don’t get: how do you keep this nice transparent shell clean without having the flies escaping? Do you simply let them die, clean it, and start a new cycle? From my experience in breeding diptera, in 48H it would get covered with flies feces.

  • Suparaya

    Since I come from a country where eating insects is normal, I find this design efficient and beautiful. Asians here may not eat flies, but we sure do other insects. So, I could only imagine more and more models for various kind of insects. Great work.

  • Sebastian

    Hi Katharina,

    Great project! Just some questions you may want to answer: How does cleaning work, how long does it stay clean? Leiurus mentioned that kind of question before too, two comment above. Would be nice to read your thoughts on that.

  • Mary Anne

    I am quite interested in trying this device out. Will they soon be available for sale? I currently raise common mealworms, but want to explore other types of insects.

  • Richard

    The device is brilliant! Insects fit sideways into a vegetarian diet with milk and eggs. All I’ve raised so far are fruit flies on the bananas. Bon appétit!

  • Guest

    Incredibly interested in investing in this.

  • jason

    Yet another option is adding a step with chickens. Chickens LOVE larvae and weeds and lay very tasty eggs. Home-grown eggs from bug-eating chickens are far superior to factory farmed ones.

  • Flx

    This is honestly just what I waited for. I’ve been a veggi for almost nine years now – not because I don’t think that animals generally shouldn’t be eaten but because of the industrial production of meat.

    Katharina, I love this! Please make sure this gets on the market very soon together with tons of tasty recipes! And congrats for not being scared of the people who don’t see.

  • Hi Sebastian and Leiurus,

    It is indeed planned to breed the flies in the machine in cycles. It is up to the user when and how many pupae are put into the metamorphosis box in the top of the glass volume.

    In this way there can always be a time where there are no flies in the glass volume in order to clean it. There´s a functional lid, so you can take the top part of the volume away in order to clean it.

    Hi Mary Anne,

    There is no manufacturing planned for sure yet, but I’m looking into developing my idea further and collaborations to make things happen.

  • Joakim

    When and where will one be able to buy it?!


    “You’re eating maggots, Micheal, maggots.”

  • Gary Duff

    I like it a lot. I also think that point about cleaning the unit is very important. People need to be able to keep it clean easily, so the way that it is designed and manufactured is very important to its general uptake.Look at how many juicers never get used because they are designed to be awkward and difficult to clean.

    Finally, you need to focus on all the uses of fly produce, not just straight human consumption. Believe me, in the western world it will be a very long time before the general population takes up eating bugs on a regular basis.

    Aquaponics, home gardening and raising chickens for eggs and meat however is becoming increasingly popular and would greatly benefit from this design. Make it easily cleanable and I will buy one.

  • MJ.

    Great idea and something that really needs to be addressed. To those who are worried about the uptake of insect consumption in western cultures, look how quickly sushi became integrated into western diets – people probably had a very similar reaction when first presented with the idea of eating raw fish and other seafood!

  • bughungry

    I must be being a bit thick – I cannot find any outlet or price…any advice would be helpful. Thanks.

    • AlexID

      Its a conceptual student project. Often students do such a good job with models and renderings that it appears to be a real product.

  • Cliff

    Ruminants also eat plant waste that humans cannot. With the advantage that people already eat them and like them. What’s the difference between those and fly larvae?

    • Mara

      The amount of space they take up, for one thing, ruminants need enough space to move about and exercise, bugs do too, but this unit will fit on your counter. Not everyone has fallow land to run a herd on.

  • Asterisk

    BSFL composting is hardly a new idea, and there are plenty of other devices, such as the BioPod, on the market, that do what this does.

    Most people use the grubs as fodder for fish or other livestock, and don’t actually eat insect larvae themselves, unless they’re really really really hungry. BSFL are great for aquaponics.

    • Anne

      I realize your comment is a couple years old, but I’d like to point out that those other things are relatively expensive. A BioPod costs $200. Sure you can DIY something, but it’d be great if there was a less expensive commercial option. If something like this had a price point of around a hundred dollars, I think more people would be likely to adopt the idea.

  • DCHomewares

    In as much as the machine looks very sterile, I’m not entirely sure if this idea will ‘fly’ well to the consuming public.

  • Slimey yet satisfying. Will always love steak but I can’t keep cattle in my London apartment, whereas I can farm some larvae. These would be a great pizza topping.

  • ann

    These are great alternative to the conventional layer ration for feeding poultry. I have a backyard flock and have these living in my compost just naturally. The chickens love to dig through the piles and pick them out, but it would be great to have a way to raise and store larger numbers. Do you have a mailing list or blog I can subscribe to?

  • Hugo

    You have got to be kidding, right? That is so gross!

  • Cool project!

  • Curious

    I have black soldier fly larvae in my worm compost bin. Can I wash them off, cook them, and eat them? Or do they have to be raised in a sanitary environment? I think I’d be grossed out, but am willing to try it once.

  • Tor

    Katherine, I’ve emailed you a couple of times regarding this. Could your check your email and reply please? Many thanks.

  • Frank Zagarino

    You go girl!

  • rick

    Great! I hope this box will be available soon!

  • sharkonwhisky

    As an entomologist I have to say bravo! What a brilliant concept, especially regarding the future of food and humanity. For anyone going “eeeeww” you are simply a victim of cultural conditioning. Prawns are considered something of a delicacy here in the West, but like insects they are arthropods, having the same basic body plan (and are sometimes known as ‘insects of the sea’). There is a tribe in Mexico that consider garlic friend grasshoppers a high delicacy, but prawns are considered to be repulsive! It’s all in your head people. Great work Katharina, I wish you all the best with this! :)

  • Raising a crop of maggots in your kitchen comes with the cost of a foul smell. You can’t vent it, because they need their moisture. Left to their own devices they create a mass of rotting waste that they live in just like they do when they are used in composters.

    That moisture is part of what they do to condition the food before they eat it.

    While it is nowhere near as mucousy as the slop house fly maggots make and live in, it is far from the neat and tidy picture she is showing.

    Those guys look freshly showered and dried LOL

    While I understand the motivation behind this to find a way to make eating insects acceptable, I don’t get why raising these insects inside was seen as important to the design.

    As an outside item though it makes sense as it would be far cleaner and easier to manage than the usual ways people raise these insects.

  • Nouf

    Mushrooms are an easy non-animal source of protein!

  • mangyscavenger .

    The real beauty of this is one can raise their own food, affordably, consistently and reliably, even in an apartment in the middle of a city. Talk about personal food security. Combine this with micro-greens and container gardening and you’re starting to get a serious measure of self sufficiency.

    Like it or not, the population is growing and our eating habits will change, whether we want them to or not. The question is how will they change and will starvation be a part of that change. We have options, like the one shown here, but one of those options will not be keeping everything the same.