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Farm 432: The handy kitchen appliance that breeds fly larva for protein

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July 29, 2013

Farm 432 is a device for kitchens that continually breeds and collects fly larva as a rene...

Farm 432 is a device for kitchens that continually breeds and collects fly larva as a renewable protein source for less squeamish diners

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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 t...

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.

The larva instinctively climb up a short tunnel, where they are trapped in a collection bu...

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.

Source: Katharina Unger via

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things.   All articles by Jonathan Fincher
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27 Comments

Sure, eating maggots is fun, but not attractive yet. However chickens and fish love them.

Many people already breed bugs / maggots to feed to their fish or chickens. This contraption would put that capability into more people's hands which means better fed chickens and fish. Oddly, farmed fish are often fed ground up caught fish along with food crops. The flies could be bred using waste food that is no good for us or fish/chickens and the maggots to the farmed fish and chickens.

What a great idea until it becomes cool to eat maggots.

Scion
30th July, 2013 @ 12:24 am PDT

Simply not eating maggots. Maybe third world countries where food shortages are bad or in certain diets where they are eating insects already but western diets? Not happening.

Rocky Stefano
30th July, 2013 @ 04:11 am PDT

Why not directly eat the "little bit of food that sustains" the insects? They will not return more than they consume unless of course it's the food that flies love....our excrement...and there's the reason for our innate distaste!

The real answer to feeding the growing population is the understanding that our bodies can synthesise protein from grains, fruits and vegetables better than cows, chickens, fish, and insects. Eating second-hand protein is cheap and easy as long as there are subsidies to support the second-hand protein industry.

Threesixty
30th July, 2013 @ 04:29 am PDT

I rather wait for the day when a home machine for growing my own filet mignon becomes a reality and affordable.

thk
30th July, 2013 @ 06:54 am PDT

Scion nailed it. Most westerners won't get within 10' of eating maggots. But they are excellent fish/chicken feed! And the larvae will help reduce your own bio-waste. Win/Win.

limbodog
30th July, 2013 @ 07:12 am PDT

Memo to anyone who thinks first work people don't eat insects. Check out cheese in France and Italy -- it's more expensive if it has maggots. Check out Japan, China, Singapore and other countries. In most areas, insects (usually larvae) are more expensive than beef.

For Jews, locusts are specifically named as kosher.

It's true that we can eat grain, but not until it's processed -- by cooking or fermenting. We can eat meat, including insects, raw. Which is our natural food?

andyt
30th July, 2013 @ 07:21 am PDT

Does it come in any colors other than white?

Fairly Reasoner
30th July, 2013 @ 08:23 am PDT

Scion is right, use it as a food source. This seems like it could be an important component of an aquaponics system. i.e. http://www.gizmag.com/globe-hedron-rooftop-fish-farm/22492/

I'd prefer to see it completely automated. Simply have a hopper where you drop your fish waste (the bits of fish you don't eat) that feeds into the larva machine, which feeds into the fish machine, which feeds into the hydroponic machine. Other than harvesting, the rest would be self sustaining, self powered (via solar), and self monitoring. I'm a lazy gardener, but I like my food fresh too.

Chizzy
30th July, 2013 @ 09:58 am PDT

This is an exceptionally disgusting idea that is just a few steps away from bringing Soylent Green to market.

StWils
30th July, 2013 @ 10:03 am PDT

The two most nutritional foods are coconut and avocado. They can be eaten raw or with very little processing. And they combine well with other nutritional foods such as chocolate. Yes, chocolate. Boycott processed commercial cocoa (cacao) and eat raw cacao power or butter and enjoy a superfood that elevates mood (legally).

Starving people eat maggots. We can join them or raise them out of poverty. Not with charity, but with knowledge. Poverty is caused by economic restrictions, i.e., government regulation. The USSA has been transformed from the richest economy to 16th worldwide by increased economic control. Wherever you see greater economic freedom, you see a higher standard of living. There can be no "balance" of freedom and control. Either we have a right to be free, or not.

Don Duncan
30th July, 2013 @ 10:56 am PDT

Yeah, I'm not against eating insects, I have before and decided if it comes down to it I will, but you can't take one of the biggest pests that is commonly seen eating dog crap and expect the masses to eat it. I know it isn't the same fly but still, not a good idea. I've eaten beetle larva, grasshoppers, and ants, all of which have a much smaller mental block than flies.

exodous
30th July, 2013 @ 11:48 am PDT

I want one! I can use the larvae as bait for fishing, and eat whatever is left over as a side dish along with my fish! :)

Pachicito
30th July, 2013 @ 11:52 am PDT

I'm all for this, i'd buy one in a heartbeat. Healthy, cheap, and really good for the planet. Throw that all away because of a bit of squeamishness? Don't you remember your parents telling you to eat your veggies so you grow up strong, and clean your plate because there are kids starving in Africa? This is really the same situation.

And they are tasty too. You only have to get over the first bite. Then you'll be like the sour old guy in Green Eggs 'n Ham.

Btw, 500 g is about enough for 6 meals, as in 6 plates where the protein part on the plate is the larvae. Possibly more, considering the percentage of protein is higher.

Kim Holder
30th July, 2013 @ 02:28 pm PDT

I don't like to eat bugs, I don't even like bugs.

I thought they were going to have a lab-grown hamburger here in the next little while - I'd take that over some bugs any day.

You know, unless you fry up the bugs in a patty and they smell and taste good. Maybe it's a matter of breeding. I'd still rather eat some edible algae or like that instead, however.

Grunchy
30th July, 2013 @ 04:12 pm PDT

Are there B vitamins, especially B-12, in maggots? What about iron and the other elements and compounds critical to the health of us omnivorous humans?

A strictly vegan diet is not healthy for omnivores.

Gregg Eshelman
30th July, 2013 @ 05:17 pm PDT

IT IS VERY GOOD IDEA TO ALTER CONSUMING MEAT of BEEF, LAMB(mutton?) or GOATs, with Insects, but to my understanding of the Holy Bible, the safe, healthy incects appropriate for human consumption is series, or families of GRASSHOPPERS, such as locusts, crickets, (thus various saltatorial orthopterous insects, that lurk among grass and chirp by rubbing their wing covers), plus Honey, original pure natural Honey, as were written in Old Testaments, and New Testaments, the Gospel told us that John the Baptist ate Grasshoppers, and Honey, when he stayed in the wilderness.

Remember how healthy the Adventist's people and maybe the Jewish, because they follow the advice and laws of TORAH (from YahWeh to Moses), a book compiled 3500 years ago.

LUKAS
30th July, 2013 @ 06:57 pm PDT

The Australian Aborigines - and sucked-in tourists - have been eating Wichetty Grubs (large larvae that are found in tree trunks etc) for ever, and they seem OK. Also, I have seen documenaries about mangrove swamps having large 'worms' eaten by local natives. These would all come under the same category ... hard to 'farm' but a good supplement to daily diet.

The Skud
30th July, 2013 @ 08:15 pm PDT

This is a good invention but I'd never eat maggots unless I were starving, however that's exactly what people thought about sushi in the 70's, fashion can change in a flash. Maggots are perfect food for chickens fish pigs and many other animals and this is a cheap efficient way to get them, until fashion changes this can have that job.

Bill Wesley
30th July, 2013 @ 09:14 pm PDT

A good, environmentally friendly, nutrient dense protein source is a good, environmentally friendly, nutrient dense protein source so I could care less what it is. I would buy one of these tomorrow, actually I would probably buy 5 of them and harvest various types of bugs. I doubt I would like the texture of pan fried bugs so I would probably cook them and add them to my Vitamix. Once liquified into soups, etc you wouldn't have an issue. Besides we already eat a heap of bugs every day, they are in our food already (as many as 60 in 100gms of chocolate).

Sean Ross
31st July, 2013 @ 04:15 am PDT

The assumption by many commenters here seems to be that these are carrion and excrement-eating flies. They are not. Black soldier flies subsist on vegetable matter and they thrive on (non-meat) kitchen trimmings. They are often introduced into compost to aid in breakdown of the vegetation. So, if you feed them the unappetizing bits of plants you eat, they should be perfectly wholesome.

Cultural norms against eating bugs aside, this appears to be a cheap and clever way to convert otherwise useless vegetable matter into edible protein.

"Would you like french flies with that?"

CTDFalconer
31st July, 2013 @ 01:31 pm PDT

"I'm getting hungry just looking at this," said Nobody.

Seth Miesters
1st August, 2013 @ 01:36 pm PDT

If I am going to raise flies I want the ones that the larva can stop gangrene, and don't eat life flesh.

I have never been hungry enough to eat maggots but I don't have a problem feeding them to non-herbivore livestock.

Slowburn
1st August, 2013 @ 03:02 pm PDT

Lukas, the "locust" John the Baptist ate was the pod of the locust tree. It's where we get carob. The Bible allows for eating grasshoppers but that wasn't John's food in this case. Many still try to claim John ate the bugs because they don't know about the locust tree and that it was a major source of food at the time but if you read the accounts of historians closest to the actual event they mostly agree it was the tree pod he ate.

As far as Westerners taking up fly larva as a food source? Never happen. The world has plenty of food, we don't have to eat bugs. Every famine in the modern world is caused by politics and war not a lack of food. Just look at North Korea or Somalia.

maak
3rd August, 2013 @ 10:50 am PDT

Naw, I'm not eating bugs. By the time you skin'em, gut 'em, filet 'em, and mount the heads on the wall, there's just not much left. ;)

But I would feed them to captive fish, and chickens.

kellory
4th August, 2013 @ 02:18 pm PDT

As others have mentioned, these actualy make an AMAZING food source to feed fish and chickens. People already use them alot and you can find many DIY articles on how to make one of these yourself at home, they work well in aquaculture(fish farm)/aquaponics(fish farm/hydroponics).

Basicly any leftover organic material you have can be fed to the larvae, it is a very efficient way to convert waste back into food to feed your livestock.

I plan on making a fish farm, personal at first and then maby going commercial, and breeding black soldier fly larvae will be a large component of feeding the fish.

I guess it doesn't hurt that you could also eat them yourself if your a prepper or something and want a backup emergency food source, it would be more efficient to eat them yourself then feed them to something else first.. but... who wants to eat maggots?

All that aside, id like to say i think the product looks good, doesn't mention a price yet so im assuming its still in the R&D stage, but i think they have a good product here especially if the price is right. The key will be proper marketing(to the right niche markets). I don't think this is the first one for sale, im pretty sure there are people out there that making them sort of DIY style, you could look around the forums while searching for black soldier fly larvae breeding or something like that. You could probably make one yourself for about 50$ or less.

Arahant
5th August, 2013 @ 09:37 am PDT

@maak:

(Just to add a voice of reason.)

Re the Bugs, which "John the baptist: was reputed to have eaten, the word used in the new testament for Locusts (ἀκρίς) appears 4 times in the (Greek) NT, with two of those instances definitely speaking about locust plagues, to add validity, in the Old Testament, the Septuagint version uses the same Greek work when describing, the plagues of Locusts... (and other instances where the word is translated Locust in the English Bible.

DO I know what JTB ate, no, but just quickly looking at the textual evidence it appears he ate BUGS. (Kosher Bugs)

MD
16th August, 2013 @ 03:25 am PDT

She should come up with a home maggot processor to grind them up and remove the chitin. If people didn't see the maggots, it would lower their resistance. Chitin in large quantities can cause constipation. I could easily see using the product in soups and chili. Instead of beef or chicken stock, use maggot stock.

Page Schorer
26th August, 2013 @ 04:31 pm PDT
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