This Machine Will Let You Grow Edible Insects in Your Own Kitchen

© Mike McHugh / Alamy

An appliance designed to let you grow mealworms at home for food might sound like an invention from the future… a dystopian version of the future. But a couple of Austrian idealists are looking to make that future a reality, and hopefully a pleasant one at that, projecting that it will start shipping tabletop mealworm farms to customers as soon as November.

LIVIN Farms, the company behind the “world´s first desktop hive for edible insects,” has shown that interest for their LIVIN Farms Hive actually exists, at least on Kickstarter (a community that admittedly has a bit of a spotty record when it comes to choosing feasible projects). The startup closed two months of funding this past January with a pretty substantial $145,429. Buoyed by this success, the duo behind the company relocated to the Chinese manufacturing hub of Shenzhen to oversee the final development and manufacture of their product.

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“I wanted to create a way for people to independently grow their own protein using minimum space in their home,” 25-year-old cofounder Katharina Unger told Quartz describing their Hive. The device, which looks like a stack of thin drawers, is actually a series of trays. Live beetles that come with the Hive go in the top tray and full-grown mealworms emerge from the bottom tray ready to be cooked or ground into a powder. LIVIN Farms touts meal worms as providing all the edible protein with significantly lower levels of CO2 emissions and land use.

But the question remains whether consumers beyond a couple hundred diehard Kickstarter supporters are really interested in getting their hands on a mealworm growing machine that plans to retail for a not-particularly-cheap $649. A Quartz taste tester described the fried insects that came out of the hive as tasting like “dried shrimp.” It’s not the worst endorsement, but raises a follow-up question: How many people would pay $649 for an appliance that makes dried shrimp? Maybe I’m just a defeatist who’s accepted that the whole world is doomed. Or maybe I’d just rather stick to soy protein for the time being.

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