By Mike Pomranz
Updated April 08, 2016
Credit: © 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.

“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.