A New Insect Farm Will Make Taipei Self-sufficient in Protein
By Nicole Buckler
Insect farming is now a thing. Soon, your burgers could be made from crushed insects. And this very fact alone could save our bacon.
In the 2014 edition, Old Moore made the projection that entomologists would soon be highly-sought-after for the rising number of insect farms. And now, this is becoming a reality. A proposed insect farm, called “BuzzBuilding Taipei” will make the Taiwanese capital self-sufficient in protein as soon as production starts. And Taipei is a good place to start. The Taiwanese are very experimental and unsqueamish when it comes to protein, making their cuisine some of the best and most unusual in the world. Anyone who has ever walked through a regional Taiwanese nightmarket has learned this the up-close-and-personal way… which is the best way, of course. Shock and Awe, all the way. From scorpions to caterpillars, there are some hugely interesting dishes on offer, but crickets are the most common delicacy. They are stir-fried with chili pepper and garlic, and served with rice.
So will the mass-production of bug snacks, sourced from urban, purpose-built farms take off? In the East, yes. Two billion of the world’s population already eat insects today. Entomophagy – the consumption of insects – has been around for thousands of years in these regions. Half of the world population already eats a variety of flying, crawling, and biting bugs. For example, in Thailand, market traders hawk deep-fried crickets, along with silkworms, grasshoppers, and water bugs. In South America, roasted ants are a favourite substitute for popcorn. And anyone who has been to Japan knows that many shops sell aquatic insect larvae alongside chicken and fish. But here in the West, we are wussbags when it comes to all things squishable with our shoe. We need to man up, and fast.
There are two aspects to the bug farming of the future. One is to cultivate bugs for us to eat. And the other is to convince us to eat them. I know you are thinking that the idea is just too gross. And yet, the market for insects as food has been increasing slowly in the West. As we get used to the idea, a burger made of bug protein becomes more relevant. Especially with climate apocalypse upon us.
According to Professor Arnold van Huis from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, producing a kilogram of meat from a cow requires 13kg of vegetable matter as feed. Yet 1kg of meat from a cricket, locust or beetle needs just 1.5 to 2kg of fodder, and produces a fraction of the CO2 emissions. “The good news is that, not only do insects require less food to farm, you also don’t have to eat as much to survive, as they are an extremely good source of protein and vitamins.”
You may need to ease yourself into the idea of eating buggie bites. But if everyone in Europe wants to keep eating animal protein, this may be the only choice. Insect farming will be coming to a field near you, and soon. So get your knife and fork out and suck it up.
To illustrate what an urban insect production might look like, Swedish architectural company Belatchew Labs is now promoting their “BuzzBuilding” design across the world. The facility will be built specifically for the cultivation of crickets. It will integrate the whole insect production flow, from the egg to the ready-to-eat insect. Additionally, BuzzBuilding is a safe haven for endangered wild bees. This will ensure that endangered species of bees will prosper, but will also turn the city centre into a blooming and fertile place.
Belatchew Arkitekter suggest the insect farm should be built on the roundabout Ren-Ai Circle in Taipei. This roundabout is a large green area in the Da’an District, a suburb known for its universities and successful businesses. Situating insect farms at such unused places in the city means the production of food can stay where the end consumer lives, without causing too much disruption to the lives of urbanites.
Once built, the insect farm will have 10,350 m² of farmable surface. The main structure will be housed in a steel exoskeleton, inspired by the structure of insects. On the ground floor there will be a restaurant where insects are prepared and sold. Yes, all the workers are expected to leave their offices and come get bug burgers. Yummy.
The design of the building aims to make the production of food public. This is in contrast to the usually hidden world of meat production. There are approximately 1900 edible species of insects, so future bug farmers have a lot of decisions to make.
Will you be eating cricket burgers in ten years’ time? I certainly hope you are… as for me…um… you go first.
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