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China emerges as potential market for edible insects

eating insects in China, edible insects, Chinese market

Remember when eating bugs still had some shock value? "We've come a long way in just the past three years, now everybody has heard about the topic of eating insects," says Katharina Unger, the founder of Hong Kong-based startup Livin Farms.

还记得吃虫子仍有一些令人震惊的价值吗?"在过去的三年中我们取得了巨大的进展,如今所有人都听说过吃昆虫的话题。"香港的初创公司Livin Farms创始人凯瑟琳娜•安格尔说道。

From cricket power bars in the U.S. to microalgae-based biscuits in Japan, the edible-insect movement certainly appears to be gaining traction. There's even a World Edible Insect Day.


As a result, Unger thinks now is the time to bring the world's first desktop Hive for edible insects to market. Her aim is to enable consumers to grow healthy and sustainable food from a small space in their homes.


In recent years, a growing number of experts have been extolling the benefits of entomophagy–the term for dining on insects. And this 'entopreneur' and her partner, Julia Kaisinger, have piles of data to support their case. 


"We're pumping 80% of the world's antibiotics into livestock production, and about one-third of our croplands are being used to feed those animals," Unger said. "That was a really a devastating discovery."


Moreover, edible insects are already a multi-million dollar sector in nearby Thailand, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Two years ago, the agency published a report on the country's bug-eating industry, concluding that "insects are extremely rich in protein, vitamins and minerals." 


In fact, the "food of choice" for many Thai people can often cost more than chicken, beef or pork due to the high demand from consumers there. 


The FAO also points out that "insects consumed as human food have far less negative impact on the environment, including greenhouse gas emissions, than conventional livestock."


Across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, people have been known to eat over 1,900 species of bugs, but one of the main concerns is that they usually harvest them from the wild. There's no way of knowing where the insects have been and what they've consumed.

在亚洲、非洲和拉丁美洲,人们食用的昆虫种类达到1,900多种,但其中一个主要担忧是这些昆虫往往来自野外 。根本没办法了解这些昆虫到底去过哪些地方,以及它们吃了什么。

Unger's design allows consumers to use their own vegetable scraps to grow up to 500 grams of mealworms each week. It relies on a system of sensors and heat to regulate the insects' growth. 


With another 49 days to go, Livin Farms is already well over halfway to reaching their goal of $100,000 in funding through a Kickstarter campaign. They expect to begin deliveries in November of next year.

Livin Farms在Kickstarter上进行的10万美元融资项目已经完成过半目标,还有49天结束。他们预计明年11月份能够开始生产。

Unger has been developing her Hive as part of the HAX accelerator for hardware startups in Shenzhen. HAX is owned by the $250 million venture capital firm SOSV that was founded by Sean O'Sullivan, who is probably best known for developing street address maps for PCs and for coining the term "cloud computing."


HAX General Partner Benjamin Joffe calls Shenzhen the Silicon Valley for hardware. By developing their prototypes in China's manufacturing hub, Livin Farms and the other 29 startups selected by HAX this year have been able to drastically reduce their development time and costs. 

HAX的普通合伙人本杰明·乔弗将深圳称为"硬件的硅谷"。通过在中国的制造业中心开发他们的产品原型,今年Livin Farms和由HAX挑选的其他29家初创企业已经能够大幅减少他们的研发时间和成本。

"Surrounded by all the mentors, there was a wide array of expertise flowing into our project." Unger said. "They're really visionary."  


And her partner Kaisinger pointed to another benefit in terms of exploring a potential market on their doorstep. "Chinese people have been eating bugs for years! It's already one of the top places in the world for growing insects."



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