Vignette 1 - Grub Pod

This is part of a series of near-future theoritical technology/design/innovation vignettes, short stories of possible outcomes.

 

My home always smells of roasted almonds, or perhaps some kind of really dense, grainy bread not dissimilar to how I'd imagine lembas tastes. It makes the place seem warmer and more inviting; similar to how real estate agents allegedly recommend baking cookies for open house visits.

Grainy! Image credit: Pictography

Grainy! Image credit: Pictography

The Grub Pod is constantly harvesting the larvae of the black soldier fly, roasting it, and grinding it into protein- and mineral-rich meal of a specified density. This meal can then be prepared in a wide variety of ways, and seasoned accordingly. For example, if I’m craving Thai food, I can mix the coarsely-ground powder with egg substitute (actually a seaweed extract) and create small flakes that go great with crumbled peanuts over Pad Thai. This accounts for most of my daily protein intake, and can be easily customized for households that have unusual dietary restrictions; as larvae lack gluten and contain none of the proteins that people commonly find difficult to digest.

The larvae of the black soldier fly is incredibly efficient. For every pound of feed that is given to the tenacious creatures, 90% is turned into usable meat. This contrasts with chicken (50% usable meat/feed ratio), pork (30%), and beef (a minuscule 10%). It’s small ecological footprint makes it extremely efficient; unless you want to gather larvae outdoors by hand, most Pods house between 100 and 500 members at a given time. This allows it to be scaled to a household’s need, in contrast with livestock where even an initial buy-in requires taking on the sizable responsibility of feeding and housing several animals. Black soldier flies don’t care whether you live in the city or the country, or if its habitable space is measured in cubic feet or acres. They generate very little waste, which is automatically bagged in the Pod for an odor-free disposal in any garbage or compost pile (quick-biodegrading bags sold separately).

Image credit: Pexels

Image credit: Pexels

The Grub Pod benefits from an all-in-one design. You begin using the appliance by unboxing it, pouring in the starter packet into the feed funnel (actually a group of starter eggs suspended in a nutrient rich solution), and plugging it in. The initial startup runs through diagnostics while warming the starter packet to hatching temperature. After downloading the mobile Grub Pod app and going through registration, you are directed to pour in a small amount of water and food. This is how the initial larvae group is established. From that point on, the Grub Pod regulates every aspect of the black soldier flys’ lives, with occasional water and food infusions by the user. This even includes ordering more food when necessary, if the user enables it.

While all of this may sound unappealing, the Pod removes everything from the process of eating larvae that could actually evoke eating larvae. The black soldier flies are never themselves seen whole; and you would never be able to pick out so much as a leg or mouth from the protein- and vitamin-rich meal that comes out of the side of the Grub Pod. And any food or starter packet is sealed in a coffee pod-style container that removes all evocation of an animal-based product altogether.

Dig in. Image credit: Pexels

Dig in. Image credit: Pexels

One might even see patrons of a Grub Pod-equipped restaurant shooing flies from landing on dishes that are almost entirely composed of members of a species related to the flies they're fending off; it comes as a complete surprise to children who have grown up with the Grub Pod that there are hundreds of bugs living inside.

Suddenly, I'm feeling quite hungry.


This vignette was inspired primarily by the Farm 432 concept by Katharina Unger (http://www.kunger.at/161542/1591397/concepts/farm-432-insect-breeding), as well as the NPR story, “Making Food From Flies (It's Not That Icky)

Additionally, the documentary Cowspiracy helped me to imagine how humans (in America, at least) might rethink where they get their protein from, and how their sensibilities (and taboo against eating bugs) might be mitigated in service of more sustainable ways of satisfying our protein-heavy cravings.

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