Tobi Trübenbacher


With 180.000 people moving to cities every single day, more and more mega cities are going to sprout up everywhere in the close future. And they all are gonna face similar problems: water, energy and food.

As a reaction to the enormous challenge of feeding all the humans concentrated on one place without free spaces for growing plants or animal husbandry, food comes from far away and is produced in extreme masses with large-scale industrial production methods, in order to gain more efficiency.

But this creates lots of serious problems:

Growing food (especially animals) in this way is one of the biggest factors for climate change and it creates masses of waste. At the same time it swallows unimaginable dimensions of energy, space and feeding.

In addition to that, factory farming also means that People in the cities don’t know anymore where these masses of food come from, where it grows or lives and how it gets in the cities. Urbanisation these days is separation: There is nature on the one hand and there is humans far away on the other. The places where we consume food does not bear any relation to the places where we produce it. We have become disconnected from where our food comes from, from what is inside, we sometimes don’t even know the name of it.

One possible solution for all this problems are insects as an alternative food-resource. Especially mealworms combine the best of meat and plant based proteins, while utilizing only a quarter of the feed and 10 percent of the space that it would typically require to grow the same amount of beef. In addition, I am convinced that insects does not suffer under a live in cages or terrariums in the same way as highly inteligent animals like pigs or cows probably do.

(My first mealworms, that I currently breed)

However, the breeding and eating of insects is currently far away from being a norm and rather atypical or even absurd in our western food culture – what a shame!


In my project I intend to raise the questions of how to empower people to grow their own insects near to their homes in order to create more identification with our food again? How to familiarize people with the idea of eating insects? And how to establish this food in our current society?

Therefore, my first idea embraces some kind of „insect-stations“ integrated in urban space, that are used and managed by different people of one neighborhood.

An important point of this concept is that everybody using the “insect station” has to do some very small works in order to help sustaining the „insect-station“ and keeping it alive. As many people profit from this “mealworm-dispenser” together, this little jobs can be provided between all users and will not take up much time and efforts. However, by doing these little active duties, appreciation and esteem for ones food will be raised again. Everybody must give something (little works, food waste as feeding) and at the same time gets some food in return (without paying anything) – similar to agriculture systems of former times, where everybody grew their own food.

On the one hand this concept empowers people to feed their own worms independent of giant factory farming concerns. However, much more importantly, this also accustoms eating mealworms in the society, as the process of feeding and eating directly on the city streets is transparent and apparent for all people passing an “insect-station”. As a consequence this behavior is inevitably going to arouse general interest, raise public discourses and provide some food for new thoughts.

Fact is: When humans watch other people doing something unknown and new, they often start to imitate this behavior and it becomes a so called „social norm“. For instance, in an investigation of why people save energy, the following emerged: Although most of the participants believed that they save energy for environmental reasons, they actually oriented towards the behavior of the majority, the so-called social norm.

I want to take up this fact and finally establish insects as a high-quality, nutritious and tasty food.



To save space in urban areas, the mealworms grow in boxes that are stucked atop each other. This boxes can be swivelled sideways in order to allow an easy handling and feeding.

Next to the insect farm could also be an integrated hob, which invites people to cook and eat in public space in order to infect others with that behavior. Questions like “what are you eating there?” or  “could I maybe try one bite?” should be a common everyday-szenrio around the “insect-station”.

Every box has a special function: The cocoons are placed in the top. When the meal beetles are hatching, they fall down in the second box, where the beatles live and mate. After some while they will lay eggs, falling then again down in the third box, where the baby worms grow. At the lowest level you will find the full-grown mealworms that are ready to take away.

I am currently in the process of finding the right material in order to start with the model making next week.



  1. Be clear about the two different design fields of your project. One objective is to construct a “mini farm” in which one can grow worms (engineering, ergonomics, etc.). The second is how you can popularise the idea of eating worms.

  2. I see your point, but why not dealing with both design fields in one project? Why not killing two birds with one stone here? I think my concept must contain aspects of both domains. I start with the construction of the “mini farm” and simultaneously deal with the question of how to familiarize people with using it in their everyday life.

  3. Oh, absolutely! I am all for addressing both fields, I just want to make sure you know that you have two tasks ahead of you. 🙂

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