With the success of launching the world’s first commercial desktop insect farm in 2015, the designers at Hong Kong-based LIVIN Studio have spent the last three years addressing the demands of manufacturing, crowd funding fulfillment, and the business of promoting insects as a viable alternative protein for an increasingly demanding population. The Hive has found homes in over 38 countries worldwide and their community of mealworm farmers is now growing (pun intended). Last week, the team led by founder and industrial designer Katharina Unger launched a crowdfunding campaign for a small-scale, smart mealworm farm targeting curious students of all ages.

Unlike the original Hive, the Hive Explorer is a compact, single-layer kit with an open source Arduino platform that allows farmers to modulate temperature and humidity settings and compare mealworm growth and fertilizer output. The mealworms are fed on vegetal food scraps and the dung produced can then be used as plant fertilizer. As Unger explains, “Big city’s food sources are very unsustainable—Mealworms, which naturally dwell in areas populated by humans, are full of nutritious proteins.” The designer sees entomophagy as a natural opportunity for urban populations to consume locally farmed, nutrition-dense, and sustainable proteins while also tackling the issue of organic food waste.

Besides the Hive Explorer hardware, the kit includes a copy of the Hive Explorer Magazine, a student guide to the world of growing and harvesting mealworms. The Magazine is a platform for encouraging educators to build curricula around entomophagy, food waste and the power of circular food systems. Created by the award-winning children’s book author Kai-Aline Hula with illustrations by Mohammad Ali Ziaei, students are given bits of information like, “there are more than 1000 edible insect species in the world, insects together make up the biggest population on the planet!” while learning about the “Superpower Cycle of Mealworms” through thoughtful illustrations.

As of press time, LIVIN has raised about 1/3 of their goal of $102,000 on Kickstarter. Earlybird backers can receive the Hive Explorer, magazine and a replaceable air filter for €119 with ship date expected September 2019.