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WOM——Invisible Ecofarm

Make entomophagy natural

MA 22/23
entomophagy, edible insects, sustainability, superfood, future farm

WOM is a public engagement service aiming to foster an inclusive culture of entomophagy in local communities. It can potentially boost the current edible insect industry by strengthening the link between stakeholders and providing consumers with a more natural atmosphere within reach.

In collaboration with:

Zeyi Li, MA1 Design Products

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As the global population increases, so does the global demand for protein sources, with the global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Food shortages will be a big livelihood issue for people.  Demand for animal protein is expected to grow by 70-80% from 2012 to 2050, and the current animal production sector is already causing significant environmental degradation. Thus, the United Nations is calling for the consumption of insects, an alternative protein that consumes fewer resources and has less impact on the environment. But in many countries, there is no culture of eating insects which is a large barrier to promoting edible insects. 

As a matter of fact, 1,681 insect species are eaten by over 2,500,000,000 people daily in 113 countries. Insects are tasty! That’s why people eat. Insects are disgusting, and that’s why people don’t eat them. It's simple but challenging. Some people also eat insects because insects are healthy and nutritional compared with beef.


Consuming insects is not only tasty but sustainable. That’s why I’m trying to persuade people to eat this disgusting food. It matters in the UK. Because developing the edible insect industry can help enhance the food system's resilience. It cost less feed, land water and time while providing more protein in a humane way.

Thus, it can help businesses reduce carbon footprints and help individuals develop a more sustainable diet.


The policy environment is not healthy at the moment. The author started to know about this industry through Tiziana di Costanzo, the founder of London’s first insect farm, Horizon Insect: "The FSA novel food consultation is too late and riddled with mistakes. Products remain ‘permitted’  not ‘authorised’ —meaning we are still without insurance and unable to trade." After WOM became a member of the UK Edible Insect Association and interviewed insect farmers, insect food start-ups, food distributors, restaurants and Nick Rousseau, the founder of UKEIA: "We’ve got quite a cosmopolitan market and people are more open to new experiences and food compared to lots of traditional countries in Europe." Many individuals in the industry are gearing up for the full opening of the novel food trade.


People in the UK are diverse and experience different food cultures and rituals. They are open to novelty like sushi & sashimi but don’t accept it initially.

In the past, people resist because of the perception and unfamiliarity of raw fish as a food option, cultural differences and food safety concerns, and the lack of knowledge and understanding about Japanese cuisine and its ingredients. Nowadays, People consume sushi & sashimi because they think it’s low emission and healthy, they know sashimi suits well with sake or they just want to try something different sometimes.

Obviously, people don’t eat insects mainly because they think insects are disgusting, so what can be the motivations for people to consume insects?



From desk research, 4 major potential motivations are identified: eat because it can save the planet; eat because it’s good for health; eat because of Thrill-seeking; eat because pairing with beer. The anonymous voting results show People are more interested in how eating mealworms can save the earth and how it tastes like paring with beer.


In order to find out what drives people to consume insects and what gets in their way, User interviews were carried out in Battersea Park to see how many of them would accept this novelty and what might be their initial reasons. Most interviewees refused immediately when they realised it was about eating insects. 10 out of 30 accepted after they knew these facts and there were many useful feedbacks. “If I want to change my dietary consumption habits, credible data and labels, such as possibly strict food associations.” “I can only accept it if I can’t see it.” Almost everyone said that.

Making insects invisible did encourage some fitness enthusiasts to consume alternative proteins but what about other consumers?


Interviews with stakeholders revealed that there are many companies working individually in the edible insect industry, each promoting the value of edible insects and developing new products. However, there are still significant barriers to the promotion of insect products, not only because of the policy environment but also because of the weakened relationship between the demand for them and their ability to act as a whole to promote and educate.

Now that there are many established insect products, how might we drive greater exposure to edible insects by reinforcing the achievements of other stakeholders?


From consumers:

Consumers face difficulty sustaining their motivations for eating insects over time.

Consumers are not aware of the actual benefits and impact of eating insects and how this can change their lives.

Consumers cannot imagine how insects are farmed and think they are dirty.

Consumers cannot imagine how to cook insects and do not think it can turn out to be tasty.

From the industry:

Huge interest is being fostered among current farming communities, especially in beekeepers and vertical farms.

The retailing side of the edible industry is gradually maturing but not much work in cooperating with chefs in restaurants.

Whether they are farms, factories or retailers, their social exposure is limited and at best fleeting rather than long-lasting.



Adding insect impacts to existing eco-friendly initiatives provides the audience with an insight into how the insect industry will benefit human life.

  • Use mealworm waste as fertilizer in the plant vertical farms
  • Offer bio-plastic-bags made from mealworm skin
  • Collect fresh fruit & vegetable waste to farm mealworms

Multi-sensory exposure to the mealworm farm allows for an indirect but proactive exploration of the future underground farm.

  • Hear the sound of the mealworm farm underground
  • Watch how mealworm grows on farms through the lens
  • Feed mealworms on the farm through on-ground interactive pipes

A bundle of permanent memorable POAP Badges motivates the audience to explore more about insects as a novel food.

  • Non-Fungible Tokens will be delivered by NFC cards from WOM
  • Customers’ digital records will be stored on the blockchain

Bringing farmers, retailers and restaurants together can co-create a proactive way of promoting edible insects.

These approaches have been prototyped as the “In-Service” phase. More approaches and stakeholders will be brought into the “Post-Service” phase.


Touchpoints on the service blueprint are under design and being tested during service prototypes.

  • Physical & Digital leaflets and badges
  • Market Stall & Menus with labelling
  • Underground Mealworm Farm
  • Eco-system of WOM site
  • ......

Special thanks to my tutor John Makepeace and Judah Armani, Julie Watson from RCA Kitchen, Tiziana di Costanzo from Horizon Insect, Nick Rousseau from the UK Edible Insect Association and all who have helped me with my project.

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