Walking into Ÿnsect’s flagship manufacturing site in Dole, eastern France, the first thing that visitors are met with is a hot, earthy, composting smell. With it comes the realization that this is not a typical factory. At 17 metres high, this is the world’s largest vertical insect farm — home to at least 3 trillion mealworm beetles (Tenebrio molitor).
The company’s chief executive and co-founder, Antoine Hubert, says that the beetles have a good life, as far as being an insect goes. Each of their stacked plastic trays is kept at an optimal 60% humidity and a balmy 25–27 °C. Nutrition, growth and moisture levels are all recorded for analysis, and human visitors are allowed to inspect the trays only from a distance — to prevent contamination of this prized ecosystem.