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What nutritious insects exist to farm that require the least attention? I'm looking to automate simply, in a self regulating way.

Edit: To add detail, I imagine the insects would live densely in a large tank and be isolated from the outside. They would be able to breed and would co-exist with a plant that is also able to propagate, that could if needs be even be an air plant, that is eaten by the insects, dead insects either return to nourish the plant, or leave through a funnel, water also evaporates and falls as rain inside the tank.

The idea is to produce food without human effort. This could be in the form of a very cheap to use coin operated vending machine. The insects could be compressed and dry fried into a block to be dispensed, maybe like a bar, the machine could be solar powered.

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Nutritional? To whom or what are you planning on feeding these to? –  GriffinEvo Jun 18 '13 at 16:16
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@rg22: insects are part of the human diet in many countries and they have been suggested as an alternative sustainable source of proteins (see refs 9-12 of the entomophagy Wikipedia article). –  nico Jun 18 '13 at 17:24
    
I suppose it would depend in part as to which part of the world you live in, and what is native/endemic to that region. Also, what is the scale you're looking at - an occasional snack, a major part of your diet, a family, a commercial enterprise? –  MattDMo Jun 18 '13 at 18:56
    
I've updated the question. –  alan2here Jun 18 '13 at 23:24
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@nico I know, I was just wanting to clarify if they were looking for themselves or a pet lizard - the requirements would be different –  GriffinEvo Jun 19 '13 at 17:38
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The leaf cutter ant Atta laevigata is a popular delicacy in Colombia where it is known as hormiga culona (big-ass ant). The ants are usually salted and fried and play a similar culinary role (I am told) as pop corn (image source):

enter image description here

I can't testify as to how hard it is to cultivate them, but one difficulty will be chosing the edible ones. Apparently, only the queens are edible.

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"Analyses conducted at the Industrial University of Santander about the nutritional value of the ants show high level of protein, very low levels of saturated fat, and an overall high nutritional value.", looks good. –  alan2here Jun 19 '13 at 17:12
    
Only the queens being edible might be a problem, it's not impossible to create an automatic filter, but does seem to add complexity, particularly if needs vary between types. –  alan2here Jun 19 '13 at 17:13
    
@alan2here Why do you want insects anyway? Why not algae or fungi? Perhaps even bacteria? Any kind of multicellular animal life form will be harder to grow than simple mushrooms. –  terdon Jun 19 '13 at 17:16
    
Plants will be needed anyway, so an option could be not to include the insects. I suspect that the plants grow too slowly and then require a more complex process of cutting and removing from the isolated environment, particularly if they require soil, additionally insects are meat, although this needn't matter a great deal. At the risk of going off topic, do you have any ideas on this front? Simpler lifeforms also seem interesting although might be difficult to make palatable. –  alan2here Jun 19 '13 at 17:20
    
@alan2here there is nothing unpalatable about mushrooms, some of which are considered great delicacies. Some mushrooms grow very fast and need no care to speak of. Insects are complex and they move around. I don't see why you think they will be easier to deal with than plants. –  terdon Jun 19 '13 at 17:25
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The silkworm Bombyx mori is farmed for silk, but the pupae are also eaten across the Far East. Since these insects (larvae) have been domesticated for centuries there are well-established procedures for growing them.

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Sorry to go updating the question like this, does it affect your answer? –  alan2here Jun 19 '13 at 17:03
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