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Meet Katharina Unger: our Hong Kong correspondent

“The only way the food system can be influenced is through the people.”

Katharina Unger is probably best known for her project "Farm432", an insect incubator for people to grow their own proteins and nutrients in the form of insects in their home. Having started in 2013, Unger has since commercialised the project, now known as “Hive”. Additionally, she has worked with a Maasai tribe in Tanzania who are affected by climate change and a completely new lifestyle of settled agriculture, bringing about many cultural changes affecting the food they eat. As our correspondent she will be reporting on recent developments in food and design in Hong Kong.

What fascinated you about food & design and how do you see it developing in the future?

Food is complex. It is a system that spans politics, economics, geographical conditions, cultures. There are always multiple dimensions to food. And the only way the food system can be influenced is through the people. The many actors along the food chain play a tremendous role in how it eventually ends up on our plates and in our stomachs. It could never get boring!

We will see even more diversity of foods and food products and this opens up so many opportunities. The space around “clean eating”, veganism and other forms of diets or ethical considerations are gaining more importance, even in the mainstream. Food becomes more than ever a political instrument.

Hive - Insect Farming

Fungi Mutarium

What is the motivation for your work and when did you struggle?

With my products I want to explore the real effects for real people of new technologies or materials within the food or agriculture space. I am interested in the whole story of food products, from how and where they were grown down to why and by whom they are eaten and cooked. 

I struggled considerably with my first attempts to manufacture a product in China. As a young designer I thought that as an industrial designer, I would be fully capable of manufacturing a product there, on my own. It was an adventure and it turned out well in the end but what I learned from it was that we are only one part in the process of developing a product. You need to learn how to work with all stakeholders involved in order to create something truly outstanding! This is why outstanding products are so so rare.

Can you tell us about food & design in Hong Kong?

Living space is tiny in Hong Kong, therefore eating happens mostly in public spaces. There is no way around food when it comes to Hong Kong, as it is an essential part of everyday schedules and an immensely important social activity. The food scene is a melting pot of different cultures and therefore different textures and tastes, and so is the design. 

Read more about Katharina on her:

Website: livinstudio.com

Twitter: @KatharinaUnger1

LinkedIn: Katharina Unger